The NWSL expansion team that was bound for Sacramento may be headed south to San Diego instead. According to Meg Linehan Jeff Rueter of The Athletic, the ownership group headed by businessman Ron Burkle has enough support from the NWSL board of governors to approve a change in territorial rights from Sacramento to San Diego.
The Sacramento expansion team was originally announced by commissioner Lisa Baird during the NWSL draft in January. Baird said that both Sacramento and the new Los Angeles expansion team Angel City FC would be officially joining the league and starting play in 2022. However, no additional announcements about the Sacramento team ever came. There was no word on additional owners, a team name, or a logo, while Angel City FC was already off and running.
The reason for that may have been related to the MLS expansion team in Sacramento that Burkle paired with his NWSL expansion team. Burkle pulled out as majority owner of the MLS expansion team in February, citing “issues with the project related to COVID-19.” With no MLS team (and no dedicated stadium) in Sacramento, the status of the NWSL’s Sacramento expansion team was unknown.
Now we know why. Burkle, who owns land in San Diego, was reportedly trying to engineer a move from Sacramento to San Diego.
Jill Ellis still appears to be involved
Ellis, the former UWSNT coach who exited the team in July 2019, has been connected to both Sacramento expansion teams since Jan. 2021. That’s when she was reportedly hired to run soccer operations for both the MLS and NWSL expansion teams in Sacramento, but it was never officially announced. Despite the collapse of the MLS expansion team and the relocation of the NWSL team to San Diego, The Athletic reported that Ellis has stayed in her position.
Ellis’ involvement could be what’s preventing panic about the move and the now-compressed timeline. There are concerns about this yet-to-be-announced team starting play in the 2022 season, which is barely a year away. There are also possible facilities issues with the team reportedly slated to play their games at the University of San Diego’s Torero Stadium, where they’ll have to share the stadium with multiple teams.
The Athletic reported that Ellis’ presence may be “assuaging some of these concerns.”
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