Although the 2023 NWSL season is barely two weeks old, Gotham FC will be taking off this weekend and face the Orlando Pride next Saturday. Perhaps it’s time to take a look at a growing and interesting phenomenon surrounding sports team ownership in North America with more and more “celebrity” names joining in the rush to participate in sports with their check books.
Gotham FC ownership.
It comes as little surprise that when Sky Blue FC rebranded itself as Gotham FC, new owners would infuse not only new cash but new names and faces into the forefront of this club. While it’s no secret that former Giant great Eli Manning and soccer legend Carli Lloyd being investors in Gotham FC, their presence during the Opening Night celebration at Red Bull Arena last Saturday signifies a step in the right direction for this franchise, the NWSL and womens’ professional sports.
With private equity firms owned by other marquee athletes such as Kevin Durant being additional investors in Gotham FC, there has been a cross-pollination of ownership interest between sports which means that famous athletes see the potential growth and value of clubs such as Gotham FC. Even other top female athletes in other sports such as WNBA superstar Sue Bird have solidified their investment in Gotham FC as part owners and staking a claim on building the future not only for this club but for the NWSL and professional womens’ sports.
The growth and development of Gotham FC and the NWSL.
With the current NWSL season in its early first few weeks, the announcement that NWSL expansion will be coming to the San Francisco Bay area next year signals the continued growth and development of womens’ professional soccer in North America. In addition, the rebranding of the Utah Royals will also happen next season which points to additional expansion. As additional markets and target cities are evaluated, the NWSL can build upon past failures as lessons learned and nurture further interest in team ownership and the expansion of soccer throughout North America.
The new San Francisco NWSL team is being led by a venture ownership structure that includes private equity firms such as Sixth Street. If you haven’t heard of Sixth Street yet, you will in the coming months and years. This private investment team also has stakes in Real Madrid, FC Barcelona and an investment in the NBA’s San Antonio Spurs which bring a massive level of global visibility immediately to the new San Francisco NWSL franchise. Sixth Street is parternip up with former USWNT members Brandi Chastain, Leslie Osborne, Aly Wagner and Danielle Slaton to bring womens’ soccer to the Bay Area with the possibility of playing in San Jose alongside the MLS’ San Jose Earthquakes.
Why should fans care about who owns NWSL teams?
The answer to that question is simple. Key celebrity investors, combined with private equity firms holding large cash investments, can bring global visibility, stability, brand recognition and partnerships with other professional sports on an international basis. The NWSL is growing and with key investors seeing the long-term value in clubs and in the league, womens’ soccer may finally have a chance to play on a level playing pitch with MLS and the USL as equal partners in the sport of soccer.