A group led by some of the biggest names in Hollywood and women’s soccer have joined with financiers including Alexis Ohanian, Kara Nortman and gaming entrepreneur Julie Uhrman to secure rights to bring a National Women’s Soccer League team to Los Angeles in spring 2022.
Investors in the expansion franchise, dubbed “Angel City,” include Natalie Portman, Uzo Aduba, Jessica Chastain, America Ferrera, Jennifer Garner, Eva Longoria and Lilly Singh from the entertainment sector; several past members of the U.S. Women’s National Team including Mia Hamm, Abby Wambach and Julie Foudy; and the likes of Netflix’s Cindy Holland, tech entrepreneur and filmmaker Casey Neistat, media executive David Nathanson and Bad Robot president and COO Brian Weinstein.
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The team doesn’t have a name yet and no venue, but the expansion franchise that is majority-owned by women will be the 10th in the NWSL, which featured some of the best soccer players in the world including all of the U.S. Women’s National Team’s 2019-winning Women’s World Cup roster. It is currently playing a 25-game tournament in Utah, the 2020 NWSL Challenge Cup, after being one of the first pro leagues to return to action amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Reddit co-founder Ohanian led the investment through his Initialized Capital, with tennis star (and his wife) Serena Williams and their daughter also in the group. Most of the investors are women, with Uhrman serving as president.
“The growth trajectory of the NWSL is incredibly exciting, but we also need to be strategic and thoughtful about how fast we expand and the communities we partner with,” NWSL commissioner Lisa Baird said in the announcement Tuesday. “We’ve long sought the right partner in L.A. considering the NWSL fanbase that already exists in the region and the massive interest in women’s soccer in general. Those factors, along with an incredible ownership group make this an ideal situation and we couldn’t be more thrilled to move forward.”
Uhrman said the franchise is also partnering with the LA84 Foundation to help build out a community relations foundation and is a formal supporter of the Play Equity Fund, which is committed to leveling the playing field to help ensure that all kids across Los Angeles have access and the opportunity to access 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.”
Said Portman: “Today we take an exciting step by announcing the first women majority-owned and led ownership group. 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.”