In December of last year, NWSL commissioner Jessica Berman confirmed that the NWSL’s search for expansion teams had been narrowed down to three cities: Boston, Tampa, and the Bay Area. It has been known that two teams were planning on joining the league in 2024 and as a part of the move that sent the Utah Royals team to Kansas City ahead of the 2021 season, an easy re-entry by Utah into the league was promised. In June of last year, Equalizer reported that Utah had been confirmed as one of the two teams joining the NWSL in 2024, leaving the three cities vying for one spot.
Reporting by the Wall Street Journal released today confirmed that the Bay Area had locked down its spot in the 2024 NWSL season with a record breaking $50 million franchise fee to the league. Additionally Boston has locked down their entry into the league, however, their launch date has not been confirmed past the fact that it will not be in the 2024 season. As a point of reference, when San Diego and Angel City made their bids to join the league, their franchise fees were only in the $2-5 million range.
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This growth in franchise fees reflects the high level of competition among groups making bids for an NWSL team and inherently increases the valuation for other teams in the league. Boston’s bid being ‘later’ locks them into the new franchise fee standard which will likely only grow as the NWSL continues to expand. It also gives Boston more time to deal with their current stadium limitations. Boston formerly had an NWSL team, the Boston Breakers, which played from 2013 to 2017 and unfortunately folded right before the 2018 season after a failed sale attempt.
The Bay Area and Boston respectively account for number 6 and number 10 on the top 10 media markets list, and once both have entered the NWSL the league will have teams in 7 of the top 10 cities only missing teams in Philadelphia (4), Dallas (5), and Atlanta (7).