The latest episode of the NWSL’s SoCal rivalry kicks off this Saturday, June 17, when the San Diego Wave host Angel City FC at Snapdragon Stadium. San Diego, unbeaten in five straight matches, currently leads the NWSL standings. Meanwhile, Angel City is looking for a statement win after hitting a midseason rough patch, going winless in their last five regular season matches.
Ahead of the game, here is a brief overview of the history of the rivalry and what’s at stake.
Angel City FC made waves when it was first announced as an NWSL expansion franchise in July 2020.
From the start, the club sought to shake up traditional ownership structures, launching with a majority female ownership group and a long list of celebrity investors. That group is led by actress Natalie Portman, entrepreneur Julie Uhrman and venture capitalists Kara Nortman and Alexis Ohanian. Other founding team members include tennis legend Serena Williams, WNBA star Candace Parker, actresses Jennifer Garner and Jessica Chastain, and former U.S. women’s national team players Mia Hamm, Julie Foudy and Abby Wambach.
San Diego Wave FC first came into the mix in June 2021, when the NWSL announced the southern California city as the location for an expansion team owned by Ron Burkle. It didn’t take long for the team to make a few high-profile additions, appointing two-time World Cup champion coach Jill Ellis as club president, hiring Casey Stoney as head coach and acquiring USWNT stars Abby Dahlkemper and Alex Morgan.
In 2022, the Wave had the most successful inaugural season for an expansion team in NWSL history. They were not only the first expansion team to make the playoffs in their first year after finishing third in the regular-season standings, but also the first to host and win a playoff game. In addition, San Diego nearly swept the end-of-season individual awards: Stoney was named Coach of the Year, Kailen earned Sheridan Goalkeeper of the Year and Naomi Girma took home Defender of the Year and Rookie of the Year. Morgan also finished first in the Golden Boot race with 15 goals.
Since San Diego and Angel City began play in the NWSL in 2022, the two sides have met five times total, including three times during the regular season. Here is their head-to-head history:
San Diego and Angel City have drawn huge crowds for their rivalry games. San Diego broke the NWSL attendance record in the team’s debut game at Snapdragon Stadium in September 2022 when 32,000 fans packed the stands to watch the Wave win 1-0. Sellout crowds of 22,000 fans also attended both of the Angel City-hosted games at BMO Stadium.
After the teams’ first meeting of the year, a 2-0 win for San Diego in April, players and coaches spoke about the budding rivalry and its importance in the women’s soccer landscape. Julie Ertz made her debut with Angel City in that game after signing with the club on April 17. On Saturday, the USWNT midfielder will be more game-ready after having played in six matches across all competitions.
Wave head coach Casey Stoney: “I think the rivalry is fantastic. I love it. It’s amazing to have this derby, the fact we don’t have to go on a plane and it’s a local derby, I think the fans really get behind it. I think it’s exciting for the players. It adds a little bit of an edge.”
Wave defender Naomi Girma: “I think it’s always good to win a rivalry (game). It’s only our second year in the league, us and L.A. (Angel City), but I think this has already become one of the biggest rivalries in the league, so it’s a really good feeling to come to this stadium, great atmosphere, great fans and to come away with the win.”
Angel City midfielder Savannah McCaskill: “It’s exciting that we have another SoCal team because we can create this derby effect. Rivalry games are fun, it’s something that you step up to the plate for.
The 2023 Women’s World Cup is just around the corner and this will be one of the last chances for U.S. players to make a case for selection before USWNT head coach Vlatko Andonovski names his roster later this month.
From San Diego, American players in contention include defender Naomi Girma, midfielder Taylor Kornieck, forward Alex Morgan, and forward/midfielder Jaedyn Shaw, while Angel City’s top hopefuls include midfielder Julie Ertz and forward Alyssa Thompson.
Meanwhile, San Diego goalkeeper Kailen Sheridan has already been named to Canada’s World Cup roster.
If you won’t be watching in-person at Snapdragon Stadium on Saturday, you can catch the game on CBS (1 p.m. PT / 4 p.m. ET).