A group of former players, including Aly Wagner and Brandi Chastain, has joined with an investment firm to bring a National Women’s Soccer League team to the San Francisco Bay Area.
The expansion team, which is set to begin play next year, was formally announced by the league Tuesday. Details about where the team will play and its name will be announced later.
“It’s a historic moment for the league. We’re super excited about both the opportunity and what it means for the Bay Area and our league in the present, but also what it tells us about the future and where we’re heading,” Commissioner Jessica Berman told The Associated Press. “I feel like it’s coming at the absolute right moment in time to give us the moment to reflect on how far we’ve come and get us focused on the future of the league.”
Joining Wagner and Chastain as founders of the new team are Danielle Slaton and Leslie Osborne. All four have connections to the Bay Area and played for the United States.
“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,” Osborne, who played on the United States’ 2007 World Cup team, said in a prepared statement. “We can’t wait for this dream to become a reality on the field and see the Bay Area represented as a soccer powerhouse.”
San Francisco-based investment firm Sixth Street is the new team’s majority backer with an investment of $125 million. The firm has also invested in soccer clubs Real Madrid and Barcelona, as well as the NBA’s San Antonio Spurs.
Sixth Street CEO Alan Waxman said investing in women’s sports is good business.
“Now people can put on their iPhone or iPad and they can basically watch the NWSL like my daughter does, like a lot of the girls on her team do. That didn’t exist five years ago, didn’t exist 50 years ago. And that’s a structural change,” Waxman said. “Everyone’s like `Why is this all happening now?’ It’s not a coincidence. It’s that the accessibility has structurally changed. And as a result of that, when you think about 99% of those dollars historically have gone to only men, the barriers have now been broken down and that’s going to change. That’s what we’re investing behind. ”
Waxman will serve on the NWSL’s board of governors. Sheryl Sandberg, a former Facebook executive and author of the 2013 book “Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead,” is joining the club as a board member and strategic investor. Rick Welts, former Golden State Warriors president, and Staci Slaughter, former vice president for communications for the San Francisco Giants, will also serve on the board.
The NWSL recently embarked on its 11th season with 12 teams. Angel City in Los Angeles and the San Diego Wave joined the league last year.
Last month, the league announced the return of the Utah Royals, who will also start play in 2024.
The original Royals were part of the NWSL for three seasons from 2018 to 2020 but were sold and moved to Kansas City when the owner of Major League Soccer’s Real Salt Lake stepped away from the team amid controversy. RSL’s new owners retained the rights to a future women’s team.
The league is expected to add a 15th team in the Boston area in the future.
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