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Bay Area, Boston to join Utah as future NWSL expansion teams: Source

Bay Area to join Utah in 2024; Boston will join at later date. Bay Area and Boston will reportedly pay $50 million each to enter league.

Kyle Ross-USA TODAY Sports

The San Francisco Bay Area is slated to join the National Women’s Soccer League as a 2024 expansion team, according to a report on Friday in the Wall Street Journal. Additionally, a Boston franchise will join the NWSL as team No. 15 at a later date, each for $50 million entry fees, per the report.

The Bay Area would join the return of a franchise in greater Salt Lake City, Utah, in 2024, as The Equalizer’s Jeff Kassouf reported for ESPN last June.

A source confirmed to The Equalizer that the Bay Area and Boston were approved. Reached Friday night, a league spokeperson said: “We remain engaged in our expansion process and are excited about our prospects. When we have news to share, we will do so.”

In December, the race for the second 2024 expansion spot was reportedly narrowed narrowed down to three cities: Boston, Tampa, and the Bay Area. NWSL commissioner Jessica Berman had said throughout the process that the league was planning to have two teams join for the 2024 season.

Friday’s report by the Wall Street Journal said that the Bay Area had locked down its spot in the 2024 NWSL season with a record-breaking $50 million franchise fee to the league. Additionally, Boston has locked down their entry into the league; however, their launch date has not been confirmed past the fact that it will not be in the 2024 season. As a point of reference, when San Diego and Angel City made their bids to join the league, their franchise fees were only in the $2-5 million range. 

Utah’s fee to return to the NWSL, as previously reported, was slated to be about $2 million thanks to a deal worked out by the NWSL’s previous leadership upon the Utah Royals’ demise (and subsequent birth of the Kansas City Current) in December 2020. The future buyer of MLS’ Real Salt Lake would have a discounted buyback clause to return the NWSL to Utah. Real Salt Lake’s new owners, David Blitzer and Ryan Smith, have executed that clause, sources previously told The Equalizer, although the entry fee has gone up slightly.

This growth in franchise fees reflects the high level of competition among groups making bids for an NWSL team and inherently increases the valuation for other teams in the league.

Boston’s bid being ‘later’ locks them into the new franchise fee standard which will likely only grow as the NWSL continues to expand.  It also gives Boston more time to deal with their current stadium limitations. The Boston Globe previously reported that a prospective ownership group is working with Boston mayor Michelle Wu on the idea of renovating an existing stadium within the city, which would take time. Boston formerly had an NWSL team, the Boston Breakers, which played from 2013 to 2017 and folded right before the 2018 season after a failed sale attempt

The Bay Area and Boston respectively account for No. 6 and No. 10 on the top 10 media markets list in the U.S., and should both enter the NWSL, the league would have teams in seven of the top 10 cities, only missing teams in Philadelphia (4), Dallas (5), and Atlanta (7). 

Additional reporting from Jeff Kassouf.


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