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Reports: LAFC could still team up with Barcelona for NWSL team, or go it alone

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Different reports indicate the likelihood of a partnership.

FC Barcelona Women v Olympique Lyon Women - UEFA Women’s Champions League Quarter Final 2nd Leg
Barcelona apparently want full FCB kits and crests in NWSL.
Photo by Alex Caparros/Getty Images

If you have been waiting for NWSL to come to Southern California, heck, even the state of California, at some point here, the bad news is that it’s not happening for 2019, by the looks of it.

However, it doesn’t mean that there isn’t movement happening behind the scenes. After European powerhouse FC Barcelona made plenty of headlines worldwide by announcing their intention to launch an NWSL team, likely in California, back in 2017, the clamor largely died down, save for occasional reports out of Spain, which normally had hilariously implausible details included, like they would play on the beach, or the entire Barça women’s team would port over to the NWSL, somehow.

In recent days, however, more credible reports have been coming out of the U.S. about the situation. While Los Angeles Football Club have been rumored to be interested in launching an NWSL team since the MLS team was first announced back in 2014, and my understanding from sources within the club has been “it’s a matter of when, not if,” LAFC has been mooted as a partner to launch a women’s team in Los Angeles with FC Barcelona.

A report from Jeff Kassouf in The Equalizer this week said that NWSL was getting pretty close to slamming the door on Barcelona’s efforts to launch a team once and for all, and LAFC are “more likely to enter its own expansion team into NWSL in 2020 than it is to enter into any sort of partnership with Barcelona. One source flat out said that Barcelona-to-NWSL is not happening. The NWSL’s front office declined to officially comment.”

Then another report dropped, from Sports Business Journal’s Ian Thomas, going into detail about the apparent sticking points on Barcelona being involved in NWSL at all — Barça basically want to port over their entire club identity (if maybe not the literal players), including crest and kits, with no alterations. It’s cast in the terms of NWSL being a single entity league, but I had to hear of people telling me for a decade that Chivas USA, built in the same mold, was a total mistake in MLS, until it was put out of its misery, so you can see how that prospect may not appeal to NWSL.

Now, Thomas’ report also includes a mention of LAFC, only this one leaves the door open a crack that a partnership is still possible:

Barcelona’s main target for the location of the club has been California, leading to conversations with both LAFC and the San Jose Earthquakes about partnering with them, as well as potentially playing games at their respective stadiums. However, industry sources said that Barcelona’s firm position to only have the team play under its brand raised concerns at both clubs. San Jose is no longer in discussions with Barcelona, although the team remains interested in the NWSL, according to an industry source. LAFC is still in conversation with Barcelona, but it is also considering launching its own NWSL club, according to industry sources. Both U.S. clubs declined to comment.

You can see a slightly different emphasis in the two reports, probably based on the sources, that are reporting roughly the same thing. LAFC hasn’t said no definitively, apparently, on a possible partnership with Barcelona, but they also seem fairly likely to go it alone and could, finally, launch an NWSL team in 2020.

Of course, the 2020 season is still a long time away, so something could happen in the meantime and push everything off course yet again. But the fact that LAFC continue to come up in chatter about expansion seems to indicate this story has some legs. For those of us desperate to see NWSL in our area, we want it to finally happen, but we also want to see it done well so it can be sustainable. Hopefully whatever way it shakes out, we’re still on track for that to happen.

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