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NWSL expansion plans for 2024: What you need to know

(Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

The NWSL plans to add two more teams to its roster for the 2024 season.

The league started with eight teams in 2013 and reached 12 teams in 2022. NWSL leaders aim to keep that momentum rolling.

The 2022 season featured two new teams, both in California: Angel City FC and San Diego Wave FC. The newcomers proved wildly successful, as Angel City averaged more than 19,000 fans per game in its inaugural season and San Diego reached the playoff semifinals (and set the postseason attendance record to boot).

Here’s what you need to know about NWSL expansion.

What are the NWSL’s expansion plans?

The NWSL is looking to add two new teams for the 2024 season, commissioner Jessica Berman has confirmed.

By June, Berman already had heard from “over 30 investment groups” interested in the league, she told ESPN. But she told the Wall Street Journal in October that she expects 5 to 10 “meaningful bids” for the expansion slots.

The league set a deadline of Nov. 4 for expansion bids.

Which locations are in the running?

Utah is a shoo-in to land a team, as first reported by ESPN’s Jeff Kassouf in June.

The Salt Lake City area was home to the NWSL’s Utah Royals from 2017 to 2020, when the club folded. But the league left in place a legal option that would allow incoming owners of MLS club Real Salt Lake to create a new NWSL club in Utah, per ESPN — and new owners David Blitzer and Ryan Smith are on board.

Former NWSL commissioner Lisa Baird agreed to a fixed reactivation fee, reported to be around $2 million. So the Utah franchise would come in at a much lower price than the second expansion franchise, which could pay a fee of $20 million or more.

Where that second franchise will land remains a mystery, but several groups have confirmed their bids.

Former U.S. women’s national team stars Brandi Chastain, Aly Wagner, Leslie Osborne and Danielle Slaton have joined forces to try to bring the NWSL to the San Francisco Bay Area, while Minnesota Aurora FC, a pre-professional USL W League formed in 2022, wants to make the jump to the professional level.

Several other cities had expressed interest earlier this year, as reported by Grant Wahl in May, including MLS ownership groups in Atlanta, Austin, Cincinnati, Salt Lake and Toronto.

When will the league announce its choices?

The NWSL aims to select two of the expansion bids by the end of 2022, Berman said.

With the locations and ownership groups in place by the end of this year, the league would stay on track to add the new franchises by the 2024 season.