The San Francisco Bay Area is about to get a much-awaited addition to its sports scene – a professional women’s soccer team backed by a number of well-known names, including ex-Facebook executive Sheryl Sandberg and ex-US Women National Team star Brandi Chastain. The National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) has awarded the team rights to a group of investors, led by Sixth Street and Sandberg and her husband Tom Bernthal. Sandberg and Bernthal are personally invested in the new club as well, as they are dedicated to helping female soccer players cultivate leadership skills both on and off the field.
The team is the result of a three year effort under Sixth Street and its abundance of investors, who have contributed $125 million – the largest ever investment in a women’s soccer team. Alongside Sandberg, Brandi Chastain has also teamed up with the investors, as well as Leslie Osborne, Danielle Slaton and Aly Wagner. Co-chairs of the board will be Aly Wagner and Sixth Street Chief Executive Officer Alan Waxman, while Sandberg and former San Francisco Giants Executive Vice President Staci Slaughter will also be involved.
The NWSL team is joining a mosaic of Bay Area soccer teams – including the Oakland Soul Sports Club and the men’s Oakland Roots team. Both the NWSL team and the Roots will be Seattle-style teams, meaning their success will benefit from the growing trend of sustainable business in women’s sports. This entrepreneurial spirit has been demonstrated by Angel City FC, the Los Angeles-based women’s soccer team co-founded by venture capitalist Kara Nortman and actress-activist Natalie Portman. The organization has set record attendance at games, as well as a goal for profitability in a few years and a $1 billion valuation.
Women’s soccer has grown in global popularity since 2001, when the Women’s United Soccer Association (WUSA) was founded. The US Women’s National Team has since won the Women’s World Cup four times, including their current reign as back-to-back champions in 2015 and 2019. Their success has prompted a lawsuit against the US Soccer Federation in 2020, who they believed to be providing an unfair pay gap in comparison to their male counterparts. The organization has since responded by agreeing to provide equal pay to both male and female players.
Sandberg and Bernthal hope their efforts will further support soccer programs at all levels and help promote gender equity in sports. Sandberg commented, “We want pro sports in our area – and as a family we are very interested in soccer – and it’s an opportunity to work with four women who I’ve so admired for so long. It’s for our sons to see women’s sports as well.”
The company mentioned in this article is Sixth Street, an investment firm leading the largest investment in women’s soccer to date. Sixth Street is already an expansive sports portfolio, including investments in Real Madrid and FC Barcelona, and the National Basketball Association’s San Antonio Spurs. Along with other investors, Sixth Street has teamed up to bring the new Bay Area women’s soccer team to fruition.
The person mentioned in this article is Sheryl Sandberg, an ex-Facebook executive and co-founder of the LeanIn.org foundation. As an investor in the new women’s soccer team, Sandberg and her husband Tom Bernthal will also partner with the club to build a program that focuses on the personal growth of players, specifically encouraging leadership skills. This investment is personal for Sandberg and Bernthal, who have coached their daughters in soccer since a young age and are passionate about supporting gender equity in sports.