The National Women’s Soccer League is not finished expanding, new commissioner Jessica Berman said Monday. When and where new clubs will play, as well as whether the New York area will be in the running for a second team, remains to be seen.
Berman, a Brooklyn native who officially took charge of the 12-team NWSL late last month, will soon be leading the process of bringing top-level women’s soccer to more markets, although none would see play begin before 2024.
“I expect in this calendar year that we'll be starting and concluding an expansion process.” Berman said at The Associated Press Sports Editors Commissioners meetings in Manhattan on Monday. “Not playing, but admitted, because we've already ruled out the possibility of anyone entering the league in 2023. We believe that we need at least a year to properly ramp up a new team. So, expansion is currently being looked at for the 2024 season. Some number of additional teams, that number is still to be determined.”
New York’s sole representative in the league is NJ/NY Gotham FC. Originally known as Sky Blue FC, the club joined the NWSL at the league’s inception and spent much of its days playing on the campus of Rutgers in Piscataway, New Jersey, often using an “NJ” identifier on broadcasts and in league material.
Last year, the team rebranded to include New York in its footprint while moving closer to the city and making Red Bull Arena in Harrison, New Jersey — home of Major League Soccer’s New York Red Bulls — its permanent venue.
“Gotham upgrading their facility to be able to play at Red Bull, hugely important,” Berman said. “They’re playing at a proper facility. We're working actively to build connectivity and leverage partnerships with the MLS teams, especially where we are tenants in a building, it's so important to build those relationships more as a partnership and find ways to offer value back to the MLS team because I think in today's world, them supporting an NWSL team is good for them too. So, we're leaning into that in a in a big way for Gotham.
Suitable infrastructure will be just one of many components taken into account by the league in its expansion efforts.
"There's so many different factors to consider. One of them is the competitive landscape of the market as it relates to more broadly entertainment, but more specifically, sports and even more specifically, women's sports,” Berman said. “We’re looking at the national footprint, looking at division alignment, looking at media markets. . . The other two factors that are a priority are facilities and ownership.”
So where would a second NWSL team in the market, potentially on this side of the Hudson River, fit into that discussion?
“I guess, time will tell,” said Berman of a second New York club. “It will be interesting to see, and even sort of anecdotally without having formally started the process, to receive the inbounds of where there's interest. So, we'll have to see how it unfolds."