The NWSL hopes to see 16 teams in the league in just three years. League Commissioner Jessica Berman, speaking to the Washington Post, sees consistent expansion over the next three years.
Some of those are already confirmed. The Utah Royals are returning to NWSL play for the 2024 campaign. The side last played in 2020. However, it folded in after club owner Dell Loy Hansen relinquished ownership of the club. Joining the Utah Royals a year after, the 14th team is going to be in the San Francisco Bay Area. Investors laid out a $53 million plan to bring a professional women’s team to that area.
“We do expect, for the 2026 season, to add two more teams,” Berman said. “That process will begin later this calendar year. We have an incredible amount of interest from qualified investors.”
Berman added that NWSL expansion to 16 teams is just the beginning of where the league sees itself. Remember, the league only started in 2013. Just since 2020, NWSL added or revived teams in Kansas City, Los Angeles, San Diego and Louisville.
“Even though our valuations have increased in a meaningful way, we are still early in the process in terms of our growth and where we think this league is going to be in five to 10 years,” Berman said.
No indication of where NWSL can reach 16 teams
The two teams nearing their debut have locations. Granted, that is only one year away for Utah and two for the Bay Area. However, Berman did not provide any hints as to where the two other teams, bringing the NWSL tally up to 16 squads, may end up.
However, these potential investors could look to NWSL’s past. For example, the Wall Street Journal named Boston as a potential destination. The Boston Breakers were part of the first batch of NWSL teams upon the league’s inception. However, Boston folded before the 2018 season.
Other locations could be related to MLS clubs. Atlanta, Dallas, Austin, Minnesota and Philadelphia are just a handful of options. Also, going to Canada with Toronto or Montreal, both of which have MLS teams, could be an option.
PHOTO: IMAGO / Icon Sportswire
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Courtesy : https://worldsoccertalk.com/news/nwsl-plans-to-expand-to-16-teams-by-2026-20230510-WST-432366.html