May 27, 2024 - Sports

Women's pro sports teams surge across the U.S.

When U.S. professional women's sports teams began
Data: Axios research; Note: Includes future teams with confirmed start dates; Chart: Simran Parwani/Axios

It's a historic time for viewership and engagement in women's sports as dozens of new teams launch across the country.

Why it matters: With this new level of fandom, investors are finally taking notice of the business opportunity around women's sports, Axios' Sara Fischer reported.

State of play: At least 20 teams are set to play their inaugural season in 2024, from expansion teams like National Women's Soccer League's Bay FC to a host of brand-new teams in the USL Super League, which kicks off its first season on August 17.

Between the lines: Women's sports fans have higher engagement rates than men's sports fans, according to PricewaterhouseCoopers research, Axios' Justin L. Mack reported.

  • The star power of athletes like Caitlin Clark, who was drafted No. 1 overall by the Indiana Fever, drives much of this attention.
  • You're three times more likely to attend a women's game if you follow a female athlete, and you're nearly three times more likely to purchase apparel if you attend a game, per PwC.

Yes, but: Despite significant growth and investment, women's teams still face challenges — from teams folding to leagues struggling to find their footing.

  • Women's Professional Fastpitch team USSSA Pride will not operate in 2024. After one season, the Oklahoma City Spark left WPF to play as an independent team, the Oklahoman reported. WPF currently has two teams.
  • "Pro softball has been trying to get this momentum for so long.... This is not an easy thing to create and to get the right players at the table at the right seats," Spark owner Tina Floyd told D1Softball.
  • These challenges aren't unique to softball. Charlotte's WNBA franchise, the Charlotte Sting, folded almost two decades ago after the team failed to find a buyer.

What's next: Eight USL Super League teams are expected to play in the league's inaugural season this summer, and at least eight more markets will join the league in or after 2025.

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