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Report: Portland Thorns could garner NWSL record sale price

Portland Thorns players celebrate after a goal. (Craig Mitchelldyer/USA TODAY Sports)

The Portland Thorns could garner an NWSL record sale price if the franchise hits the market, per a report from Sportico.

The Portland club is one of three at the center of U.S. Soccer’s investigation into the NWSL abuse scandal, along with the Chicago Red Stars and Racing Louisville. The federation released its report Oct. 3, and the fallout from the findings has been wide-reaching.

The Red Stars’ board of directors voted to remove club owner and founder Arnim Whisler as chairman, and the board also wants to facilitate a share of his sales of the team.

Thorns owner Merritt Paulson has stepped down as CEO of that club and the MLS’ Portland Timbers. President of business operations Mike Golub and former general manager Gavin Wilkinson, who had remained part of the parent club PTFC, were fired.

Paulson has not expressed an intention to sell the NWSL franchise, but if he did, the team could bring in a record deal, bankers told Sportico.

The Thorns not only have found success on the field, winning two NWSL championships and two NWSL Shields, they also led the league in attendance for seven straight seasons – until this season, when Angel City FC took the top spot.

Portland’s revenue was expected to approach $10 million for 2023 before the U.S. Soccer report rocked the club.

The Red Stars have not had the same success and rank in the bottom half of the league in attendance, but they could benefit from increasing valuations across the NWSL.

Franchise valuations in the league have skyrocketed over the last year. The Washington Spirit sold for $35 million in February, Gotham FC was valued at $40 million in August, and Angel City FC is valued at more than $100 million, per a Sportico report.

These valuations could also affect the expansion fees as the league looks to add two new franchises. The Spirit and Gotham valuations show what those fees could look like, bankers shared with Sportico, and Kansas City co-owner Angie Long was even more bullish.

“I think we can get upwards of $50 million for the next expansion fee,” Long said on an episode of Sportico’s Sporticast podcast.