The NWSL Could Add Two Teams By 2026


The league has been in an expansion mode.

If Jessica Berman is correct, the National Women’s Soccer League will be adding two teams in 2026 and there is no reason to doubt Berman’s statement, after all she is the commissioner of the circuit. It has been a very long road for professional women’s soccer leagues in the United States. The prevailing thought in 1999, after the United States Women’s National Team won the 1999 FIFA Women’s World Cup, that it was time to launch a league. It appeared women’s soccer found the right combination of financial support with the establishment of the Women’s United Soccer Association in 2001. The WUSA had the 1999 players and solid backing from the cable TV industry, including ESPN, Turner Sports, and PAX Net. The WUSA could not attract an audience to fill the stands or watch games on TV. It folded in 2003. Women’s Professional Soccer started in 2009 and folded in 2012.  The NWSL started in 2013 and has struggled during its existence.

The NWSL has 12 active franchises. In 2024, the Utah Royals franchise, which played in the NWSL from 2018 to 2020, is returning to the pitch. Additionally, the league awarded an expansion franchise to the San Francisco Bay Area. “We do expect for the 2026 season to add two more teams,” Berman said. “That process will begin later this calendar year, and through the process we ran in 2022 for this round of expansion, we have an incredible amount of interest from qualified investors who want to get in early.” In January, the Wall Street Journal reported that the NWSL was in “advanced discussions” with investors about bringing a team back to Boston. The Boston Breakers team was part of the NWSL from 2013 to 2017. Despite charges of sexual harassment and the permanent banishment of four coaches, the league is moving ahead attracting investors.

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North Carolina Courage and Racing Louisville FC players pause and gather at midfield during the first half of an NWSL soccer match in Cary, N.C., Wednesday, Oct. 6, 2021. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)