Could Atlanta’s long wait for an NWSL team soon be coming to an end?
In an interview with ESPN on May 4, new NWSL commissioner Jessica Berman discussed her desire to see the league grow beyond its current 12 clubs. That includes 2 new ones that entered the fold in 2022: Angel City FC — which plays at Banc of California Stadium in Los Angeles and counts among its ownership Natalie Portman, Serena Williams and her husband Alexis Ohanian, and Jennifer Garner — and San Diego Wave FC, home to USWNT stars Abby Dahlkemper and Alex Morgan.
And as the NWSL looks to expand, Atlanta could be on the list. That’s based on a report from Grant Wahl on Friday evening, who says that Atlanta United ownership is one of 5 across MLS bidding for an NWSL expansion team, along with Austin FC, FC Cincinnati, Real Salt Lake, and Toronto FC:
NEW: Sources tell me 5 MLS ownership groups have strong interest in starting NWSL expansion teams—plus two non-MLS groups in MLS cities. Read more here: https://t.co/binmmk0FCm pic.twitter.com/xs0oOdIvoL— Grant Wahl (@GrantWahl) May 13, 2022
Salt Lake City once had an NWSL franchise in Utah Royals FC, but it was dissolved and its player-related assets transferred to what is now the Kansas City Current following racist comments made by now-former Real Salt Lake and Utah Royals owner Dell Loy Hansen. The new RSL ownership group, however, hold an option to relaunch NWSL in the city, which they have committed to do and figure to be atop the list come 2024, the soonest Berman mentioned that the next expansion wave would take place.
As for Atlanta, we haven’t heard much about the league coming to the city in a while. Darren Eales stated that an expansion team was coming “sooner rather than later”, but that was in 2019 and prior to the pandemic. While a new team wouldn’t enter prior to 2024, that gives Arthur Blank and company plenty of time to put the pieces in place to make this happen. Naturally, Fifth Third Bank Stadium, home to the 2nd iteration of the Atlanta Beat prior to the folding of WPS after the 2011 season, would be a fit for a venue, while Herndon Stadium, the home of the original WUSA Atlanta Beat in the early 2000s but in need of massive renovations, could find itself in the mix as well.
Either way, for those wanting to see NWSL soccer in the city of Atlanta, the day may not be that far off.