In July the NWSL appointed consultancy firm Inner Circle Sports to advise on the expansion plans and now, according to the report, that has been narrowed down to a final shortlist from the 82 parties that expressed an interest ahead of the 4th November application deadline.
Initially, NWSL commissioner Jessica Berman said she expected between five and ten bids for the league’s next expansion club. Earlier this month, four potential team ownership groups were presented at an executive NWSL meeting in New York, after which a prospective group from Cleveland is said to have been informed that it would not be successful.
In terms of financial packages, Sportico says the highest initial bid from the groups still in the running came in at upwards of US$40 million.
With the elite US women’s soccer league looking to expand from 12 to 14 teams in 2024, it is expected that the 13th team will be based in Utah. David Blitzer and Ryan Smith, the owners of Major League Soccer (MLS) franchise Real Salt Lake, reportedly have an option to relaunch the Utah Royals women’s team for a fee of around US$2 million.
Alongside former US women’s soccer stars Brandi Chastain and Aly Wagner, Sixth Street is said to be backing the San Francisco bid. Should it be successful, it would see the private equity firm make its latest sports venture, after investing in the National Basketball Association’s (NBA) San Antonio Spurs and Spanish soccer giants Barcelona.
The Tampa bid has garnered the support of Stuart Sternberg, owner of Major League Baseball’s (MLB) Tampa Bay Rays. The Boston bid is reportedly being led by Flybridge’s Anna Palmer alongside Linda Henry, the wife of John Henry, founder of Fenway Sports Group (FSG), which owns MLB’s Boston Red Sox, English soccer giants Liverpool and the Pittsburgh Penguins in the National Hockey League (NHL).
The report regarding expansion interest comes just days after the publishing of a joint report from the league and its players’ association (NWSLPA) into ‘widespread misconduct’ directed at players.