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NWSL to Sacramento Expansion Thoughts

As first reported by The Athletic and later confirmed by The Sacramento Bee's Cameron Salerno, Sacramento is finalizing a deal with the NWSL to become its 12th expansion franchise.

All the details are in the reports linked above, but it appears as if the yet-to-be-named team would enter the league in either 2021 or 2022, the latter being the year that an expansion franchise with a star-studded ownership in Los Angeles is set to launch.

The franchise would be the fourth on the West Coast, joining the aforementioned LA side, the Portland Thorns, and the OL Reign and will be headed by film producer Matt Alvarez, who also has a stake in Sacramento Republic FC.

The Sacramento team will become the third top division professional outfit in Northern California history after the San Jose CyberRays and FC Gold Pride, who each operated out of the Bay Area and won titles in their respective leagues.

However, both the leagues that those teams played in, the WUSA and WSP, respectively, folded after just a few seasons. Meanwhile, the NWSL is currently in its eighth season and just came off of a strong showing from a TV ratings standpoint at the NWSL Challenge Cup.

Recently, I spoke to Houston Dash assistant and former UC Davis head coach Twila Kaufman about why the NWSL was different than either of those two leagues. Here's what she said:

"We’re about to have expansion and expansion is good, but we really don’t have that many more teams than have existed in the previous leagues. That will change in the coming years as we have teams beginning to join the league, but I think the big thing is just the professionalism of the league. A lot of that comes down to the finances. The league minimums are significantly higher, the league maximum is significantly higher, coaching salaries are completely different than they have been in the past, and the amount of staff in the front office and the technical staff is growing. It might actually not look like it’s grown that much if you compare the amount of teams, but I certainly think that if you compare the parity across all the teams and the investment in the actual players and staff, I think there’s been a huge investment there. Now there’s a better base for each team and as we go into expansion, those teams have to be able to match or push the envelope on those things and that creates a better environment for it."

You can read the full interview here.

Currently, Sacramento has a second tier women's team, the California Storm, which play in the WPSL. Reports suggest that they want to be involved with the team, and while it remains to be seen what will happen, the Storm have a strong leadership board that includes USWNT legends Brandi Chastain and Leslie Osborne as well as former Brazilian international Sissi.

You can find coverage of the Storm, and presumably the future Sacramento NWSL team, with the podcast Our Cup of Tea, recorded by the same guys who make the Sactown FC podcast.

There are really only positives to come out of this development. My only question is: when is the Bay Area going to follow suit and grab an NWSL team of its own?

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