Image: Wikimedia Commons/ Ytoyoda
Image: Wikimedia Commons/ Ytoyoda

Angel City’s arrival will revitalise women’s soccer in America

California has been without a professional women’s soccer team since the Los Angeles Sol folded in 2010. The Golden State, the world’s sixth-largest economy, has proven to be an integral part of America’s sporting landscape, making its lack of an NWSL franchise all the more conspicuous.

Earlier this year, it was announced that Angel City FC would become the latest team to join the top flight of women’s soccer in the United States. The Los Angeles-based organisation will enter the NWSL in 2022, becoming the league’s eleventh club in the process.

Racing Louisville FC – led by former Ireland international Christy Holly – are due to join the league a year earlier, but it is Angel City that have attracted attention from around the globe.

The team was launched four months ago by a majority-female ownership group, led by entrepreneur Julie Uhrman, actress Natalie Portman and venture capitalists Kara Nortman and Alexis Ohanian.

Tennis legend Serena Williams and a whole host of former United States internationals also became founding members of the board – including Mia Hamm and Abby Wambach.

A further cast of well-known backers were unveiled last month, with tennis great Billie Jean King, WNBA star Candace Parker and NHL trailblazer P.K. Subban joining the board.

James Corden and California native Casey Neistat have also thrown their weight behind the new club

The formation of a Californian NWSL franchise is long overdue. Since the league was founded in November 2012, it has been without a club in the American south-west. The Utah Royals, based in Salt Lake City, currently hold a monopoly over the region, with California, Nevada, Arizona and New Mexico lacking top-flight representation altogether.

Angel City’s arrival among the soccer elite will, therefore, change the map – and alter the way the women’s game is viewed in the United States. With the exception of franchises based in Seattle and Portland, the West Coast has been left relatively bereft of women’s soccer. That will soon change.

As the LA Galaxy and LAFC have shown in MLS, Los Angeles is a city packed with prospective soccer fans. Angel City will certainly bring something new to LA’s blend of sporting talent.

“Our growing collective of activists, actors, athletes, and entrepreneurs truly believe in LA’s incredible sports culture, and the power of soccer, the most popular sport on Earth,” club president Julie Uhrman wrote in her opening letter to potential supporters.

“But with nine professional teams and NCAA powerhouses USC and UCLA, isn’t it high time that we also have a women’s soccer team to rally behind?

“Our city deserves better. Sports fans deserve better. Players deserve better. And together, we will build something truly unique.”

Sporting organisations often talk a big game about their plans to engage with the local community; on that front, Angel City are already walking the walk. Last month the club announced a civic-minded sponsorship model that will require all of its corporate partners to redirect 10% of their sponsorship packages to local causes.

King has been particularly bullish about Angel City’s ambitions, suggesting that the club’s formation “sends a strong message to young girls in the community and beyond.” The former world number one tennis player has spoken about the organisation’s desire to attract “the best professional female athletes in the world to Los Angeles.” History has proven that such an aim is attainable.

Los Angeles is home to eleven elite-level clubs, covering each of the United States’ five major leagues. There is, however, a lack of female representation across the city – with the LA Sparks holding the fort as the area’s sole top-flight women’s team.

The argument that Angel City is destined to fail because there are already too many teams in Los Angeles thus rings hollow. With the right investment and backing, women’s sporting organisations have proven that they can thrive.

In 2022, the stage will be set for Angel City’s arrival. If LAFC’s rapid rise to popularity has proven anything, the NWSL’s latest expansion club should be expected to make a substantial impact upon its launch. Megan Rapinoe, a California native, will turn 37 during Angel City’s inaugural season. It would be fitting if the two-time World Cup champion could end her career on home soil.

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