National Women's Soccer League announces new San Francisco Bay Area expansion team

Dustin Dorsey Image
Wednesday, April 5, 2023
NWSL announces new San Francisco Bay Area expansion team
A group of former players - including Aly Wagner and Brandi Chastain - has joined with a global investment to bring an NWSL team to the SF Bay Area.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- After a push from four of soccer's most legendary names, a women's professional soccer team is finally coming to the Bay Area. Joining a region of champions and world-class professional sports teams, the National Women's Soccer League's 14th franchise looks to add to the Bay's winning ways.

"The Bay is where champions come to play," Club Co-founder Brandi Chastain said. "That is our call to action and that is what we will do."

Exactly where the team will play, or what team will be called, when they debut in 2024 remains unknown, but the team behind the team is established.

International soccer legends with local ties make up the NWSL Bay Area's Founding Football Four: Brandi Chastain, Leslie Osborne, Aly Wagner and Danielle Slaton.

Partnered with San Francisco-based global investment firm Sixth Street, a group that has invested in teams like Real Madrid, FC Barcelona and the San Antonio Spurs, the women say they are eager to take over the soccer world.

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"To have us four with our soccer DNA and IQ, and teaming up with Sixth Street, we feel that we are going to be game changers," Osborne said.

"Honestly, it feels a lot like playing in a World Cup Final, playing in an Olympic Final," Slaton said. "It's nerve-wracking and it's exciting and that pressure is a privilege. And we're excited about that privilege."

"We want to create something that really is a beacon in the Bay Area that sets a new standard in terms of how people see the game, how they experience the game and something that really unites the over 101 different communities that we have," Wagner said.

Sixth Street CEO Alan Waxman said investing in women's sports is good business.

"Now people can put on their iPhone or iPad and they can basically watch the NWSL like my daughter does, like a lot of the girls on her team do. That didn't exist five years ago, didn't exist 50 years ago. And that's a structural change," Waxman said. "Everyone's like Why is this all happening now?' It's not a coincidence. It's that the accessibility has structurally changed. And as a result of that, when you think about 99% of those dollars historically have gone to only men, the barriers have now been broken down and that's going to change. That's what we're investing behind. "

Waxman will serve on the NWSL's board of governors. Sheryl Sandberg, a former Facebook executive and author of the 2013 book "Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead," is also joining the club as a board member and strategic investor.

The excitement is already growing among Bay Area soccer fans, like Brianna Russell.

She founded the local nonprofit Girls Leading Girls, an organization that teaches lessons of female empowerment through soccer.

Russell says this new professional women's team will be an inspiration to many.

"Sports in general, it's a vehicle," Russell said. "It's a vehicle for change, it's a vehicle for so much opportunity, equality and equity. So, it's a wonderful opportunity and motivator for our players and our coaches to have that new team in the Bay Area."

The Founding Four says they're ready for their team to be that inspiration in the Bay Area and beyond, on and off the field.

"I think our breadth and our width of our impact can be not just in the nine counties, along the nine bridges, but really globally," Chastain said.

"This is just the beginning; it sometimes feels like we've run a marathon already just to get to this point," Slaton said. "But, we're prepared. We all know that girls who play become women who lead and we are about being a part of that pipeline."

The NWSL recently embarked on its 11th season with 12 teams. Angel City in Los Angeles and the San Diego Wave joined the league last year.

Last month, the league announced the return of the Utah Royals, who will also start play in 2024.

The original Royals were part of the NWSL for three seasons from 2018 to 2020 but were sold to Kansas City when the owner of Major League Soccer's Real Salt Lake stepped away from the team amid controversy. RSL's new owners retained the rights to a future women's team.

The league is expected to add a 15th team in the Boston area in the future.

The Associated Press contributed to this article.

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