Happy Monday! This holiday weekend, we're going deeper on a topic we're really passionate about at Axios: the business of women's sports and the superstars driving the fandom.

  • It's part of our TN50 series β€” the next 50 years of women's sports β€” in partnership with Deep Blue Sports + Entertainment.
  • Subscribe to Axios Media Trends to get more special edition newsletters like this one.

πŸ‡ΊπŸ‡Έ Situational awareness: Your local reporters are off today for Memorial Day. They'll be back in your inbox tomorrow.

Today's newsletter is 638 words β€” a 2Β½-minute read.

1 big thing: More women's teams to root for

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 β€” from teams folding to leagues struggling to find their footing.

Keep reading.

2. Biggest events this year

Photo Illustration: Tiffany Herring/Axios; Photos: Tim Clayton/Getty Images; Clive Brunskill/Getty Images; Ron Hoskins/NBAE/Getty Images; David Buono/Getty Images

The women's sports industry is forecasted to break the $1 billion barrier for the first time in total revenue this year. This is a 300% increase from 2021.

State of play: We rounded up some of the biggest women's sporting events through the rest of the year and into 2025, including the WNBA Commissioner's Cup in June and Tour de France Femmes in August.

  • Plus: The Paris Olympics this summer will have an equal number of men and women athletes for the first time in Games history.

See what's happening in your region

3. Sue Bird: "Society finally caught up"

Sue Bird during the Business of Women's Sports Summit presented by Deep Blue Sports and Axios on April 23 in New York City. Photo: Jules Slutsky

Retired basketball legend Sue Bird, arguably the greatest WNBA player in history, said the business community is finally beginning to catch up to the rest of the world on the importance of women's sports.

Why it matters: Bird was part of negotiating a major collective bargaining agreement in 2019 that set the stage for big changes for players, including raising players' salary cap by 30%.

  • "We've been trying to get people to pay attention, to see what we've all seen behind closed doors," she said. "And now it feels like society finally caught up with us."

🎧 Listen to the full interview

4. Meet the stars

San Diego Wave defender Naomi Girma at Snapdragon Stadium. Photo: Justin Fine/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

During this year's March Madness, the women had more star power than the men.

Why it matters: That fast-growing fandom stretches far beyond basketball.

  • Here are a few icons Axios has interviewed recently:

πŸ† Megan Rapinoe: U.S. soccer legend Megan Rapinoe told Axios that this is a "watershed" moment for women's sports β€” and businesses would be smart to take notice.

🌊 Evy Leibfarth: Leibfarth made history in Tokyo as the youngest athlete to represent the U.S. in canoe slalom in the Olympics. Now she's back.

⚽️ Naomi Girma: The San Diego Wave FC defender was named the U.S. Soccer Female Player of the Year in January.

πŸ€ΈπŸ½β€β™€οΈ Suni Lee: The gymnastics star is making a comeback after a kidney ailment threatened to end her Olympics career. Lee will compete at the gymnastics team trials in June in her home state of Minnesota.

Watch more exclusive interviews

5. 🍻 1 fun thing: How fans differ by city

Illustration: Tiffany Herring/Axios

Women's sports audiences vary dramatically based on geography, said Kim Stone, CEO of the NWSL's Washington Spirit.

Why it matters: Building women's sports franchises requires players, teams and leagues to tap into the unique cultures of each community.

Zoom in: To understand those differences, look no further than the most-sold game-day drinks at venues in the four markets where Stone has worked:

  • 🍹 Miami: Double-shot Bacardi Rum
  • 🚰 D.C.: Water or Pepsi
  • 🍺 Long Island: Beer
  • 🍷 San Francisco: Wine

What's your go-to game-day drink? Reply to this email and share.

This newsletter was edited by Emma Way and copyedited by Sheryl Miller.