Hollywood Stars and USWNT Players Bring Women's Soccer Team to Los Angeles
Natalie Portman, Eva Longoria, Jessica Chastain, Jennifer Garner, and Uzo Aduba are among the ownership group.
A group of Hollywood heavyweights and more than a dozen former members of the U.S. women's national team have come together to bring Los Angeles a new women's soccer team. Players Mia Hamm, Abby Wambach, Julie Foudy, and Lauren Holiday are among the big names behind the launch of Angel City, an expansion team in the National Women's Soccer League that's set to kick off in 2022. The league currently has nine teams, with a tenth — Racing Louisville FC — set to begin playing in 2021.
Angel City FC is only a working name and outlets are reporting that more information on the team, including an official name, will come soon.
ESPN reports that the ownership group is being led by venture capitalists Alexis Ohanian and Kara Nortman and entrepreneur Julie Uhrman, but also includes Hollywood luminaries Natalie Portman, Eva Longoria, Jessica Chastain, Jennifer Garner, and Uzo Aduba. Many of those stars were at a USWNT game last April at Los Angeles's Banc of California Stadium (the United States beat Belgium that day).
According to the Los Angeles Times, Uhrman, who has experience in media and gaming, has been in conversations with the LA Galaxy regarding a relationship between the new NWSL club and the five-time MLS Cup-winning franchise. Whether that means that the NWSL team and the Galaxy will share a stadium at Dignity Health Sports Park, training facilities, or more still remains to be seen. Currently, six of the nine NWSL teams are affiliated with men's professional teams: four with MLS, one with a United Soccer League (USL) team, and one with France's Olympique Lyonnais.
Today, LAFC's current coach, Bob Bradley, told reporter Delmy Barillas that Angel City team will not be affiliated with his team. He did congratulate Hamm, who is also part owner of LAFC, on her involvement.
"Today we take an exciting step by announcing the first women majority-owned and led ownership group," Portman said, according to Sports Illustrated. "I am thrilled by the opportunity to partner with this incredible group of people to bring a professional women’s soccer team to Los Angeles. Together, we aim to build not only a winning team on the field, but also to develop a passionately loyal fan base. We also hope to make a substantive impact on our community, committing to extending access to sports for young people in Los Angeles through our relationship with the LA84 Foundation. Sports are such a joyful way to bring people together, and this has the power to make tangible change for female athletes both in our community and in the professional sphere."
Ohanian echoed her sentiments, saying that he's proud to bring soccer to a city that already embraces the sport and that he and his daughter, Olympia, are already big fans of the sport. He emphasized how important it was to invest in women's sports.
"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 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. I'm personally investing on behalf of my family because creating more opportunities in women's sports is important to my wife and me, and we want to be a part of making a better future for our daughter."
Both the Women's United Soccer Association (WUSA), which ran from 2000 to 2003, and Women's Professional Soccer (WPS) league, which folded in 2012, had Southern California teams. The WUSA's had the San Diego Spirit and WPS boasted the Los Angeles Sol, with Brazilian superstar Marta. The new NWSL franchise marks the return of women's soccer to SoCal.
"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."
USWNT player Alex Morgan applauded the news in an Instagram post, writing, "I am so happy that girls following in my footsteps, living in Southern California, starting in 2022 get to witness the best players in the world compete week in and week out in their city just as I was lucky to do so in 2007."