The National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) has today (April 4) announced the allocation of expansion rights for a 14th team in the US league – set to be based in the Bay Area, California – to an investment group led by global investment firm Sixth Street.
The new club will begin to play in 2024, the league has confirmed, with Sixth Street as the majority investor. Last month (March), Utah Royals FC became the league’s 13th team, also set to start playing in 2024 via an expansion franchise route.
Reports have suggested the expansion fee itself is in the region of $53 million, with another $70 million (at least) then being set aside for the development of infrastructure and facilities.
Sixth Street, for the Bay Area side, has partnered with four former US women’s national team players – Brandi Chastain, Leslie Osborne, Danielle Slaton, and Aly Wagner – who will be represented on the club’s board.
The NWSL has said that Sixth Street is making the largest investment ever in terms of franchise ownership in women’s professional soccer.
This tie-up adds to what is already a substantial presence in soccer for company – the group also has deals in place with Barcelona and Real Madrid, the bitter rivals from Spain’s top-tier LaLiga.
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Sixth Street’s chief executive Alan Waxman will serve on the NWSL board of governors, and Wagner will become the alternative governor. Those two will also co-chair the new club’s board.
Other board members will include Sheryl Sandberg, former chief operating officer of Facebook (now Meta), and Rick Welts, who stepped down as president of San Francisco-based NBA basketball franchise the Golden State Warriors in 2021.
Waxman said: “We are grateful for the opportunity to partner with this legendary group, who are lifelong role models for a generation of women, and we look forward to working with them to build a championship franchise …
“We believe that many years from now we will look back at today as a landmark moment in Bay Area sports history, and a turning point for large-scale investment in women’s sports.”
The team’s name, home ground, and other details are yet to be announced.
The NWSL’s commissioner, Jessica Berman, also commented on the deal: “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.
“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.”
It was initially reported in January that the league was looking to add teams from Utah, the Bay Area, and also Boston in the near future.
Angel City FC and San Diego Wave FC both joined the NWSL as expansion franchises last season.
In today’s announcement, the NWSL said it “remains engaged in the expansion process with an eye towards adding teams 15 and 16, while adding that Inner Circle Sports "continues to represent and advise the league on expansion matters.”
The 2023 NWSL got underway on March 25, and the 12-team competition runs through until November 11.