A Bay Area NWSL expansion team will launch for the 2024 season, as the league adds the 14th squad to the circuit after some very big names queue to land the coveted slot.
The Bay Area NWSL expansion team, which will be unveiling plenty of details (name, colors, home venue) in coming weeks, joins the Utah Royals in the National Women’s Soccer League 2024 lineup. The expansion fee is a reported $50 million; unannounced but basically an open secret has a Boston expansion team entering the league in 2025, paying the same expansion fee. The league is expected to add a second 2025 expansion team, bringing the league to 16 teams.
That a Bay Area team is part of NWSL expansion isn’t a surprise. California is widely regarded as the cradle of the women’s soccer scene, and insiders in the sport expected this eventuality And with plenty of sports capital looking to enter the sport, adding four teams in 2024 and 2025 fits in the current investment environment. An expansion fee of $50 million, interestingly, may be a little conservative given the current economics of women’s sports.
“The number of bids and the increase in the league’s expansion fees are indicative of both the demand that exists for women’s soccer in the professional sports landscape and the validated growth trajectory of our league,” said NWSL Commissioner Jessica Berman via press release. “We said at the start of the expansion process in July 2022 that we would be intentional in seeking out strong markets and ownership groups that not only had the structural integrity for our league to thrive, but also demonstrated a genuine commitment to investing in and creating first-rate organizations on and off the pitch. I am confident that this ownership group and market will help us deliver on the league’s continued transformative growth and success and look forward to watching the Bay Area club kick off in 2024.”
The new Bay Area club’s majority investor is Sixth Street, a leading global investment firm with deep experience in sports including investments with Real Madrid, FC Barcelona, and the San Antonio Spurs. Also investing: Legends, the global sports and live venue experience business owned by the New York Yankees and Dallas Cowboys. Sixth Street is making the largest institutional investment in women’s professional soccer to date as the NWSL experiences record-breaking viewership, attendance, and sponsorship growth. A $125 million investment from Sixth Street will be used to build the front office and team organization, as well as construct a training facility. No word on where the team will play, though there are a few options in the Bay Area at hand, including Levi’s Stadium, home of the San Francisco 49ers and a World Cup location, college stadiums at Stanford and Cal, and PayPal Park, home of the San Jose Earthquakes.
Sixth Street has partnered with four former U.S. Women’s National Team players in Brandi Chastain, Leslie Osborne, Danielle Slaton, and Aly Wagner, who originally launched the effort to bring an NWSL expansion team to the Bay Area with the support of women executives and community leaders from across the Bay. As the club’s Founding Football Four, they will be represented on the club’s majority women board and will work alongside Sixth Street in setting the team’s strategic direction.
Sixth Street CEO Alan Waxman will serve on the NWSL’s board of governors and Wagner will serve as alternative governor. Waxman and Wagner will co-chair the club’s board.
“This is an incredibly validating moment and a great day for lovers of soccer and Bay Area sports fans as a whole,” said Leslie Osborne, Co-Founder of the Club, Santa Clara ’05, 2007 U.S. Women’s World Cup midfielder and NCAA National Champion. “We are so grateful for the community of early investors that made this bid possible, and we know the entire Bay is going to help us make this club one that will set the bar. We can’t wait for this dream to become a reality on the field and see the Bay Area represented as a soccer powerhouse.”
Other notable investors include Sheryl Sandberg (best known as the former COO of Facebook) and husband Tom Bernthal. She’ll be joined on the board by Rick Welts, who most recently served as President and Chief Operating Officer of the Golden State Warriors, and Staci Slaughter, former executive vice president and senior advisor to the CEO of the San Francisco Giants.
Advising and representing the league on expansion: Inner Circle Sports.
Pictured: Brandi Chastain, Leslie Osborne, Danielle Slaton and Aly Wagner.