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Mia Hamm on bringing women’s pro soccer to LA: ‘It just made sense’

Mia Hamm will coach alongside former US teammates Carla Overbeck and Michelle Akers. (Meg Oliphant/Getty Images)

Mia Hamm reflected on the journey to bring women’s professional soccer to Los Angeles ahead of Angel City FC’s regular-season debut at Banc of California Stadium on Friday.

The USWNT icon has been one of the most consequential figures in growing American women’s soccer throughout her career and has continued to carry the mantle after her playing days.

In her latest role as an investor in the Los Angeles-based NWSL expansion club Angel City FC, Hamm once again finds herself blazing the trail for women’s soccer.

“I’m going to feel so many emotions stepping into that stadium,” Hamm told Kevin Baxter of the Los Angeles Times ahead of Friday’s home game. “Pride is probably the first one, just what this team has built and accomplished. And being able to kind of feel the energy from the supporters because I know it’s going to be amazing.”

The soccer icon has been determined to bring the sport to Southern California, an epicenter of women’s soccer, for quite some time. While opportunities presented themselves throughout the years, Hamm was wary of backing the right project.

When entrepreneur Julie Uhrman, venture capitalist Kara Nortman and actress Natalie Portman spearheaded an ownership group that included big-name investors like Jennifer Garner and Eva Longoria, everything fell into place, with the proposal earning an NWSL expansion berth in 2020.

“It’s one thing to kind of talk about it. It’s another thing to do it,” Hamm said. “So all credit to Julie and Kara and Natalie. They have done all the heavy lifting.”

While Hamm is quick to point out that she is not from Southern California, her imprint on the area’s soccer landscape is indelible. She played her last professional match in Carson, Calif., in 2004.

“So many kids are playing all across Southern California,” she added. “Some of the best players in the country come out of this area. So it just made sense.

It’s really important to say thank you to the players that were the foundation of the game here in Southern California and to be aspirational to the players that don the Angel City kit. But also all the young players that come and watch them play.”

Angel City FC enter their regular-season debut on the heels of their first franchise win. They downed the Portland Thorns 1-0 in the club’s final Challenge Cup contest Sunday.

The expansion club will host the North Carolina Courage in Los Angeles on Friday, with the game broadcast on CBS Sports Network at 10:30 p.m. ET.