Leading private capital firm, Sixth Street Partners, has made history in the US professional sports industry by committing $125 million to purchase a new National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) club. This marks the first time institutional investors have become the majority owners of a US sports franchise. This move comes with a hefty investment, which includes a $53 million league expansion fee, which is a huge increase from expansion costs in the last year.
Private capital firms have long been owners of sports teams in other countries, but until 2019 when Major League Baseball changed its bylaws, private investors have been unable to have ownership of US sports teams. Other American leagues have since followed suit, as the value of US teams continues to grow, broadcasting rights become more lucrative, and the pandemic draws on.
The new NWSL Club, which is yet to be named and will be based in the Bay Area, will be added to the 14 teams the league already has. It will begin playing in the 2024 season. Sixth Street Partners have commented that they plan to own the team for at least ten years and hope for the NWSL to catch up with its male counterpart, Major League Soccer, over that decade.
On the leadership team of the new NWSL club, there are several notable members. This includes tech executive, Sheryl Sandberg, NBA executive and former Golden State Warrior employee, Rick Welts, alongside four former US Women’s National Team players; Brandi Chastain, Leslie Osborne, Danielle Slaton and Aly Wagner. These team members have all been growing the initiative to bring a team to the Bay Area, and this goal has now been made a reality.
In addition, the newly acquired team will be entering the NWSL at a time when the league’s credibility is being tested. It is reckoning with various incidents of abuse which has led to resignations and a need to sell two existing teams, the Chicago Red Stars and the Portland Thorn, in order to avoid any damage to the league’s reputation.
NWSL Commissioner, Jessica Berman, has highlighted the importance of private capital being welcomed into the league and noted the value of these investments. She stated that it is no longer about being driven by mere “social cause” but about treating this as a business and having sophisticated people invest in the value proposition of the league, to ensure its long-term success.
Overall, this is an exciting time for the NWSL and the investment made by Sixth Street is seen as a huge vote of confidence in the future of the league. As private investors move in to purchase US professional sports teams, it is sure to mean great prospects and exciting opportunities for the teams and fans alike.