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NWSL expands to Sacramento, hopes to start in 2021

The league will (maybe) have 11 teams for 2021.

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After months of up and down speculation, NWSL will finally have an expansion team in Sacramento, as reported by The Athletic. The Equalizer reported last year that USL side Sacramento Republic, which will join MLS in 2023, was supposed to join NWSL’s ownership group and bring in a women’s team for 2020, but that timeline was too short. Now with nothing but time this year due to you-know-what, the deal has been sealed for as early as 2021. In an update from The Athletic, that ‘21 start date is not solid, and the team could start in 2022.

With Racing Louisville, Angel City, and Sacramento on board, that will eventually bring the total number of teams in the league to 12, although since Angel City won’t be operational until 2022, for ‘21 the league will be at an odd number of teams (sorry NWSL schedule makers).

If that 2023 timeline for Sacramento Republic gives you some concern, as well it should, given that pending completion of their home stadium, their men’s side currently plays at Papa Murphy’s Park, which is good on capacity at just over 11,500, but doesn’t have its own locker rooms.

There was also some discussion about expanding in Sacramento through the California Storm, the local WPSL side. While that was never really likely given the money required now for NWSL expansion vs. the money available to your average WPSL team, the Storm are certainly one of the more successful and involved teams in WPSL and would undoubtedly help augment the local player pool as well as big networking capacity given their ties to Brandi Chastain and Leslie Osborne.

With Sacramento, that would also make it four teams on the west coast eventually between Seattle, Portland, LA, and Sacramento, with Utah adding to a possible eventual western conference. California is also obviously a valuable market in and of itself, and if Sacramento can establish solid footing, along with Angel City’s high-profile list of investors, that would add considerable value to the league overall when selling things like sponsorships and TV rights.