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Are we at the dawn of an NWSL expansion boom?

• Commissioner Jessica Berman tells EQZ the league isn’t setting a cap at 16 teams
• Record $53M fee from Bay Area proves the demand is there, and NWSL will want more
• With rapid expansion comes risks and traps. How will NWSL exercise caution?

NWSL commissioner Jessica Berman (Jeffrey Swinger-USA TODAY Sports)

Earlier this year, at The Notary Hotel in downtown Philadelphia, National Women’s Soccer League commissioner Jessica Berman praised the speed at which the country’s top domestic professional league moved through a complicated expansion process.

“I couldn’t think of a faster process than we deployed for expansion,” she said.

For more than a decade, across multiple leagues, leaders in the women’s soccer space have touted the large number of groups looking at invest in the game through expansion clubs. And for a long time, it was all talk, but that reality is finally being realized.

On Tuesday, a group led by Sixth Street and fronted by several popular former players was formally awarded an NWSL club based in Northern California’s Bay Area to begin play in 2024 along with the Utah Royals revival. A Boston group has an agreement to place team in the league sometime beyond 2024, The Equalizer previously confirmed.

These are extraordinary developments for a league that played its first game 10 years ago this month amidst lots of hope but a distinctive cloud that was asking the question: “How long will this one last?” The two prior leagues only lasted three seasons.

NWSL has had its challenges, but no one is asking whether it will last anymore. The new questions are how quickly the league can grow and how much it can reach competitor status with its peers. (Peers can be defined as Major League Soccer, the other U.S. based sports leagues, or other women’s soccer leagues around the world.)

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