A San Diego Wave player back to back with an Angel FC player. Illustration by Alyson Sutherland.

The National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) has established two new teams this past year: Angel City Football Club based in Los Angeles, and the Wave Football Club based in San Diego. This season’s opening matches have smashed previous attendance records and NWSL Commissioner Jessica Berman says it’s part of a surge in interest in the women’s game. “The environment is there, the business community is showing up, the fans are showing up, the players are excited and engaged. The time is now,” stated Berman in an interview with ESPN.

“Angel city is not just another football team. We are building a different kind of organization where purpose and capital go hand in hand,” says the club in a statement of intent on their website. Angel FC is the largest female-led ownership group in professional sports and was founded by many high profile women, including Natalie Portman, American actress; Serena Williams, professional tennis player; and Abby Wambach, former US Women’s National Team (USWNT) soccer star. The club is challenging industry norms by giving players a cut of the money made from ticket sales, providing better work conditions, and providing training to help players find careers after soccer. “Sport is such a joyful way to bring people together and also has the power to make change tangible for female athletes both in our community and in the professional sphere,” wrote Nataile Portman on social media when the team was announced. After a rough showing in the annual preseason Challenge Cup, Angel City has undergone a dramatic transformation and is currently ranked 2nd in the NWSL with a 2-1 record so far during the regular season. Christen Press, US Women’s National Team forward, was the first player to sign on to the club and many think that she has been the key to their success thus far. 

The Wave Football Club is San Diego’s first professional soccer team since 2003, when the Women’s United Soccer Association forced the San Diego Spirit to disband. The president of the Wave, Jill Ellis, former USWNT head coach and two-time World Cup champion, has assembled a formidable line-up including star athletes such as Alex Morgan, prominent forward, three-time Olympian and two-time World Cup champion on the USWNT. Since the Challenge Cup, the Wave has gone from having the second-most losses, to the most wins so far during the regular season. On May 15th the team bumped preseason favorite Gotham FC from the top of the rankings, obliterating them 4-0. 

No expansion team has ever made it to the NWSL postseason playoffs in their inaugural season, so if either the Wave or Angel City advances it will be a monumental accomplishment. 

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