The National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL), US soccer’s top-tier competition, will undergo another league expansion with a further two teams set to join the growing league in 2026.

NWSL commissioner Jessica Berman confirmed the league will begin another round of expansion following the two teams already set to join the league in the fourth quarter of 2023.

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 to find the champion. This will increase to 14 teams with the addition of Utah Royals FC and Bay FC for the 2024 season.

In a press conference, Berman said: “We expect our next round of expansion to be joining for the 2026 season. And we expect that to be two teams.”

Berman also detailed updates on the sale of the rights to two NWSL franchises currently in negotiations. OL Reign and Portland Thorns FC are both in the process of being sold, with this week a “preliminary deadline” for the sales.

Berman said: "Those processes are underway this week …  both 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."

How well do you really know your competitors?

Access the most comprehensive Company Profiles on the market, powered by GlobalData. Save hours of research. Gain competitive edge.

Company Profile – free sample

Thank you!

Your download email will arrive shortly

Not ready to buy yet? Download a free sample

We are confident about the unique quality of our Company Profiles. However, we want you to make the most beneficial decision for your business, so we offer a free sample that you can download by submitting the below form

By GlobalData

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 CEO Merritt Paulson stepped down from his role. Paulson has been looking to sell the club since December 2022.

The NWSL commissioner also commented on the league's attendance record, which was broken during the 2023 season. In 2022, the league passed the 1,000,000 attendees threshold, and this season it has broken the existing record of 1,060,978, with four rounds of regular season fixtures to spare.

This growth is supported by the high attendance fixtures across the league that resulted in a new opening weekend attendance record for the beginning of this season. Across six games, the league averaged 15,002 fans on Saturday (March 25) and Sunday (March 26), surpassing the previous mark set last year of 10,150, an increase of nearly 50%.

On the full-season attendance record, Berman said: “Yes, the clubs who have been leading the clubhouse and rising the tide in attendance in Angel City in San Diego are continuing to crush their attendance metrics and selling tickets and bringing in new people into their games and rising the tide. But you also see that there are so many other clubs who are setting records week over week, month over month.

“So we can conclude from this that the success that we're seeing in the attendance across the league is not isolated."