The National Women’s Soccer League officially announced its second expansion team for the 2024 season, bringing women’s professional soccer back to the Bay Area following the recent announcement of the return of the Utah Royals also for next season.
The teams in Salt Lake City and San Jose will bring the total of NWSL clubs next season to 14, nearly double the number of teams in 2012. The new Bay Area club’s majority investor is Sixth Street, a global investment firm with ties to Real Madrid, FC Barcelona and the San Antonio Spurs. The firm is also partnered with the New York Yankees and Dallas Cowboys through its majority investment in Legends, a global sports and live venue experience business.
“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,” said NWSL Commissioner Jessica Berman. “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.”
Sixth Street has partnered with four former U.S. Women’s National Team players in Brandi Chastain, Leslie Osborne, Danielle Slaton and Aly Wagner. The Bay Area investor group has committed to significant infrastructure investments to support the club’s growth and operations, including building a training venue in a to-be-announced location.
The San Jose CyberRays played three seasons in the WUSA won the 2001 championship before the league and team folded in 2003. FC Gold Pride played two seasons in the now-defunct Women’s Professional Soccer before folding in 2010. The team is expected to have its home games at PayPal Park, home of the MLS’ San Jose Earthquakes.
“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,” said Wagner. “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.”
Sixth Street Chief Executive Officer Alan Waxman will serve on the NWSL’s board of governors and Wagner will serve as alternative governor. Waxman and Wagner will co-chair the club’s board. Also serving on the club’s board will be Sheryl Sandberg, founder of LeanIn.Org, and Rick Welts, a sports business executive who most recently served as president and chief operating officer of the Golden State Warriors.
What was a league that 10 years ago started with eight teams reached 12 last season with two new teams in Angel City FC and San Diego Wave FC. Angel City averaged more than 19,000 fans in Los Angeles last season while San Diego set a postseason attendance record in the playoff semifinals. The NWSL said Tuesday it “remains engaged in the expansion process with an eye towards adding teams #15 and #16,” with reports indicating the Boston would be the next market to join the league in 2025. Inner Circle Sports continues to represent and advise the league on expansion matters.
“This is an incredibly validating moment and a great day for lovers of soccer and Bay Area sports fans as a whole,” said Osborne. “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.”