Majority Female-led Group to Launch Women’s Soccer Team in Los Angeles
By: Leyuan Zhou
On July 21, the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) announced that a majority female-led group secured the exclusive right to launch a professional women’s soccer team based in Los Angeles for the spring of 2022.
While the team’s official name and venue partner is set to be announced before the end of the year, the group has temporarily named itself “Angel City,” in honor of its home location, Los Angeles. It will be the eleventh franchise in the NWSL, which started play in 2013. The league currently holds nine teams across the United States and is adding another expansion team, Racing Louisville FC, next year.
Founding members include actress Natalie Portman, technology venture capitalist Kara Norman, gaming executive Julie Uhrman, and fourteen former members of the U.S. women’s soccer team. The group is led by Alexis Ohanian, co-founder of Reddit and tennis star Serena Williams’ husband, through his firm Initialized Capital, which is in a partnership with prominent female entrepreneurs.
Ohanian and Williams are part of an investor group that includes former U.S. women’s soccer stars Mia Hamm, Julie Foudy, and Abby Wambach. Investors include actors Uzo Aduba, Jessica Chastain, America Ferrera, Jennifer Garner, Eva Longoria, and Lilly Singh. The Ohanians’ two-and-a-half year old daughter, Alexis Olympia Ohanian, Jr., is registered in the ownership group as well.
Following a fan-driven demand for a women’s soccer team in the South California region and inspiration received from the 2019 World Cup victory for the U.S. Women’s National Team, the founders decided to undertake the endeavor of establishing a new professional soccer team from scratch. According to them, the team was created in order to “do things differently” and further drive the conversation of gender inequality that has impacted women’s sports and the Los Angeles community for decades.
“We come together with a collective passion for bringing about change, ” Founder and President Julie Uhrman said. “Change for our players, change for our fans, and change for our community. Change that begins today.”
The NWSL, the first professional league in the U.S. to resume play, held the opening game for the Challenge Cup, a one-month long tournament among eight of its teams, on June 27. The tournament, which was the first professional women’s soccer competition aired in the U.S. on a major broadcast network, drew 527,000 viewers on CBS telecast. Last Saturday, the Houston Dash secured the winning title over the Chicago Red Stars with a 2-0 victory. The first goal was the result of an early penalty kick (courtesy of Sophie Schmitt) and the second was a stoppage time goal added by Shea Groom.
“Today we take an exciting step by announcing the first women majority-owned and led ownership group,” Founder Natalie Portman said. “I am thrilled by the opportunity to partner with this incredible group of people to bring a professional women’s soccer team to Los Angeles. Together, we aim to build not only a winning team on the field, but also to develop a passionately loyal fan base.”