Former USWNT players looking to expand NWSL to the Bay Area
The GIST: An all-star team is preparing to bring the NWSL to the Bay Area. On Tuesday, a group led by former USWNT players Brandi Chastain, Leslie Osbourne, Danielle Slaton and Aly Wagner announced its intentions to build a club in Northern California, officially kicking off a hotly-contested expansion race. Baby, let the games begin.
The details: The quartet is joined by unnamed investors in the sports, tech, media and business industries. The consortium — with 70% women (!!!) — is eyeing an aggressive 2024 start, with former U.S. defender Slaton leading the search for training and game venues. Location, location, location.
- A pro stadium may be waiting in the wings — the San Jose Earthquakes’ PayPal Park. A report last month said a Bay Area NWSL team would likely play in the local MLS arena, meaning the 18K-seater could simplify a tricky search.
The context: The NWSL almost set up shop in the Bay Area a year ago — Sacramento was initially awarded an expansion club in January 2021. But plans dissolved just a month later when lead investor Ron Burkle backed out of financing an MLS expansion club whose bid was tied to the NWSL team.
- Burkle cited the pandemic as the reason for ditching the MLS project, which came with a $200 million expansion fee. The investor group could still afford to ante up fees for a solo NWSL club, and quickly moved expansion rights down the coast, creating San Diego Wave FC.
Zooming out: League expansion comes as one of the NWSL’s newest teams is thriving. LA’s Angel City FC — helmed by more former USWNT stars — booked $35 million in sponsorship revenue before opening day, a remarkable feat that the Bay Area soccer legends are aiming to replicate.
- Should the group succeed, it would launch the first pro women’s sports team in North America’s eighth-largest media market since 2010. With the area reportedly well-positioned to soon welcome a WNBA team, a women’s sports boom seems to be in the cards for NorCal. Deal us in.