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NWSL expects to add two expansion teams in 2026, commissioner says

(Geoff Burke/USA TODAY Sports)

The NWSL expects to add two expansion teams in the 2026 season.

The league already has announced two additional teams set to join the league in 2024, in Utah and in the San Francisco Bay Area. Two more are in the pipeline, commissioner Jessica Berman said Tuesday on Washington Post Live.

We do expect for the 2026 season to add two more teams,” Berman said. “That process will began later this calendar year, and through the process we ran in 2022 for this round of expansion, we have an incredible amount of interest from qualified investors.”

Boston has been tabbed as an expansion destination, the Wall Street Journal reported in January, though the NWSL has not confirmed its selection.

The Boston Breakers franchise previously called the city home for the first five NWSL seasons but folded after the 2017 season. A Breakers revival has precedence; the Utah Royals are making their return in 2024 after folding in 2020, and Kansas City introduced the Current in 2021 after FC Kansas City folded in 2017.

The NWSL has grown from an eight-team league at its founding in 2013 to a 12-team league. With the introduction of four additional teams by 2026, the league would double its original number.

The 2022 season featured two new teams, both in California: Angel City FC and San Diego Wave FC. 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).

As the league has expanded, franchise values have increased, with the Bay Area ownership group paying $53 million to buy the franchise rights. (The Utah team paid a fixed reactivation fee of between $2 million and $5 million.)

“Even though our valuations have increased in a meaningful way to $53 million with the team we sold to the Bay Area, we’re still really early in our process in terms of our growth and where we think this league is going to be in three to five to 10 years,” Berman said.