NWSL adds Louisville expansion franchise for 2021
The Louisville outfit, which is the North American league’s tenth team and fourth expansion franchise, becomes the Kentucky city’s first top-tier professional sports outfit since 1976.
The franchise is headed up by Soccer Holdings, LLC, the same ownership group that runs the city’s second-tier United Soccer League (USL) club, Louisville City FC.
Both Louisville’s NWSL team and their USL affiliate will play their home games at Lynn Family Stadium, a new 14,000-seater venue due to open in early 2020.
Soccer Holdings said it will announce the team’s logo, crest and colours later this year, with the NWSL expansion draft for the 2021 season slated for the end of 2020.
“As an owner, we jumped at the chance to join this exciting league,” said John Neace, Chairman of Soccer Holdings, LLC. “The athleticism in the NWSL is second to none while attendance is growing. This is a sound business decision as we complete the new soccer-only stadium and expand the entertainment district around it.”
“We are very excited to welcome John Neace and Louisville City FC into the NWSL,” added NWSL president Amanda Duffy. “With the club’s growing, passionate fanbase, coupled with its strong ownership group, and its significant investment in a soccer specific stadium in a downtown location, we are thrilled to bring the highest level of women’s professional soccer to the area.”
Louisville is the first of as many as three new teams that could join the NWSL by 2021. As well as Louisville, the Equalizer Soccer website reported in August that Major League Soccer’s (MLS) Atlanta United and Sacramento Republic, who will join MLS in 2022, are also looking to secure an NWSL team. European soccer outfits Barcelona and Olympique Lyonnais have also expressed an interest in joining the league.
The NWSL’s plans for expansion coincide with the increased interest in the competition on the back of the USA’s second consecutive triumph at the Fifa Women’s World Cup this summer. Several franchises have since broken their attendance records, while the league has signed a domestic and international media rights deal with ESPN. Beer brand Budweiser has also come onboard as a sponsor of the NWSL, which also extended its apparel partnership with Nike in August.
Earlier this week the NWSL enlisted the services of international sports agency Octagon, whose global media rights consulting and marketing divisions will advise the league on its media rights, sponsorship and marketing as part of a multi-year consulting partnership.
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