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Source: NWSL expansion talks continue, Utah "expected" to join in '24

Prospective expansion teams will need a wealthy and committed ownership group; a strong market for fans; and a viable venueGetty Images

NWSL Commissioner Jessica Berman confirmed that "two teams will be added for the 2024 season,” according to by Jeff Kassouf of ESPN.com. Berman said she has heard from "over 30 investor groups" interested in the league. Sources said that a "handful of them are truly serious and ready to mobilize." But the "unprecedented volume of interest -- which necessitated a formal bidding process for the first time in league history -- illustrates the demand." Utah's expected return is the "open secret." Real Salt Lake co-Owners David Blitzer and Ryan Smith have spoken publicly about "executing their legal clause to revive the Utah Royals franchise." Sources said that "'when' will be 2024." Part of the issue with the return of Utah has been a "resolution around the fixed fee to reactivate the franchise." That also was put in place 18 months ago, "before NWSL franchise valuations ballooned." Sources said that the number, "believed to have been in the $2 million range," has "since been increased." An S.F. Bay Area ownership group, headlined by four ex-USWNT players, also is "seeking entry." An interested group in Ohio "does not include" Crew co-Owners Dee and Jimmy Haslam. Sources said that there are "a number of interested MLS teams," including Atlanta United, Austin FC, FC Cincinnati, Toronto FC, Nashville SC and expansion club St. Louis City. Each prospective expansion team "will need to meet three pillars" for Berman and the NWSL: "a wealthy and committed ownership group; a strong market for fans; and a viable, professional venue." The NWSL is "finalizing a contract with an investment bank" to handle expansion bids. Sources expect the fee for team No. 14 "to be in the range" of $10M (ESPN.com, 6/30).

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