Women's Football

City of Angels to enter NWSL as cup upsets abound

Julie Ertz #8 of Chicago Red Stars celebrates after scoring a penalty kick against the OL Reign FC in the quarterfinal match of the NWSL Challenge Cup 
© Getty Images
  • Los Angeles expansion club announced, to be majority-women owned
  • Challenge Cup reaches semi-final stage
  • Upsets galore and superb goalkeeping highlighted quarters

Hype continues to build around the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL), and with reason aplenty. Tuesday saw a landmark moment with confirmation that a Los Angeles side will enter the NWSL for the first time. Backed by a star-studded consortium, the team will be the first Californian club in USA's top-flight since 2010.

There was plenty of action on the field too as the the Challenge Cup quarter-finals took place on Monday. There were more storylines than Britt Eckerstrom saves as overwhelming tournament favourites and two-time holding champions North Carolina Courage went crashing out.

Thanks in large part to an inspirational goalkeeping display from the aforementioned Eckerstrom, who is usually the club’s reserve keeper, Portland Thorns edged the No1 seeded Courage with rookie Morgan Weaver scoring her first goal for the enthusiastically-supported, Pacific Northwest club.

The shocks and drama continued apace into the other quarter-final matches as No2 seed Washington Spirit and No3 seed OL Reign both lost on penalty kicks to the No7 seed New Jersey Sky Blue and the No6 seed Chicago Red Stars. Houston Dash (No4), who also required penalties to get past Utah Royals, were the only higher-seeded team to win their quarter-final.

The semi-finals will see Houston face Portland at 12:30 EST on 22 July and Chicago play New Jersey at 22:00 EST later that same day.

NWSL is coming to the 'Angel City'

While the short-term future of the league is certainly exciting with events in Utah, it’s the long-term trajectory that took a major boost on Tuesday with the announcement of the first majority-women-owned and -founded club to start play in Los Angeles in 2022.

A star-studded and highly-influential group of founders makes up the ownership group, with several icons of the women’s game in the USA involved as well. Natalie Portman, Julie Uhrman, Serena Williams and her husband Alexis Ohanian and their daughter Alexis Olympia Ohanian, Jr., Jessica Chastain, America Ferrera, Jennifer Garner, Eva Longoria and Lilly Singh are just some of the non-soccer figures involved.

Fourteen former USWNT players are also involved in the project, including Mia Hamm, Julie Foudy, Lauren Cheney Holiday and Abby Wambach.

“Today we take an exciting step by announcing the first women-majority-owned and led ownership group,” said co-founder Natalie Portman. “I am thrilled by the opportunity to partner with this incredible group of people to bring a professional women’s soccer team to Los Angeles.

"Together, we aim to build not only a winning team on the field, but also to develop a passionately-loyal fan base. Sports are such a joyful way to bring people together, and this has the power to make tangible change for female athletes both in our community and in the professional sphere.”

The team will have the placeholder name of 'Angel City' until the official club name is announced later in the year.

“The historic movement around social justice this year has made us ever-more conscious of the systemic injustices for communities of color, and my co-founders and I are committed to building a team in Los Angeles that makes positive change to expand access to sports for kids across this city,” Portman told The Athletic. “We aim to be champions on the field, and champions for equity off the field.”

The Los Angeles side follows the recent announcement of the NWSL's newest team, Racing Louisville FC, which will play in the 2021 season.

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