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Boston to return to NWSL in 2026 with expansion team

(Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

Boston is coming back to the NWSL.

The NWSL announced the expansion team on Tuesday, led by an all-women local ownership group that has committed more than $100 million to the club, which includes the $53 million expansion fees.

It’s a return to the city for the league, which once featured the Boston Breakers, a founding team in the NWSL that folded in 2018.

“The landscape has really changed dramatically in the last five years,” Jennifer Epstein, controlling partner of the Boston Unity Soccer Partners, told the Boston Globe. “There’s a lot of attention on women’s sports right now, a global rise in fandom in not just women’s sports but in particular around women’s soccer. It’s a great moment in time. There’s a lot of momentum in the league.

“I like to think it’s the beginning of the modern era for women’s sports.”

“I’m excited to expand the NWSL’s footprint and continue its transformative growth in our return to Boston, one of the world’s most iconic sports cities,” league commissioner Jessica Berman said in a statement. “We are very proud to welcome Boston Unity Soccer Partners to our ownership group. They bring an impressive roster of business leaders committed to continuing Boston’s legacy of sports excellence and delivering a successful team to a very passionate fanbase.”

Epstein is the founder of Juno Equity, which is a seed-round investor in women-led companies, and is also the daughter of Celtics co-owner Robert Epstein. She’s joined by managing partners Anna Palmer, Stephanie Connaughton and Ami Kuan Danoff.

Epstein told the Boston Globe that 95 percent of the group’s investments are from women and 40 percent comes from investors of color.

“When you think of the sports landscape here in Boston, we have five storied legacies, but you could say that there are certain things that are missing — and now there are certain things that are coming,” Epstein said. “I think presenting female role models — and that’s not just athletes on the field but in management and ownership-level positions — is impactful, and it would be meaningful for our city, for our young people of both genders, just to understand the pathways of opportunity that are available for you. And that’s what I think we’re presenting here.”

The new team will help to refurbish White Stadium in Franklin Park as their future stadium, committing at least $30 million to the stadium renovations. Boston will become the 15th team in the NWSL, with a 16th team set to be announced for 2026 expansion.

This will be the third professional women’s sports team in Boston. The Boston Renegades are five-time defending champions of the Women’s Football Alliance, while the Professional Women’s Hockey League is set to have a team in Boston and begin play in January.