USWNT World Cup icon Brandi Chastain is among the stars ringing in the news of the NWSL Bay Area club set to become the league’s 14th franchise next year.
Mere months ahead of the US Women’s National Team embarking on another defense of its World Cup championship, several of its past stars delivered a major announcement that provided a jolt to the establishment that’s sure to emanate for years to come.
The National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) confirmed Tuesday that the San Francisco Bay Area will be the home of its latest expansion team set to begin play in the 2024 season, giving the league an even 14 clubs.
“We appreciate each and every one of the thousands of people who have supported us through this process and helped us reach this important day, and to Sixth Street for stepping up to take this club to the next level,” Aly Wagner, the club’s co-founder and Co-chair and a two-time Olympic gold medalist with the USWNT, said in the league’s official news release. “As lifelong residents of the Bay Area, we know how important women’s soccer is to our region and we are going to work hard every day to ensure that this is a club that every player, supporter, and partner will be proud of. We can’t wait to get started.”
As NWSL Commissioner Jessica Berman added on the occasion:
“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. I am confident that this ownership group and market will help us deliver on the league’s continued transformative growth and success and look forward to watching the Bay Area club kick off in 2024.”
The largest equity stakeholder in the franchise is San Francisco-based investment firm Sixth Street, whose sports investment portfolio also includes Spanish giants FC Barcelona and the NBA’s San Antonio Spurs. Sixth Street joined with Wagner and fellow USWNT standouts Brandi Chastain, Danielle Slaton, and Leslie Osborne — the faces of this NWSL Bay Area effort for the past year — to grow this dream into a reality that becomes official today.
“We want to thank Commissioner Berman and the NWSL Board for their endorsement and their partnership throughout this process,” Sixth Street CEO Alan Waxman, club Governor, Co-chair, co-founder, said in a release. “We are grateful for the opportunity to partner with this legendary group, who are lifelong role models to a generation of women, and we look forward to working with them to build a championship franchise on and off the field. 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.”
As it lays more groundwork for its big 2024 debut, the NWSL Bay Area ownership group plans to build a standalone club training facility that will represent another milestone for the premier women’s club soccer league in the US.
The 2023 NWSL regular season kicked off on March 25 and concludes on Oct. 15. The NWSL Championship is scheduled for Nov. 11.
What Top Club Executives Had to Say
Club co-founder and USWNT World Cup legend Brandi Chastain:
“The Bay Area is where this all began. We are as excited about what this club will achieve on the field of play as we are for what it will represent for generations of women athletes and professionals yet to come. We look forward to the Bay fans embracing our team and celebrating the competitive spirit and talent we will put onto the field to continue the strong Bay tradition of playing to win championships.”
Club co-founder and USWNT/NWSL veteran Leslie Osbourne:
“This is an incredibly validating moment and a great day for lovers of soccer and Bay Area sports fans as a whole. 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. We can’t wait for this dream to become a reality on the field and see the Bay Area represented as a soccer powerhouse.”
Club co-founder, UWSNT veteran, and MLS analyst Danielle Slaton:
“This is something we’ve been working on for almost three years, and to reach this point and officially be accepted into the NWSL is both a dream come true and a motivator, because now it’s time to start building. We are grateful, eager, and humbled by the chance to play an active role in shaping this league and leading our sport towards a brighter future of lasting growth and change.”
Board member, former NBA executive, and Basketball Hall of Famer Rick Welts:
“This is the perfect intersection of my passion for the importance of women’s sports and my history of building team and league organizations, at a pivotal moment for sports in our society. I’m honored to join an extraordinary group that will bring this vision to life.”
Board member and advisor Sheryl Sandberg, joining alongside husband Tom Bernthal:
“Tom and I are so excited to join Alan, David Stiepleman, and the entire Sixth Street team alongside a powerhouse group of soccer legends to bring this club to our hometown. Playing sports is such an important part of developing future leadership skills especially for women and girls. We are going to combine world-class resources with a leadership program that will produce great players and great leaders, on and off the pitch.”
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