Feb 7, 2024 - Sports

Ohio appropriations bill includes $1M for pro women's soccer stadium in Cleveland

Illustration of a soccer ball made out of a patchwork of different bill denominations.

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

A new professional women's soccer stadium could be built in downtown Cleveland as early as 2026.

Why it matters: Cleveland's bid for an expansion team in the National Women's Soccer League (NWSL) hinges on a dedicated stadium, the local investor group says.

Driving the news: The Ohio House passed a $2 billion appropriations bill Wednesday that included $1 million for that purpose.

The latest: Michael Murphy, co-founder and CEO of Cleveland Soccer Group, told Cleveland.com that the estimated cost of the facility would be $150 million, split between team owners and state and local sources.

  • It would seat 12,000-13,000 people.
  • The location has not been decided yet.

The big picture: The NWSL was established in 2013 as the premier women's soccer league in the U.S. In November, it announced a $60 million annual broadcast deal that precipitated expansion.

  • This year, the league will grow from 12 to 14 teams with new clubs based in San Jose and Utah.
  • A Boston team is expected to join in 2026, and the league says it is aware of at least a dozen investor groups in various U.S. markets capable of operating the 16th.

Zoom in: Cleveland Soccer Group has been aggressively trying to bring pro soccer to Cleveland.

  • In 2022, they landed an expansion team in the MLS Next Pro league — a third-tier league — that is scheduled to begin play in 2025.

Yes, but: An NWSL club would be a far bigger fish.

  • If Cleveland became the league's 16th market, it would be the first professional women's soccer team in Ohio and only the second team in the U.S. with a stadium built expressly for women's soccer.

What we're watching: The appropriations bill heads to the Ohio Senate for consideration.

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