USWNT and Thorns star Crystal Dunn explains how NWSL has found stability: ‘We’re finally seeing our worth’

U.S. women’s national team star and Portland Thorns FC midfielder Crystal Dunn sat down with host Luis Miguel Echegaray and CBS Sports’ ¡Que Golazo! podcast this week to chat about the Portland Thorns Challenge Cup championship run, NWSL regular season, and the new league partnership with Mastercard.

The 2021 NWSL regular season kicked off last week after a hectic year. The ongoing coronavirus pandemic impacted the 2020 scheduled year, and the league launched the inaugural Challenge Cup in place of a regular season. In 2021, the league has announced more league-wide sponsors, hosted a virtual NWSL, completed the second annual Challenge Cup, and now launched their regular season. Dunn, whose Thorns won the 2021 Challenge Cup, spoke about the excitement around the growth the league.

“I think there was definitely a time where the NWSL didn’t feel like it was going to stay afloat. There were just talks at the end of some years in the past where it was like, ‘Are we returning next year?, Who knows what’s happening?'” she said. “But I haven’t had those thoughts in a very long time and I think the league is stable. I¡¡t’s more than stable, we’re bringing in new investment, obviously, brands such as MasterCard getting involved is propelling the sport in the direction that it needs to be. 

“We’re finally seeing the value. We’re finally seeing our worth. And you have to spend money to make money, and what you’re finding now is these brands are more than willing to do so and a building curriculum, such as Mastercard, to really promote women’s soccer  — and just young women to be involved at a young age — I think is incredible. That’s exactly what we need, is to tackle the grassroots level and to get more and more diversity and inclusion at the at the younger stages so that the sport can grow and come into fruition.”

You can watch Dunn’s full interview below:

The league announced a new partnership recently as a Mastercard Global Brand Ambassador. The news was just the latest in a series of sponsorships with the league, which Dunn believes the league is trending in the right direction as NWSL continues to grow on and off the pitch.

“What they’re really able to do is grow the fan base, and also provide fans with experience of a lifetime,” Dunn said. “A priceless experience. And I think that’s exactly what women’s soccer needs is more awareness, even more investment, and a major brand like MasterCard getting involved at this time is just a testament that this league is growing, and it’s going to continue to do so.”

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The Portland Thorns is roster full of talent from top to bottom. With Adriana Franch, Rocky Rodriguez, Lindsay Horan, and Christine Sinclair among just some of Dunn’s world-class teammates. After lifting the 2021 Challenge Cup with Portland, the Thorns got off to a epic start in the regular season opener, defeating the Chicago Red Stars, 5-0, at Providence Park.

“I mean, honestly, anyone who watches the NWSL should know that what happened [Sunday], does not normally happen,” Dunn said. These games are usually 1-0, 1-1, very close. And what you’re gonna see this whole year is, it’s anyone’s championship to win. So for us, yes we’re waking up [Monday] morning feeling very good, but at the same time we understand every week is a new challenge. Every team presents a new challenge, and we’re just excited to see what that is and to just grow and become a better team.”

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