Expansion in Women's Sports
With the National Women's Soccer League now well underway, the progression of the league is well demonstrated in the teams that have joined the league in the last few years. San Diego Wave and Angel City FC sit atop the NWSL table in just the clubs' first season in one of the most competitive women's soccer leagues in the world. From Jessica Berman and the NWSL signing the new historic CBA to adding more and more franchises to the league, they are leading the charge for women's sports around the United States. The WNBA is in between a decision to expand the league to 14 teams from the 12 that it currently has, but the problem that has been discussed is the decrease in competition due to the scattering of the talent. Each team in the WNBA is loaded with stars all over the roster from the frontcourt of the Sun to the elite shooting of the Aces, destroying that could bring some damage to what is always an entertaining, and talent-filled playoffs. Kansas City Current just signed its first club president Allison Howard this past week.
It was a statement signing showing that the NWSL confirmed as they now bring in someone who worked with the Los Angeles Lakers for a decade. The Current have the goal of becoming the best of the best in the NWSL. With the addition of stars to the new stadium and training facility, they are on their way. Each new expansion team has its own niche that has helped the NWSL break through the glass ceiling to the public. Angel City has one of the best environments and home-field advantages along with its star-studded ownership group combined with the product on the pitch. Lousiville and San Diego are making their presence known early on in the season and with the quick growth of the other new expansion teams, the NWSL is on the upward trajectory.
After the home opener for Angel City a few weeks ago, Berman talked about the increased interest in women's sports due to the expansion, stating, "There were 22,000 people there who bought tickets and were wearing their Angel City merchandise head to toe," Berman said Wednesday at the espnW Summit in New York City...If the crowd could speak it would say, 'Challenge accepted.' Enough with the proof of concept. What else do we need to do to prove that women's sports has business value and people are ready to show up and support women's sports...The environment is there, the business community is showing up, the fans are showing up, and the players are excited and engaged. The time is now."
Both Angel City and San Diego Wave lost this past weekend in the league but seeing the progression overall in how the expansion teams have elevated the NWSL is something that cannot be ignored. As the commissioner of the NWSL made reference to, the sport of women's soccer continues to grow across the country, and with more and more cities asking for the opportunity to possess an expansion team, the sky's the limit for the sport when it finally spread its wings just a little out of its comfort zone. Both expansion teams in the NWSL possess two of the more elite attacking talents the USWNT has to offer. The combination of the veteran presence along with the young stars that all the expansion sides have at their disposal makes it an intriguing season in the NWSL.
The WNBA is discussing some sort of expansion to transform the economics of the league, following the NWSL paving the way for more and more involvement in women's sports. The commissioner of the WNBA, Cathy Engelbert has brought up the possibility of adding two new teams in the future in order to expand the talent across the league. The 12-team size of the league limits the ability of plenty of talented players to find their roles on a team. With a 14-team league, the talent of more and more talented women's athletes will be shown to a much larger audience than with a smaller-sized league.
Cities like Nashville, Toronto, or even San Francisco could be in contention to secure a WNBA team, and with the commissioner taking the side of expansion, the league is only waiting for the right time. Toronto would bring in the Canadian market that already has a passion for basketball with the Raptors winning the NBA title just a few years ago. Asking the teams that are currently in the league to add roster spots, and increase the salary cap is something that few are able to do, making addition a better option long term for not only the WNBA but the evolution of the popularity of women's sports.
With some of the talent that is coming into the WNBA, and the new owners that could potentially be added with the money they have at their disposal, the league may look like it has an easy choice, but there are some critics. More and more people are coming out to show their support for women's athletes all around the world, and while there is a long way to go, expanding leagues to different cities brings in a new crowd of fans which thus creates even more engagement. The current president of the Raptors, Masai Ujiri, and the Nashville's Sports Authority Board have shown some interest in having a WNBA team whether it was explicitly said or in a survey that was sent.
The NWSL, while it is far younger than the WNBA, seeing the new expansion teams this past year and the year before gives a solid glimpse at what the world's view on women's sports is at the moment. Fans are all, from buying merchandise to becoming season ticket members, Angel City and even the Kansas City Current are demonstrating the current potential and how positive the future looks in just a short amount of time. 19,341 on average show up to Banc of California Stadium to watch Angel City and the brand that this star-studded group of owners has built over the years.
There are now two teams that average over 10,000 people in the stands for the first time in the history of the league. Four out of the top seven highest attendance numbers in the league in 2022 are teams that entered the NWSL in the past two seasons. Right now is the time to take advantage of what women's sports is going to become in the near future. The talent and quality are abundant, and in order for sports in this area to thrive, even more, the solution is to give more and more individuals an opportunity to demonstrate what they have to offer.
No matter what cities get the chance to add a new women's team to their roster of sports teams, the idea of expansion and increasing the number of owners will take women's sports to the next level. Angel City is the epitome of what an expansion team seeks to be, but with plans in place, there is no telling what the future of new teams in women's sports will be able to do.