National Women’s Soccer League, citing attendance growth and new media deal, looks to add 16th team


The National Women’s Soccer League is looking to add a 16th team, Commissioner Jessica Berman announced Friday.

The league currently stands at 12 teams, with the Utah Royals and Bay FC in Northern California joining next season. A 15th team in Boston is set to launch in 2026.

“Our preliminary analysis of the landscape is that we have more than a dozen qualified investor groups from different markets around the U.S. who are extremely interested in the kinds of investment we know is required in order to operationalize a successful team,” Berman said.

Berman made the comments on Friday in a state-of the league address ahead of the NWSL’s championship game at San Diego’s Snapdragon Stadium. Gotham FC plays OL Reign for the league title on Saturday night.

Earlier this week, the NWSL announced a new media rights deal that will put the league’s matches on ESPN, CBS Sports, Amazon Prime Video and Scripps Sports. The deal is worth $60 million annually.

Berman said ticket sales to NWSL games grew 36% this season and average attendance at games was up 26 percent. The San Diego Wave led the league with an average of 20,718 fans per home match.

“We know that attendance is the rocket fuel that drives all of the growth of everything else we’re building, and creates the excitement around our game that makes people not only want to attend games, but to consume our content and to watch our games on TV,” Berman said.

Last month, OL Reign attracted a record NWSL crowd of 34,130 to Lumen Field in Seattle for Megan Rapinoe’s farewell match. Rapinoe, a two-time World Cup winner, is retiring from the game following the championship match.

Berman said total viewership on CBS, the league’s current media partner, was up 41 percent year-over-year from last season.

“We’re one of the few leagues that’s fully independent. That means that we make investment decisions and business decisions for our own specific objective. That is a very different value proposition to brands, to media partners and to fans,” Berman said. “And for that reason, we’ve been able to have a level of authenticity in the story that we’re sharing to other businesses that have allowed for what we believe is incremental growth and incremental impact.”

Berman touched on several other issues affecting the league, including the 2024 schedule. In a departure from previous seasons that coincided with big international events, the league will not play matches during the 2024 Paris Olympics.

The sale of both OL Reign and the Portland Thorns is progressing, with deals expected to be announced by the end of this year, Berman said.


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