HomeFootballNational Women’s Soccer League eyes expansion with plans for 16th team

National Women’s Soccer League eyes expansion with plans for 16th team

National Women’s Soccer League eyes expansion with plans for 16th team

Commissioner Jessica Berman has revealed the NWSL’s intent to grow its footprint by adding a 16th team, marking another milestone in the league’s expansion strategy.

Currently boasting 12 teams, the addition of the Utah Royals and Bay FC in Northern California for the upcoming season, along with a 15th team in Boston slated for a 2026 launch, reflects the women’s league’s commitment to fostering growth.

Berman, speaking in a state-of-the-league address on Friday ahead of the NWSL championship game at San Diego’s Snapdragon Stadium, expressed optimism about the expansion. She cited strong interest from over a dozen qualified investor groups across the US who are keen on contributing to the success of a new team.

The league’s proactive approach aligns with its recent media rights deal, valued at $60 million annually, which secures broadcasting on ESPN, CBS Sports, Amazon Prime Video and Scripps Sports. This forward-looking deal follows the NWSL’s impressive recently completed 2023 season, marked by a 36 percent increase in ticket sales and a 26 percent rise in average attendance at games. The San Diego Wave led the league with an average of 20,718 fans per home match.

Berman emphasised the pivotal role of attendance in propelling overall growth, creating excitement around the sport and driving consumption of NWSL content. With a commitment to independence, the league stands out as a unique proposition for brands, media partners and fans, contributing to its incremental growth and impact.

The NWSL’s success isn’t confined to local stadiums, it extends to viewership figures, with total viewership on CBS, the current media partner, witnessing a remarkable 41 percent year-over-year increase from the previous season.

This growth is complemented by the recent record-breaking attendance at OL Reign’s match in Seattle, where 34,130 spectators gathered for Megan Rapinoe’s home farewell, marking a fitting conclusion to the two-time World Cup winner’s illustrious career.

Berman also addressed other league matters, including plans for the 2024 schedule. In a departure from past seasons coinciding with major international events, the league will not schedule matches during the 2024 Paris Olympics. Updates on the sale of OL Reign and the Portland Thorns are anticipated by the end of this year, underlining the league’s ongoing commitment to strategic development.

OL Reign went down to Gotham FC 2-1 in the 2023 NWSL Championship game on November 11.

Image Credit: Hameltion

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