Mia Hamm, Serena Williams and Natalie Portman walk into a Zoom. Bear with me, because that’s not actually the setup to a joke. When they leave, they’ve created an entirely new National Women’s Soccer League team where one didn’t exist before.
To some extent, that’s exactly what just happened in the world of women’s soccer. And if that sounds like a dream come true, it’s because it is. Despite the economic challenges presented by the coronavirus pandemic, a group of A-list investors announced on July 21 that the NWSL approved their bid to create a team in Los Angeles. The best part? The investor group is majority woman-founded.
Although the team hasn’t been formally named yet, the group is calling itself Angel City. It’s led by Portman, media entrepreneur Julie Uhrman, and venture capitalists Kara Nortman and Alexis Ohanian, the latter of whom led the team’s investment through his firm.
And that group of investors is about as impressive as it could possibly be. Angel City’s founders are majority women, and fourteen of them are former USWNT players. In addition to Williams and Hamm, the group includes a wide variety of athletes, entertainers, and entrepreneurs. Some highlights: Abby Wambach, Jessica Chastain, Uzo Aduba, Joy Fawcett, Eva Longoria, Lauren Cheney Holiday, and more.
Meg Linehan of the Athletic pointed out another standout milestone in this investors group: Williams and Ohanian’s daughter, Alexis Olympia Ohanian Jr, is also a founding investor. At age two, that makes her the youngest ever owner in professional sports.
It’s not just refreshing to see this degree of support for behind a new women’s sports team— it’s unprecedented, and hopefully an indicator of more great things to come from this team, and for the league at large. Because so many founding members of Angel City are women in sports themselves, we can hope that their perspective will bring unique insight to the creation of the team.
Another exciting sign is the team’s early commitment to social justice work in the Los Angeles area. In the same press release, the investors also announced the team’s partnership with the Play Equity Fund, a local nonprofit focused on bridging the gap in access to sports in underserved communities.
It’s also reassuring after in a time when many fans feared a fraught national economic situation would affect investment in women’s sports. But for the NWSL, at least, this doesn’t seem to be the case. The league’s restart has garnered unprecedented viewership numbers for the league, and attracted new attention in a time when not many other sports are on.
The league will announce details such as the team’s name, venue, and other branding before the end of the year, and play will kick off in Los Angeles in 2022. For now, we can focus on watching the Challenge Cup while eagerly anticipating what’s coming from this impressive group of investors next.