Apr 4, 2023 - Economy

Sheryl Sandberg part of investor group for new NWSL team in Bay Area

Sheryl Sandberg at a 2022 event.

Sheryl Sandbeg in November 2022. Photo by Dia Dipasupil/Getty Images.

Former Meta executive Sheryl Sandberg is part of an investor group that on Tuesday was awarded a Bay Area expansion franchise in the National Women's Soccer League.

Why it matters: The $53 million expansion fee is the most ever paid for a team in NWSL, whose next media rights deal is up for grabs.

  • The overall investment, led by private equity firm Sixth Street, totals around $125 million. Much of that will be used to build a new training facility.
  • No official word yet on where the club will play home games, but don't be surprised if it ends up in San Jose's PayPal Park, sharing space with the local MLS franchise.

Big business: Sixth Street becomes the first financial institution to hold a controlling stake in a U.S. pro sports team, amidst a boom of private equity funds buying minority team stakes in leagues like the NBA.

  • Other investors in the NWSL club, whose name hasn't yet been disclosed, include Sandberg's husband Tom Bernthal, longtime NBA and WNBA exec Rick Welts and former U.S. Women’s National Team players Brandi Chastain, Leslie Osborne, Danielle Slaton and Aly Wagner.
  • It will be NWSL's 14th franchise, with reports Boston could get the 15th franchise.

What they're saying: "The reality is that 99% of U.S. sports investment and media and advertising dollars right now go to men's sports," Sixth Street CEO Alan Waxman tells Axios. "I think that, within [U.S.] soccer, economic parity is possible within 10 years. That's not taking away from the men, because the pie is growing ... and the best women's soccer in the world is played in the U.S."

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