NWSL’s new Bay Area team powered by four ex-USWNT legends

What could pass as Aly Wagner’s biggest endorsement came long after she retired from professional soccer.

It happened in the summer of 2022 when she introduced Charlotte Waxman, the wife of Sixth Street CEO Alan Waxman, to the merits of having an NWSL expansion team in the San Francisco Bay Area. Wagner had hoped at the time that the couple would come in as individual investors.

“Charlotte comes from the investment side, she comes from business, so she asked the right questions and probably searched me for Alan,” Wagner told ESPN.

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Wagner’s selling point was so compelling that Charlotte told Alan about the idea.

“My wife was like, ‘You have to meet Aly,'” Alan Waxman told ESPN. “The more we delved into the different things we’re looking for, what makes a good investment, in every place we dug it almost seemed like it didn’t make any sense.” This seems to be the most structurally undervalued sports league opportunity of anything we see in the world, not just in the sports ecosystem but just about anywhere.

“We literally see about 400 deals a month. We’re seeing a lot of things, not just within the sports ecosystem, but across everything. It just didn’t make sense. But that’s what happens in companies and sectors when they’re at an inflection point. We’ve seen it in other industries, and we’ve seen it here in pattern recognition.”

Now Wagner’s pitch has become a reality, with considerable financial strength behind it. Sixth Street is investing $125 million in what it says is the largest institutional investment in women’s football to date. The investment consists of a $53 million expansion fee, with the remainder to be spent on a training facility and expanding team infrastructure and staff. The team has not officially announced a home venue.

There is also some football pedigree in the investment group. Along with Wagner, three other former US internationals with ties to Santa Clara University – Brandi Chastain, Leslie Osborne and Danielle Slaton – have been named the “Founding Four” and are part of the ownership group.

Former meta executive Sheryl Sandberg will serve on the board and invest with her husband Tom Bernthal, as will former Golden State Warriors president and COO Rick Welts. Staci Slaughter, former vice president of communications for the San Francisco Giants, will also serve on the board.

For Wagner, finding an investor with Waxman’s pedigree was born out of the pain of seeing two former Bay Area women’s teams — WUSA’s San Jose CyberRays and WPS’s Gold Pride FC — come and go. Back then, ownership just wasn’t deep enough, and owning a team was seen more as a social concern.

“Before, it was a heart decision, a moral decision,” said Wagner. “They weren’t necessarily run like a company. I mean the intentions were spot on. They wanted to see women’s football here in the Bay Area because we have so much talent. But it wasn’t seen as a long-term investment, a long-term project. And so I think coupled with the idea that the four of us are personally from the Bay Area, there’s a massive culture of women’s soccer in the Bay Area and the long-term vision for us is to bring out our own talent.”

But for Waxman, there were some long-term developments that were even more compelling. One of these was the advent of streaming services, noting that even 10 years ago women’s soccer matches were difficult to access. No longer.

“Streaming has completely changed the game in everything,” he said. “It broke down all barriers. This was a massive struggle that broke down the walls of accessibility.

“It’s easy for a growing boy to tune in and find basketball. Finding football is easy. Finding baseball is easy. Finding women’s football was hard iPad, stream your TV. Now it is accessible to everyone. And that was a huge game changer.”

Wagner added that the growth of social media is also making it easier to sell the sport.

“There were no more gatekeepers dictating where marker dollars went,” she told ESPN. “We showed them the data and there was no argument for the companies at the time. They have realized that this investment makes sense and partnerships with women footballers make a lot of sense.

Some NWSL teams, most notably Angel City FC, have signed numerous prominent owners. Waxman indicated that the Bay Area team will not go down that route and will be more strategic when it comes to who it brings on board, noting the inclusion of Sandberg and Welts as examples.

“We don’t need capital,” Waxman said. “If anyone can contribute resources to help us accomplish the mission, we’re open to it. We want partners who add value and help us realize our vision.”

https://www.espn.com/soccer/nwsl/story/4915965/nwsls-new-bay-area-team-powered-by-ex-uswnt-legends NWSL’s new Bay Area team powered by four ex-USWNT legends

Emma Bowman

Emma Bowman is a USTimesPost U.S. News Reporter based in London. His focus is on U.S. politics and the environment. He has covered climate change extensively, as well as healthcare and crime. Emma Bowman joined USTimesPost in 2023 from the Daily Express and previously worked for Chemist and Druggist and the Jewish Chronicle. He is a graduate of Cambridge University. Languages: English. You can get in touch with me by emailing emma@ustimespost.com.

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