Following the collapse of Women’s Professional Soccer (WPS) in 2012, the NWSL (National Women’s Soccer League) emerged as the new women’s professional soccer league. The NWSL started out with eight teams from eight different states: Massachusetts, Illinois, Missouri, New York, Oregon, Washington, New Jersey and Maryland. Since then, the NWSL has added Florida (Orlando Pride, 2016) and Texas (Houston Dash, 2014) to the mix, and the New York franchise has re-located to North Carolina.
The NWSL has been the most successful women’s professional league to date and will kick off its sixth season in the spring of 2018. With no sign of impending collapse, there are whispers of an NWSL expansion, and everyone is asking the same question: Which state will house the next NWSL squad? Below are two of the league’s top contenders.
It is extremely surprising that California does not already have an NWSL team of its own. Women’s club and collegiate soccer in California is arguably some of, if not the best in the nation. With colleges such as UCLA, Stanford, and USC all among the list of top 10 NCAA-ranked teams and cultivating top-tier players and a solid fan base, it is surprising to many soccer lovers that California has yet to see a women’s professional team emerge. Many NWSL teams are affiliates of MLS teams, and with two California-based MLS teams (LA Galaxy and San Jose Earthquakes - and a third launching in 2018 with LAFC) to potentially partner up with, the Golden State seems to be a shoo-in when the league decides to expand.
An NWSL team based in Salt Lake City is definitely a possibility if and when the league expands. A partnership with Real Salt Lake would provide an NWSL affiliate with the option of playing at the Rio Tinto Stadium (seats 20,000) or at a smaller stadium right outside the city. Salt Lake City already has a fairly solid soccer fan base, and it is thought that the Real Salt Lake supporters would back the women’s squad as well. Adding a team out West would also expand the national fan base of the East-coast dominant league.
The popularity and fan base of the NWSL has expanded massively in the past few years. Expansion of the league is no longer a matter of if but when. Keep an eye out to see which states will see the rise of the newest NWSL teams!