The 2017 NWSL draft was held in Los Angeles on Thursday, and with the women’s first division in town for their draft, came questions about a possible future for the league in LA.
NWSL commissioner Jeff Plush participated in a wide-ranging media scrum with reporters during Thursday’s draft, and expansion was a topic brought up during the session.
To some extent, Plush’s comment echoed those provided last fall, as he was bullish on the prospects of NWSL expansion coming to California in the near future. He also noted that the lack of a pro women’s team in the state hurts the league when it comes to matters like getting a national television deal for the league, something that has been a fraught process over the years.
Plush was asked about the expansion prospects for both Vancouver, which was recently reported to be launching an NWSL team in 2018, and Los Angeles. While he refused to outright confirm or deny prospects in those particular markets, he did offer new comments on those cities.
Regarding Los Angeles, Plush said that the city was certainly on the radar for expansion.
"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."
He also seemed to indicate Los Angeles Football Club and the LA Galaxy were in the running, potentially, for an NWSL team.
"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."
As for a possible timeline on announcing an expansion team or two for 2018, Plush mentioned an ideal to announce something, if it happens, by about August, but he also explained that a good bid that came in September, for example, they wouldn’t necessarily turn it away because it came a bit later than they wanted.
So we’ll see. Will the smoke become fire later this year? Stay tuned.
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