NWSL expansion franchise lands in Boston kitty



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NWSL will return to Boston Image: City of Boston

The National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) recently announced that Boston (US) has been awarded expansion rights for the league’s 15th team to the Boston Unity Soccer Partners (BUSC), an all-female core ownership group led by a diverse and dynamic leadership team with deep local ties.

‘NWSL’ stated that the new club is set to kick off in the 2026 season, bringing world-class women’s soccer back to the United States #9 media market to play in a region with a championship legacy for a fan base that has earned a reputation as one of the most passionate in all of global sport.

The National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) is a professional women’s soccer league at the top of the United States league system. Headquartered in New York City, it is owned by the teams and, until 2020, was under a management contract with the United States Soccer Federation.

Chicago (US)-based the United States Soccer Federation, commonly referred to as U.S. Soccer, is a 501 nonprofit organization and the official governing body of the sport of soccer in the United States.

The Boston Unity Soccer Partners (BUSP) is a professional sports enterprise founded and led by women and dedicated to promoting women’s sports and advancement at all levels. The BUSP is committed to creating a home for the greatest female athletes of our time, building upon the supercharged legacy of Boston’s historic sports teams, cultivating a community of fans with impact at our core, and forging new connections across the City through sport.

‘NWSL’ further stated that the above announcement follows the addition of two other NWSL expansion teams earlier this year, Utah Royals FC and Bay FC, which are both slated to begin play in 2024.

Now in its 11th season, the NWSL is the fastest-growing professional sports league in the United States and in 2023 shattered its previous attendance record.

Enthused Jessica Berman, NWSL Commissioner, “I’m excited to expand the NWSL’s footprint and continue its transformative growth in our return to Boston, one of the world’s most iconic sports Cities. We are very proud to welcome the Boston Unity Soccer Partners to our ownership group. They bring an impressive roster of business leaders committed to continuing Boston’s legacy of sports excellence and delivering a successful team to a very passionate fan base. We are thrilled for their entry to the league in the 2026 season and add a new chapter to the storied history of Boston sports.”

The Boston Unity Soccer Partners consists of a diverse and dynamic all-female core ownership group with a wide array of experience across the real estate, marketing, hospitality, and philanthropy sectors led by the Juno Equity Founder/Boston Celtics Minority Owner Jennifer Epstein, Strategic Marketer and Brand Builder Stephanie Connaughton, Women’s Foundation of Boston Co-Founder/Chief Financial Officer (CFO) Ami Danoff, and the Flybridge Capital General Partner Anna Palmer. The Managing Board will include Epstein, who will serve as the Controlling Partner, and Connaughton, Danoff and Palmer, who will all serve as the Managing Partners.

The ownership group has deep local ties to the region and shares a passion for soccer, generating opportunities for women, and enhancing the community through the power of sport. The club is backed by an investor group that comes from all sectors of the Boston economy, with 95 percent of the invested capital invested by women and 40 percent invested by investors of color. The group has deep expertise in sports with several investors who are also part of the Celtics (the National Basketball Association [NBA] team Boston Celtics) and the Major League Baseball (MLB) team Boston Red Sox organizations. The Boston Unity Soccer Partners is the first investment for Monarch Collective, the first fund-focused exclusively on investment in women’s sports, founded by Kara Nortman and Jasmine Robinson.

Exulted Epstein, “Boston is the greatest sports City in the world and we are thrilled to bring the NWSL back to this passionate fan base. Our goal is to build a championship-caliber franchise that the City can be proud of, both on the pitch and in the community. We will be relentless and daring in our quest to add another chapter to the City’s unrivaled sports legacy. We thank Commissioner Berman and the NWSL Board for believing in us and in Boston and are grateful for the unwavering support of the Mayor of Boston Michelle Wu and her team who have been instrumental in bringing professional women’s soccer back to Boston.”

The team intends to host its home matches in a professionalized and modernized George R. White Stadium in the historic Franklin Park in the heart of Boston. The Boston Unity Soccer Partners plans to invest significant resources to transform the stadium into a top-tier facility and is working closely with the City of Boston and Mayor Wu’s administration on a robust renovation plan that will both enhance the venue in preparation for play in the NWSL and bring significant benefits to the students in Boston and the surrounding communities.

The White Stadium, formally the George R. White Memorial Stadium, is a 10,519-seat facility located in Franklin Park, Boston (US) that was constructed between 1947 and 1949 for the use of Boston Public Schools athletics.

