The city of angels was devoid of women’s professional soccer from 2010-2020, until Angel City FC was announced as an NWSL expansion team in 2020. This is their first year, and while they currently are just a notch below a spot in the rapidly approaching NWSL playoffs with five regular season matches remaining, it’s impossible to not call it a successful start. The team’s A-list female-led celebrity ownership group set out to level the playing field, to bring as much star power and glamour as the team that share the Banc of California stadium with them, LAFC. Arguably, they surpassed expectations in that aspect by focusing heavily on developing community partnerships and are literally walking the walk of when a club is more than just a club.
It began with three female founders (Natalie Portman, Kara Nortman and Julie Uhrman), then lead investor, Alexis Ohanian (a.k.a Serena Williams’ biggest supporter) and Abby Wambach started recruiting a star-fueled investment team. Eva Longoria, Jennifer Garner, Uzo Aduba and Brandy Chastain became co-owners. In total, ACFC’s ownership group totals over 100 members, two-thirds of which are women. Names like Julie Foudy, Mia Hamm, Shannon McMillan, Billie Jean King, Sophia Bush, Serena Williams, James Corden, Christina Aguilera, Rachel Zoe, NHL star PK Subban, gold-medal-winning gymnast Shawn Johnson East, Cobi Jones, Gabrielle Union and Dwyane Wade have joined.
Angel City has been focused on its foundational values of community and female empowerment. They put 10% of sponsorship revenue back into the community. They’ve partnered with the Play Equity Fund, the only nonprofit focused on addressing equity of play for children across Los Angeles as a social justice issue. They’ve created a fund to help players. One percent of the profits made from ticket sales this season will go into a pool, which ACFC athletes will split evenly at the end of the year. Even their uniform is made from recycled materials (and fans can purchase their own jerseys).
As for the soccer, Angel City is building on a strong foundation. Their sporting director is retired England striker Eni Aluko. Freya Coombe, former coach for New York/New Jersey’s Gotham FC, is Angel City’s first head coach. Two-time World Cup winner Christen Press, a native Angeleno, was signed as their first player and became the highest-paid player in NWSL history.
The NWSL season is 22 weeks this year, with each team playing all others both at home and away. ACFC are currently on a 5-match unbeaten streak, and face North Carolina Courage next and have five games remaining in the regular season. But their biggest match is this Saturday, against their Southern California rival, San Diego Wave. The Wave sit third in the table and have already announced record shattering attendance intentions for the leauge in anticipation of the match at Snapdragon Stadium. The Wave, also currently in its inaugural season, said it has sold more than 27,000 tickets for the highly-anticipated match. With a potential to sell over 32,000 seats, the clash between the two California expansion teams will topple the current single-game record of 25,218 set by the Portland Thorns in 2019 against the North Carolina Courage.
Regardless of who wins the match, for both expansion teams, and for all of us who patiently waited for women’s soccer to come to California again, it’s a win for everyone. Equitable soccer is about much more than the beautiful game and Angel City FC is already proving it.