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NWSL commissioner provides updates on TV rights, 2026 expansion

(Geoff Burke/USA TODAY Sports)

Ahead of the 2023 Challenge Cup final, the NWSL commissioner Jessica Berman called the year of 2023 an “inflection point for women’s soccer” — and she discussed the ways in which the league is looking to capitalize on the moment.

Expansion plans for 2026

The NWSL plans to add two more teams for the 2026 season, Berman confirmed to reporters Friday. She first shared the timeline for the next round of expansion in May, and that remains the goal.

Boston has been tabbed as an expansion destination, the Wall Street Journal reported in January, though the NWSL has not confirmed its selection. Berman declined to comment Friday, only saying the league hopes to share more details “soon.”

The NWSL expanded to 12 teams in 2022, when California-based clubs Angel City FC and San Diego Wave FC joined the league. The newcomers proved wildly successful in their inaugural seasons, as Los Angeles-based Angel City averaged more than 19,000 fans per game and San Diego reached the playoff semifinals (and set the postseason attendance record to boot).

New media rights deals

The NWSL expects to announce its next broadcast deals during the 2023 postseason, Berman said. Increased viewership for the 2023 season — by 20% on CBS and by 50% on Paramount+ — is giving the league a boost during the negotiations, according to the commissioner.

“We’re very bullish and hopeful we will end up with deals that will make our fans super excited and will allow us to continue the growth of the league,” she said.

The league’s current broadcast rights deal expires at the end of the current season.

Record attendance marks

With four matches left in the regular season, the NWSL has set a new attendance record, surpassed the 1 million mark for 2023. The league also surpassed 1 million fans in 2022.

The record total of 1,060,978 includes the first 18 weeks of the regular season but not the Challenge Cup tournament. Across the league, 11 regular-season matches have seen more than 20,000 fans, compared to just four matches last season.

With an average of 20,194 fans per home match, the San Diego Wave are on pace to set an NWSL record. San Diego also will host the NWSL Championship at 32,000-seat Snapdragon Stadium.

“We expect the building to be sold out,” Berman said.