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Bay Area expansion team smashes NWSL record with $53 million price tag

(Kyle Ross/USA TODAY Sports)

The NWSL’s new Bay Area expansion team is already setting records.

When Angel City FC and San Diego Wave FC joined the league as the most recent expansion teams, their ownership groups paid fees of between $2 million and $5 million. Just one year after those teams played their first games, the investors in the Bay Area team have committed to a record expansion fee of $53 million. 

The investor group, led by Sixth Street, former Facebook executive Sheryl Sandberg and former Golden State Warriors president Rick Welts – as well as USWNT legends Brandi Chastain, Aly Wagner, Danielle Slaton and Leslie Osborne – plan to invest $125 million from the start, including the expansion fee and a $40 million practice facility.

The club is set to begin play in 2024, with further details set to be announced at a later date.

Nine months of research led to the investment, Sixth Street co-founder and CEO Alan Waxman said, which showed that “everything that indicates something is structurally undervalued was flashing green, on every vector.”

“There’s a bigger structural trend here, where the economics have not yet caught up with reality,” Waxman told Sportico. “The data is just popping off the page.”

The $53 million expansion fee marks a significant increase from Angel City and San Diego, and even from the reincarnation of the Utah Royals. The return of the Royals, also set for the 2024 season, came with a fixed fee of between $2 million and $5 million, set several years ago by former NWSL commissioner Lisa Baird.

Since then, the league’s value has ballooned. Last August, Angel City was valued at more than $100 million, and the Washington Spirit ($35 million) and Gotham FC ($40 million) also saw their valuations increase.

In December, it was reported that an investor group planned to submit an offer for the majority stake in the Portland Thorns at a $60 million valuation. No deal has been finalized yet.

The NWSL had a number of bids to sort through in their most recent round of expansion decisions, with the Bay Area group being one of the most high-profile. As the league grows, investment is expected to grow as well. 

“The number of bids and the increase in the league’s expansion fees are indicative of both the demand that exists for women’s soccer in the professional sports landscape and the validated growth trajectory of our league,” NWSL commissioner Jessica Berman said in a statement.

And, of course, Sixth Street expects the investment in women’s sports to grow to the point that the firm and its investors will make money. 

“In five years,” Waxman said, “people are going to be saying, ‘Why wasn’t this so obvious when it was happening?'”