National Women’s Soccer League Announces Expansion to Bay Area, California
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Sixth Street leads largest investment to date in global women’s soccer in partnership with USWNT legends Brandi Chastain, Leslie Osborne, Danielle Slaton, and Aly Wagner
Sheryl Sandberg joins as strategic investor and will serve on club’s Board, which will also include four-time NBA and two-time WNBA Champion executive Rick Welts.
New club will begin play for the 2024 season
NEW YORK AND SAN FRANCISCO (April 4, 2023) – The National Women’s Soccer League today announced it has awarded expansion rights for team #14 to an investment group representing the Bay Area, California. Northern California has been a key generator of women’s soccer talent throughout the history of the sport, and the Bay Area is a top-ten media market known for its diverse culture and vibrant ecosystem of creativity and innovation. The new club will begin play in 2024.
Today’s announcement follows the recent expansion announcement of the Utah Royals as team #13, also beginning play in 2024. With the newly added duo, the NWSL now includes 14 member clubs, nearly doubling the league’s footprint since beginning operations in 2012.
“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.”
The new Bay Area club’s majority investor is Sixth Street, a leading global investment firm with deep experience in sports including investments with 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. Sixth Street is making the largest institutional investment in women’s professional soccer to date as the NWSL experiences record-breaking viewership, attendance, and sponsorship growth.
Sixth Street has partnered with four former U.S. Women’s National Team players in Brandi Chastain, Leslie Osborne, Danielle Slaton, and Aly Wagner, who originally launched the effort to bring an NWSL expansion team to the Bay Area with the support of women executives and community leaders from across the Bay. As the club’s Founding Football Four, they will be represented on the club’s majority women board and will work alongside Sixth Street in setting the team’s strategic direction.
“We want to thank Commissioner Berman and the NWSL Board for their endorsement and their partnership throughout this process,” said Alan Waxman, Co-Chair of the Club and Co-Founder and CEO of Sixth Street. “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.”
“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 Aly Wagner, Co-Founder and Co-Chair of the Club, Santa Clara ’02, two-time Olympic gold medalist, NCAA National Champion, and the first woman broadcaster to call a FIFA Men’s World Cup match. “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 CEO 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.
“This is an incredibly validating moment and a great day for lovers of soccer and Bay Area sports fans as a whole,” said Leslie Osborne, Co-Founder of the Club, Santa Clara ’05, 2007 U.S. Women’s World Cup midfielder and NCAA National Champion. “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.”
“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,” said Danielle Slaton, Co-Founder of the Club, Santa Clara ’02, Olympic silver medalist, NCAA National Champion, 2003 U.S. Women’s World Cup defender, and Chair of the U.S. Soccer Yates Implementation Committee. “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.”
“The Bay Area is where this all began,” said Brandi Chastain, Co-Founder of the Club, Santa Clara ’90, two-time FIFA World Cup champion and two-time Olympic gold medalist. “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.”
Sheryl Sandberg, founder of LeanIn.Org, is joining the club as a board member and strategic investor with her husband, Tom Bernthal. Given the powerful connection between women’s sports and leadership, Sheryl and Tom will partner with the club to create leadership programs that empower women and girls and provide resources to sports and youth programs in underserved communities throughout the Bay Area.
“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,” said Sheryl Sandberg. “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.”
The club’s Board will also include Rick Welts, pioneering sports business executive who most recently served as President and Chief Operating Officer of the Golden State Warriors. Welts’ career accomplishments include four NBA and two WNBA championships and the creation of both NBA All-Star Weekend and the marketing program for USA Basketball’s Olympic “Dream Team”. Along with Val Ackerman, he was named “Marketer of the Year” by Brandweek in 1998 for his role in launching the WNBA. Welts was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2018.
“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,” said Welts. “I’m honored to join an extraordinary group that will bring this vision to life.”
The Board will also include Staci Slaughter, former executive vice president and senior advisor to the CEO of the three-time World Series Champion San Francisco Giants.
The Bay Area investor group has committed to significant infrastructure investments to support the club’s growth and operations, including building a state-of-the-art training venue in a to-be-announced location. The club is also in the process of hiring front office positions with the goal of delivering a world-class experience for NWSL players as professionals on and off the field.
The NWSL remains engaged in the expansion process with an eye towards adding teams #15 and #16. Inner Circle Sports continues to represent and advise the league on expansion matters.
The NWSL opened its 11th year of play Saturday, March 25, and continued its recent success, breaking opening day attendance records for a single match at Snapdragon Stadium in San Diego and the league-wide attendance record over the course of the opening weekend.
- For NWSL:
- For the club:
- For Sixth Street:
- Patrick Clifford
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