Football: NWSL expands to San Diego with Jill Ellis as club president

Field Level Media/Reuters

Posted at Jun 09 2021 10:03 AM

Football: NWSL expands to San Diego with Jill Ellis as club president 1
A logo for the National Women's Soccer League (NWSL) is seen inside the Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts ahead of a media event with players from the North Carolina Courage and Chicago Red Stars teams, in Raleigh, North Carolina, U.S. October 27, 2019. File photo. Amy Tennery, Reuters

The National Women's Soccer League is adding an expansion franchise in San Diego, and former U.S. women's national team coach Jill Ellis will serve as club president.

"This is a proud and historic moment for soccer in San Diego, Southern California and the United States," Ellis said Tuesday in a statement. "The NWSL continues to grow immensely and bringing women's professional soccer back to San Diego, an area with a rich soccer history and passionate fan base, will have a deep and positive impact on this community."

The San Diego team will be owned by Ron Burkle, co-owner of the NHL's Pittsburgh Penguins. 

In January 2019, Burkle came forward as the leader of a group that was awarded a Major League Soccer expansion team in Sacramento, but Burkle withdrew from the project in February 2021, leaving the fate of the Sacramento club in doubt.

Burkle's planned NWSL club also was originally slated for Sacramento before winding up in San Diego.

The NWSL includes 10 teams this year, including expansion teams Kansas City and Racing Louisville. Both San Diego and a new Los Angeles team, Angel City FC, will debut next year.

The San Diego team will play at the University of San Diego's Torero Stadium, according to the San Diego Union-Tribune.

"San Diego is filled with an unwavering and fervent fan base with a wide interest in soccer," Burkle said in a statement. "We are thrilled to bring women's professional soccer to San Diego and believe this club will be deeply embedded in this community."

NWSL commissioner Lisa Baird said in a statement, "On behalf of the NWSL and our board of governors, I'm thrilled to welcome San Diego NWSL to our league. The NWSL's growth is obviously a priority for us, but we've always said that growth has to be done thoughtfully and deliberately. That's exactly what we've done here.

"San Diego NWSL has all the hallmarks of a successful expansion club: a committed ownership group with the resources required to invest in the success of our league and our players, in a community full of soccer players and fans, in a region that has been underrepresented in our league. I can't wait to watch it all come together."

Ellis, 54, coached the U.S. women's national team from 2014-19, leading the side to Women's World Cup championships in 2015 and 2019.

San Diego last had a pro women's soccer team from 2001-03 when the Spirit of the Women's United Soccer Association played at Torero Stadium. 

Among the stars of the Spirit were then-national team members Julie Foudy, Shannon MacMillan and Joy Fawcett.