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Expansion looms on the horizon for the NWSL

Los Angeles and San Diego will be home to NWSL’s 11th and 12th clubs in 2022.

Jill Ellis, former USWNT coach, is the president of the San Diego expansion club.
Associated Press

When the NWSL enters its ninth season in 2022 it will welcome two new teams; Angel City FC [ACFC] and the San Diego club (official name coming later this summer). First reported on Tuesday by the San Diego Union-Tribune, and later confirmed by the NWSL, an expansion team in San Diego will be coming in 2022, while Angel City FC was unveiled last July. The 2022 NWSL season will likely begin in March, so let’s look at where each expansion club is some nine months out from their first match.

Facilities

Women’s soccer was first in San Diego in 2001 playing in the Women’s United Soccer Association. They played for two years at the University of San Diego’s Torero Stadium before the league folded in 2003. The new San Diego team will also play at Torero Stadium before hopefully finding a permanent home by 2023.

Welcome messages for ACFC at Banc of California Stadium
@MayorOfLA on Twitter

ACFC will play at the Banc of California Stadium, home to Los Angeles FC of Major League Soccer. The 22,000 seat stadium was opened in 2018. LAFC has its own training facility at Cal State LA, but ACFC is not planning on training there. According to Coliseum Online ACFC is planning to build or purchase their training facility which can also serve as a community center when needed.

Personnel

Ron Burkle, the founder of The Yucaipa Companies and co-owner of the NHL’s Pittsburgh Penguins, is the owner of the San Diego Club. Burkle hired the USWNT’s most successful coach, Jill Ellis, as the president. She hopes to create an all-female executive staff as well as coaching staff, which would be the first of its kind. Ellis plans to hire a coach by July 1st with strong speculation that it will be Casey Stoney. Stoney coached Manchester United Women since 2018, but abruptly announced she was leaving at the end of the Women’s Super League season.

Uzo Aduba, Jennifer Garner, Eva Longoria, Natalie Portman and Jessica Chastain, all investors in ACFC.
@natalieportman on Instagram

Angel City FC has made headlines early for their star-studded list of investors including Uzo Aduba, Mia Hamm, Billie Jean King, Alexis Ohanian, Natalie Portman, Abby Wambach, and Serena Williams. Julie Urhman is the President of Angel City FC. No word on potential coaches for ACFC, but sporting director Eniola Aluko will help to fill that vacancy.

Players

Megan Rapinoe, Alex Morgan, Christen Press are all California natives
Rebecca Greenfield for Fortune

Neither team has signed any players as of yet. There will be an expansion draft in December 2021. During an expansion draft, the expansion teams are able to select players from the league’s current teams. Likewise, current teams are able to protect some of their players meaning they cannot be picked by San Diego or ACFC. In this year’s expansion draft for Racing Louisville FC, they were able to select two players from each of the other nine teams. Eligible players are typically current players but also those players on loan to other teams, those who are not under contract but whose rights are with a club, unsigned college draft picks, or retired individuals. For example, Tobin Heath’s NWSL rights were with the Portland Thorns even though she was under contract in England at Manchester United. Her rights were then selected by Racing Louisville; however, she has not signed with them since coming back from England and is not playing in the NWSL at the moment.

While no players have signed yet there is no shortage of players with ties to California. Alex Morgan, Christen Press, Tierna Davidson, Megan Rapinoe, and Lynn Williams all grew up in California. This does not count the handful more of USWNT players that attended college in California.

Branding

Angelcity.com

While Angel City settled into ACFC last July, San Diego is supposed to unveil their team name and colors later this summer. Angel City FC comes from Los Angeles’ nickname the City of Angels. ACFC has put out merchandise with black and white being the primary color, many pieces feature the words Angel City FC in an upside-down triangle which may end up being a version of their crest.