North America's top-tier National Women's Soccer League (NWSL) is set to award expansion franchise rights to Boston Unity Soccer Partners (BUSP), a local ownership group led by women, with the new team set to enter the growing league in 2026.
The office of Boston Mayor Michelle Wu confirmed the news to the Boston Globe and said a City Hall Plaza event featuring Wu, NWSL commissioner Jessica Berman, and Boston Unity Soccer is scheduled for later today (September 19).
The event is expected to announce the unnamed team that will play at White Stadium, located within the city’s Franklin Park. Another new franchise will also be announced at a later date as part of the NWSL’s 2026 expansion round.
Boston Unity Soccer Partners will reportedly pay an expansion fee of $53 million, a similar amount paid by Bay Area FC to join the league in 2024. It will also spend the same amount to renovate White Stadium, develop a separate training center, and support operating costs.
Jennifer Epstein, the controlling partner of BUSP told the Boston Globe: “There’s a lot of attention on women’s sports right now, a global rise in fandom in not just women’s sports but in particular around women’s soccer.
“It’s a great moment in time. There’s a lot of momentum in the league. I like to think it’s the beginning of the modern era for women’s sports.”
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Epstein is the founder of Juno Equity, a seed-round investor in women-led companies, while other managing partners of BUSP include Flybridge’s Anna Palmer, angel investor Stephanie Connaughton, and Ami Kuan Danoff, co-founder of the Women’s Foundation of Boston.
The 12-team league currently sees each side play a 22-game regular season, with the top six teams proceeding into the post-season playoffs. This will increase to 14 teams with the addition of Utah Royals FC and Bay FC for the 2024 season.
The announcement will mark Boston’s return to the NWSL, with the former Boston Breakers playing in the league between 2013 and 2017. However, after failing to find success or new owners, the club folded in January 2018.
Boston was first shortlisted alongside San Francisco and Tampa Bay in 2022 as a potential location for the NWSL’s 14th expansion team to enter the league with Utah next year.
However, San Francisco’s Bay Area was eventually awarded the 14th franchise rights in April, backed by an investment group led by global investment firm Sixth Street. The previous biennial expansion round saw Angel FC and San Diego Wave join the league in 2022.
The NWSL is growing in popularity on the back of a record-breaking Women’s World Cup in Australia and New Zealand. With three weeks left in the season, attendance at games has surpassed 1 million, a league record, and with the competition's media rights deal set to expire, there are high hopes for a new record-breaking contract that reflects the league’s expansion and popularity.
During a press conference last week, Berman detailed updates on the sale of the ownership rights to OL Reign and Portland Thorns FC, adding: “Both [clubs] have achieved multiple bidders being interested and we still expect for both of those transactions to close by the end of the calendar year.
“We continue to work very closely with the incumbent owners both in Portland and in Seattle to ensure that the new ownership group meets the standards and criteria for the league.”
Berman also outlined the sales process and the differences between the sales of the two clubs. Whilst it is “business as usual” for OL Reign, the Thorns are unique as they currently do not have a voting role on the NWSL board of governors as previous chief executive Merritt Paulson stepped down from his role.
Paulson has been looking to sell the club since December 2022.