On Monday evening, Mia Hamm tweeted a single picture with the date “7.21” and the caption “Welcome to the beginning.” Today all was revealed: A new club, whose ownership group is currently operating under the name Angel City, will begin play in 2022. Along with 2021 expansion Racing Louisville FC, this would make 11 teams total playing in the league in 2022, barring another expansion announcement. Though Hamm is part of the LAFC ownership group, the MLS side is not affiliated with Angel City FC.
Former venture fund advisor and gaming platform developer Julie Uhrman is a founder and president of the club, while the ownership group is a veritable who’s who of soccer names mixed with celebrities, including Mia Hamm, Lori Fair Allen, Ronnie Fair Sullins, Shannon Boxx, Amanda Cromwell, Julie Foudy, Joy Fawcett, Lauren Holiday, Rachel van Hollebeke, Angela Hucles, Tisha Venturini-Hoch, Shannon MacMillan, Abby Wambach, and Saskia Webber.
Also in the investor group are Natalie Portman, Uzo Aduba, Jennifer Garner, and Eva Longoria - actresses notably involved with Me Too. Joining them are late night TV host and Youtuber Lilly Singh, Netflix VP of original content Cindy Holland, Youtuber Casey Neistat, Bad Robot president and COO Brian Weinstein, author and activist Glennon Doyle, and Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian. Ohanian has notably agitated on social media for greater investment in women’s sports and it seems he’s put his money where his mouth is on this one. His wife, who you might know as tennis player Serena Williams, joins him, along with their daughter Alexis Olympia Ohanian, Jr.
Portman, Aduba, Garner, and Longoria have previously shown their support for the USWNT, appearing at a game in LA in April of 2019, while Portman herself voiced a hype video for Fox for the 2019 World Cup. Portman told The Athletic that it was all part of her discussions with people in the game, including Alex Morgan and USWNTPA director Becca Roux, eventually leading to her decision to start a club.
“Today we take an exciting step by announcing the first women majority-owned and led ownership group,” Portman said in the press release officially announcing the team. “I am thrilled by the opportunity to partner with this incredible group of people to bring a professional women’s soccer team to Los Angeles. Together, we aim to build not only a winning team on the field, but also to develop a passionately loyal fan base. We also hope to make a substantive impact on our community, committing to extending access to sports for young people in Los Angeles through our relationship with the LA84 Foundation. Sports are such a joyful way to bring people together, and this has the power to make tangible change for female athletes both in our community and in the professional sphere.”
It’s not yet confirmed but Dignity Health Sports Park in Carson could be a candidate for their home field. DHSP is often host to USWNT training camps, and hosted games for Concacaf Olympic qualifying earlier this year.
It’s good to see that the current global pandemic hasn’t slowed down investor interest in the league; a 2022 launch date might also have been reassuring enough of a buffer to not derail plans that were already in the works. Successfully pulling off the Challenge Cup under incredibly tough circumstances was probably another vote in favor of having confidence in the league, or at least in commissioner Lisa Baird. Even with the ghost of the LA Sol lurking in the background, Los Angeles has long stood as an enticing, untapped market for NWSL that would help add to the league’s attractiveness on the west coast.
It’s also extremely exciting to see more women joining the ranks of NWSL ownership. Obviously not all of the women involved with Angel City have an equal stake, as far as we know, but they certainly have a very strong collective voice. The possibilities for NWSL feel like they’ve opened up in leaps and bounds recently, and this is yet another huge step towards a lasting, stable league.