Maintained Michelle Wu, Boston Mayor, “As the City of Champions, Boston sets the standard for athletic excellence and fans’ devotion to our teams. It’s fitting and absolutely thrilling for Boston to be a home for women’s soccer, hosting a franchise that will partner so closely with our community and especially our schools. I look forward to the revitalization of the White Stadium and the partnership of this team and league to create new opportunities in Franklin Park and for our student-athletes Citywide.”

The Boston Unity Soccer Partners plans to unveil the club’s brand as it moves closer to play in 2026. The new NWSL expansion team will strive to add to the region’s 41 total championships. The franchise will join the Celtics (NBA), Red Sox (MLB), Boston Bruins (National Hockey League [NHL]), New England Patriots (National Football League [NFL]), New England Revolution (Major League Soccer [MLS]), and the Boston Professional Women’s Hockey League (PWHL) team as the seventh pillar of Boston’s professional sports community.
 

Women Soccer

‘The Architect’s Newspaper’ stated that women’s professional soccer in the United States is growing in popularity. Millions of Americans tuned into the latest FIFA Women’s World Cup™ which enjoyed a record breaking two billion viewers. This Summer, an unprecedented amount of ticket sales were recorded by the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL). Amid the buzz, a gleaming new women’s professional soccer stadium (and team) is coming to the City of Boston as part of NWSL’s expansion plan into three new Cities, including San Francisco and the Salt Lake City.

The City will have a new women’s professional soccer franchise by 2026. The deal is happening vis-à-vis a $100 million investment by the Boston Unity Soccer Partners, a women-led investor group from the greater Boston area. The name of Boston’s new soccer team is to be determined.

‘The Architect’s Newspaper’ further stated that a new $30 million soccer stadium designed by Stantec in Boston’s Dorchester neighborhood will coincide with its new franchise. The new stadium will be built in Franklin Park, part of Frederick Law Olmsted, Sr.’s Emerald Necklace. The architects will refurbish an existing complex built in 1945, the George White Stadium, which historically hosted Boston Public School matches, concerts and rallies. Last year, the City unveiled a masterplan highlighting areas of the Franklin Park slated for improvement.

The Emerald Necklace consists of a 1,100-acre (4.5 km2, 450 ha) chain of parks linked by parkways and waterways in Boston and Brookline, Massachusetts. It was designed by landscape Architect Frederick Law Olmsted and gets its name from the way the planned chain appears to hang from the “neck” of the Boston peninsula. In 1989, the Emerald Necklace was designated as a Boston Landmark by the Boston Landmarks Commission.

Edmonton (Canada)-based Stantec is an architecture firm which designs with the community in mind. Stantec are designers, engineers, scientists, and project managers, innovating together at the intersection of community, creativity and client relationships. Balancing these priorities results in projects that advance the quality of life in communities across the globe.

Last July, the Boston Unity Soccer Partners released a 115-page document showing their plans for the 74-year-old stadium. Stantec’s improvements will host 11,000 spectators and be integrated with the Franklin Park Action Plan which seeks to improve the surrounding parklands. The major improvements coming to the stadium will be the new roof canopies over the existing seating areas. According to the architects, the structures are “based on the form of leaves, inspired by Franklin Park and Frederick Law Olmsted, where each design element is specific to this special place”.

The Boston Unity Soccer Partners struck a deal with the City so that the new professional soccer team will have access to it 20 days out of the year while on the remaining days it will be usable by the Boston Public Schools sports programs. There will also be a new, 62,500-square-foot mixed-use event space at the stadium’s Southern end, to be named ‘The Grove’.

Jennifer Epstein, Boston Unity’s Controlling Manager, told the local reporters, “Our mission is to field a championship-caliber soccer club, provide an elite fan experience in a historic stadium with an inclusive environment that reflects the diversity of our region and the world’s most popular sport and operate a franchise that is deeply rooted in the fabric and success of Boston and our communities’ culture.”

To assuage concerns related to traffic and congestion, the Boston Unity Soccer Partners estimate that the 10 percent of visitors will either walk or bike to the stadium. Over 40 percent will use public transportation and the remaining fans will access the stadium via their own cars or ride-sharing. The new development will have shuttle buses from the Green Street and Forest Hills Stations on the T’s Orange Line.

After a community engagement process, construction could begin by April 2024. The stadium is set for completion by March 2026.

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