Hollywood A-listers unite for NWSL team in LA

    Graham Hays covers college sports for espnW, including softball and soccer. Hays began with ESPN in 1999.

Hollywood stars and more than a dozen former members of the U.S. women’s national team have formed an ownership group to bring women’s professional soccer to Los Angeles in 2022.

The new team, which has yet to be named, was announced on Tuesday.

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Led by venture capitalists Alexis Ohanian and Kara Nortman and entrepreneur Julie Uhrman, the ownership group also includes actresses Uzo Aduba, Jessica Chastain, America Ferrera, Jennifer Garner, Eva Longoria and Natalie Portman, as well as talk show host Lilly Singh.

Serena Williams, who is married to Ohanian, is also part of the ownership group.

Among the 14 former USWNT players who are part of the group are Julie Foudy, Mia Hamm, Lauren Holiday and Abby Wambach.

“I am proud to be a part of this wonderful group working to bring a women’s professional football club to Los Angeles,” Ohanian said.

“Chiefly, because I’m a fan of the game, but also because I believe there is massive potential for the sport and it’s been absurdly undervalued by too many people for far too long. As someone who spends hours kicking around a football with my 2-year-old daughter, I want her to have a front-row seat to this revolution.”

Most of the former U.S. players are either Southern California natives or have ties to the area, as is the case for Hamm, who is also part of the Major League Soccer (MLS) LAFC ownership group.

The Angel City group did not indicate an immediate affiliation with an existing MLS team or other entity and said a venue partner, as well as the club’s official name, would be announced at a later date.

Six of the nine current NWSL teams are affiliated with men’s professional teams, four with MLS teams, one with a United Soccer League (USL) team and one with Olympique Lyonnais of France.

The NWSL’s newest team Racing Louisville FC, which was announced in October and will play in the 2021 league, is affiliated with the USL’s Louisville City FC.

Los Angeles had long been seen as a landing spot for the NWSL, which is now in its eighth year of competition and does not have a team based in California.

Both the Women’s United Soccer Association (WUSA) and Women’s Professional Soccer (WPS) leagues, previous iterations of the women’s professional soccer league, had teams in Southern California — the WUSA’s San Diego Spirit and WPS’ Los Angeles Sol.

“We’ve long sought the right partner in LA considering the NWSL fanbase that already exists in the region and the massive interest in women’s soccer in general,” NWSL commissioner Lisa Baird said in a statement.

“Those factors, along with an incredible ownership group make this an ideal situation and we couldn’t be more thrilled to move forward.”

Spanish superpower Barcelona publicly indicated its interest in fielding an NWSL team in the Los Angeles market in 2017, but no deal was ever reached.

Either as part of a venture with Barcelona or independently, LAFC has also been frequently linked to NWSL interest. Aduba, Ferrera, Garner, Longoria and Portman attended when the USWNT beat Belgium at LAFC’s Banc of California Stadium in 2019.

The other former national team players in the ownership group are Shannon Boxx, Rachel Buehler, Amanda Cromwell, Joy Fawcett, Tisha Venturini Hoch, Angela Hucles, Shannon MacMillan, Saskia Webber and sisters Lorrie Fair Allen and Ronnie Fair Sullins.

The Los Angeles team will be the NWSL’s 11th team, following Racing Louisville’s debut in 2021.

Neither the WUSA nor WPS ever fielded as many as 11 teams. The NWSL began play in 2013 with eight teams and reached its previous high-water mark of 10 teams in the 2016-17 seasons, before the Boston Breakers folded prior to the 2018-19 season.

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