During the 2017 NWSL draft on Thursday in Los Angeles, league commissioner Jeff Plush held a question-and-answer session with assembled reporters. It was a wide-ranging press scrum, but one of the topics brought up was the topic of expansion, in general and two markets in particular, in Vancouver and Los Angeles.
Vancouver has recently emerged as a rumored expansion city for NWSL, after a report claimed the Vancouver Whitecaps would launch a team in 2018. Regarding that rumor, Plush said, “I wouldn’t want to speak on behalf of Vancouver. I would tell you we have had very good conversations with them, fantastic market, great infrastructure with the Whitecaps with everything they’ve done on the academy side.
“It’s a very attractive opportunity and we’re enthusiastic about it but I wouldn’t give a timeline on that.”
Of course, of particular note on a local front is the rumored interest in bringing a team to Los Angeles, with reports last year that LAFC are interested in launching a team in 2018, when their MLS team begins play. Plush indicated there is a chance there could be an arms race for the market, with the LA Galaxy, who recently stepped up their women’s academy efforts alongside LAFC’s partnership with Slammers FC, also mentioned in his comments on the matter.
“Absolutely [Los Angeles is a priority for NWSL expansion],” he said. “I think the biggest challenge for our interests and opportunities in sponsorships from a national point of view has been that we’re not really a national property. So we need to become a more national property. Part of that is with broadcast, and digital and media strategies, but part of it is with some markets [in the] west. We’re not in the No. 2 and No. 4 media markets in the United States right now, so I think California is incredibly important, still under the right process. You do it with ownership, infrastructure, all those things.”
“Look, in this market you have LAFC and you have the Galaxy,” he continued. “You have LAFC who is about to launch, with a stadium coming out of the ground not too far from here, with a fantastic ownership group and someone like Mia [Hamm, LAFC co-owner] specifically, would be phenomenal, no question. And then the Galaxy have the most decorated team in league history, so I think you have some great potential targets in this market, and we’re friends with them and I’ve been fortunate to know the Galaxy guys for a long time with my MLS background, so we’ll see how that evolves. But Los Angeles is an attractive market for a lot of reasons, but there’s good people who could be partners.”
So it seems LA is more than a viable candidate for NWSL expansion at this point, but Plush was not willing to tip his hand or offer any kind of hard timeline for seeing it come to fruition. Still, while the ownership group in question might be up in the air, it seems like pro women’s soccer will be coming to California before too long.