Mar 14, 2024 - News

Portland Thorns return with new players and owners

Several female soccer players in white jackets and blue shorts jogging around a stadium in training

The Portland Thorns are back in action this Saturday as the NWSL season opens in Kansas City. Photo: Courtesy of the Portland Thorns/Craig Mitchelldyer

The Portland Thorns FC open their 2024 season this weekend with new players — and owners — at the KC Current's brand-new stadium in Kansas City.

Why it matters: The Thorns failed to add a fourth championship star to their jerseys last season, and a resurgent fan base will be expecting more in 2024.

Driving the news: New Canadian midfielder Jessie Fleming has arrived from Chelsea for a Thorns record transfer fee of $320,000, and 40-year-old and club-legend Christine Sinclair is returning on a one-year contract.

The intrigue: Peregrine Sports sold the Thorns for $63 million last year after a several scandals and missteps,

  • The new owners, siblings Lisa Bhathal Merage and Alex Bhathal, promised to invest in the Thorns, the first sign of which was to separate their operations from the Timbers and start looking for exclusive training facilities.
  • What they're saying: "I think we're going to see a new energy in the stadium," Gabby Rosas, chair of the Thorns' supporters group, the Rose City Riveters, told Axios.
A female Portland Thorns soccer player holding the golden ball trophy
Sophia Smith after the Thorns won the National Women's Soccer League Championship against KC Current in 2022 in Washington D.C. Photo by Ira L. Black/Getty Images

Worthy of your time: There are several reasons to catch a game this season, starting with cost: Thorns games start at $23 before fees, and the Riveters resell donated tickets at face value for charity.

  • Money follows respect. The women's league has a new broadcast deal worth a reported $240 million over four years, up from the previous $4.5 million three-year deal.

What we're watching: After Saturday's game against the KC Current (live on ESPN at 10am), they return to Providence Park on March 24 for the 4pm home opener against current champions NJ/NY Gotham FC.

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