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NWSL reportedly narrows expansion search to three cities

(Randy Litzinger/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

The NWSL has whittled its search down to three cities for the league’s 14th expansion team, according to a Sportico report published Friday.

Groups from Boston, Tampa and the Bay Area are the three finalists, with the highest initial bid well over $40 million. Just two years ago, the price tag for an expansion team didn’t exceed $5 million.

The Bay Area bid is led by global investment firm Sixth Street and former U.S. women’s national team players Brandi Chastain and Aly Wagner. It has not yet been confirmed out of which city the club would play.

Tampa Bay Rays owner Stuart Sternberg backs the Tampa group. The Boston bid is led by a group of women investors, including Anna Palmer of Flybridge, a venture capital firm, and Linda Henry, co-owner of the Boston Red Sox and Liverpool FC. Henry was a part of the WNBA’s $75 million venture capital raise earlier this year.

The chosen city will be one of two newcomers joining the NWSL, which had 12 clubs this past year. Salt Lake City is expected to be named the 13th expansion team, as first reported by ESPN.

Expansion clubs Angel City FC and San Diego Wave FC began play in the NWSL this past season, with the Wave becoming the first expansion team to make the playoffs in their inaugural season.

Two other NWSL club will be changing hands, after Portland Thorns owner Merritt Paulson and Chicago Red Stars owner Arnim Whisler announced their intentions to sell following the release of the Sally Yates report on systemic abuse in the league.

In the summer NWSL Commissioner Jessica Berman said the NWSL would consider reproductive rights when looking at locations for expansion teams. A month prior, the U.S. Supreme Court removed constitutional protections for abortion. If Tampa is selected as the 14th NWSL club, both 2024 expansion teams will be located in states with banned or restricted access to abortion.