For those keeping tabs on NWSL expansion, like us, comes another development that may sound sweet to the ears of women’s soccer fans in Southern California. Charles Boehm reported on SoccerWire.com on Friday that not only will the region be the next site of NWSL expansion, but that “an ambitious push [is] to be led by Major League Soccer newcomers Los Angeles Football Club in 2018.”
According to the report, multiple sources confirm the plan, although LAFC executive vice president for soccer operations John Thorrington would not confirm those reports publicly.
“What I would say is that our ownership is exploring possibilities there, exploring our options in NWSL,” he said in the story. “Our ownership obviously has shown great interest in the girls side by facilitating and announcing this partnership with Slammers, and are also exploring options in NWSL, and adding that to our programming.”
The partnership Thorrington mentions is the one announced earlier this summer between LAFC and local girls club Slammers FC, which will result in a joint academy club participating in the Girls Development Academy program, slated to launch a year from now.
Boehm connects the dots on that relationship, with LAFC co-owner Mia Hamm, who has publicly expressed interest in establishing an NWSL team multiple times since LAFC’s establishment, a former coach for Slammers and apparently close with the directors of the program.
Thorrington acknowledged Hamm’s role in facilitating a push into women’s pro soccer.
“Mia obviously is the crown jewel of women’s soccer in America. She’s really involved in every level, [which is] a great help to me. She’s a huge asset for us in every way,” said Thorrington. “For us the consideration is, we’re not just going to do things because we have resources, we’re going to do things if we think we can do it right, and therefore add value to our brand.”
So based on this, coupled with NWSL Commissioner Jeff Plush’s recent public statements indicating the league’s interest in getting into California sooner than later, and perhaps as soon as 2018, it sounds like the pieces are falling into place for an expansion team coming in less than two years.
If LAFC do in fact jump into the NWSL in 2018, it will be an unprecedented step in American soccer. Never has an MLS expansion team established another professional team, either a men’s USL club or a women’s NWSL side, the same year as they began play in MLS. That doesn’t mean it can’t happen, or there’s anything wrong with jumping in on multiple fronts.
In fact, on one level, it may prove immediately advantageous to LAFC if they set up the NWSL team in 2018, as that could help provide more event dates for their Banc of California Stadium, should they choose to play an NWSL team there. It would also work in building a full, robust club at a variety of levels from the beginning.
And a 2018 launch would probably be faster than even the likes of Hamm was expecting when expressing her interest in an NWSL team. Hamm’s comments seemed to indicate she thought it would take some time from the MLS team launch to then turn attention to NWSL. But we may only need to wait a year and half for pro soccer — men’s and women’s alike — to emerge for LAFC. And that would be exciting news indeed.
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