There will be a second NWSL expansion team in Southern California next year after the league announced a San Diego franchise on Tuesday. The San Diego team will become the NWSL’s 12th team, joining Los Angeles’s Angel City FC as newcomers for the 2022 season.
The franchise is owned by Pittsburgh Penguins part-owner Ron Burkle and led by club president Jill Ellis, who won World Cups in 2015 and ’19 as head coach of the U.S. women’s national team. Burkle was previously slated to become the majority owner of an MLS expansion team in Sacramento before withdrawing from the project. Sacramento had been confirmed for NWSL expansion by league commissioner Lisa Baird in January as well, prior to the developments with Burkle in the city.
Ellis told The San Diego Union-Tribune that she hopes to appoint a female head coach by July 1, hire an all-female executive staff and have its branding done by the summer. According to The Athletic, former Manchester United women’s manager Casey Stoney is in advanced discussions to become San Diego’s first head coach, which Ellis declined to confirm.
“There were some other coaching opportunities in terms of people reaching out, a lot of national team positions open,” Ellis said regarding her future in the sport. “I did explore some of those. This just felt right. Part of it is this desire that I can do more.
“Now I get to go hire a female GM and hire a female head coach and provide opportunities for others, and then there’s a ripple effect from there. I just felt that, gosh, I had 30 years on the sideline and it was awesome. But being able to open doors for others, that’s just a really good space to be in—to really help them pursue their dreams and, in doing so, provide role models for the next generation.”
San Diego will play at least part of next season in the University of San Diego’s 6,000-capacity Torero Stadium as it looks to build a training facility and secure a more permanent stadium that seats at least 10,000 people, Ellis said.
The new NWSL franchise won’t be the first professional women’s team in San Diego. The San Diego Spirit was founded in 2001, featuring U.S. national team stars Julie Foudy, Joy Fawcett and Shannon MacMillan, and Ellis as a TV commentator, before the league folded in ’03.
The city is also home to the third-tier National Independent Soccer Association’s 1904 FC, professional indoor team San Diego Sockers and the United Soccer League’s San Diego Loyal, managed and partially owned by former USMNT star Landon Donovan.
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