NWSL: New soccer city alert

August 24, 2022
The NWSL expansion race never ends. Per a report yesterday, a prospective ownership group targeting Cleveland is lining up site visits with league officials and has already had meetings with higher-ups at MLS and the USL, a lower division women's and men’s soccer organization in North America. C-town came to play.
Sports BizSoccer
LEE KLAFCZYNSKI/ISI PHOTOS/GETTY IMAGES
LEE KLAFCZYNSKI/ISI PHOTOS/GETTY IMAGES

The GIST: The NWSL expansion race never ends. Per a report yesterday, a prospective ownership group targeting Cleveland is lining up site visits with league officials and has already had meetings with higher-ups at MLS and the USL, a lower division women's and men’s soccer organization in North America. C-town came to play.

The bidders: The Cleveland Professional Soccer group is led by Michael Murphy, president of Cleveland-based film distribution company Gravitas Ventures. The film exec would be a first-time owner of a major sports team if the group wins its NWSL or MLS bid.

The details: MLS officials allegedly met with local politicians and sports officials in July, including members of the Haslam Sports Group, which owns the NFL’s Cleveland Browns and MLS’ Columbus Crew. A league spokesperson said the meetings were related to MLS NEXT Pro, a league intended to be a stepping stone to MLS.

  • Murphy said meetings with NWSL and USL execs are expected soon. It’s unknown if the Cleveland group plans to enter the ongoing NWSL expansion race, which the league plans to wrap up by the year’s end.

The lingering questions: The interested party plans to construct multi-use outdoor and indoor venues and has toured possible sites for the new builds. Questions remain on location and size, as well as potential overlap with the Browns’ FirstEnergy Stadium.

  • The group may have to answer those questions soon. The NWSL is reportedly eyeing markets that hit targets on location and facilities, as well as quality of the ownership group.

Zooming out: MLS continues to sell itself to North America–based millionaires, but the increasing number of owners zeroing in on a women’s and men’s soccer doubleheader is a vote of confidence in the NWSL’s upward trending value. The more the merrier.

Sports BizSoccer