The National Women’s Soccer League will return to Boston in 2026, the league announced on Tuesday, ending a nine-month wait to confirm its 15th team. The NWSL Board of Governors approved the bid of the expansion group — led by Juno Equity founder and Boston Celtics minority owner Jennifer Epstein — in January, with contingencies on the finalization of some key items, including a stadium.
On Tuesday, the group known as Boston Unity Soccer Partners confirmed that it intends to play home matches at George R. White Stadium in Franklin Park in Boston as part of a revitalization of the dilapidated city facility. The ownership group will help fund a renovation of existing stadium infrastructure, along with the construction of a new track around the field and temporary seating that would cover it for NWSL games. Boston Unity Soccer Partners presented the only formal bid to the City of Boston’s request for proposal on a public-private partnership to revitalize the stadium.
“Boston is the greatest sports city in the world, and we are thrilled to bring the NWSL back to this passionate fan base,” Epstein said. “Our goal is to build a championship-caliber franchise that the city can be proud of, both on the pitch and in the community. We will be relentless and daring in our quest to add another chapter to the city’s unrivaled sports legacy. We thank [NWSL] commissioner [Jessica] Berman and the NWSL board for believing in us and in Boston and are grateful for the unwavering support of Mayor Michelle Wu and her team, who have been instrumental in bringing professional women’s soccer back to Boston.”
Epstein is joined in ownership of the NWSL team by strategic marketer Stephanie Connaughton, Women’s Foundation of Boston co-founder/CFO Ami Danoff and Flybridge Capital general partner Anna Palmer. The group says that 95% of its invested capital comes from women, and 40% from investors of color. Monarch Collective, which was founded by Kara Nortman, also invested in the team. Nortman is co-founder and co-owner of the NWSL’s Angel City FC.
“We’re extremely supportive of finding ways for people who are aligned in their values – and, in particular, women and what Kara is doing with Monarch – and excited that we found a way for her to support the launch of this team here in Boston,” Berman said on Tuesday when asked if the league has rules about investment in multiple teams.
“We as a league have been following the path of other sports leagues in terms of what we have allowed and what we haven’t, in terms of multi-team investment. We’re actually in the process of developing some more policies in writing with our board that will dictate how we handle these situations on a go-forward basis.”
White Stadium is expected to hold about 11,000 fans for NWSL games following renovations. Boston Public Schools will have priority access and their athletic programs will be regular, day-to-day tenants, according to the city’s requirements for proposals. Boston Unity Soccer Partners must also identify land for and build a training facility for the team. The prospective owners previously presented their vision to city officials and local residents at a community meeting in July. There are meetings next week to address local residents’ concerns about transportation.
“As the City of Champions, Boston sets the standard for athletic excellence and fans’ devotion to our teams,” Boston mayor Michelle Wu said in a statement. “It’s fitting and absolutely thrilling for Boston to be a home for women’s soccer, hosting a franchise that will partner so closely with our community and especially our schools. I look forward to the revitalization of White Stadium and the partnership of this team and league to create new opportunities in Franklin Park and for our student-athletes citywide.”
A return to Boston brings the NWSL back into another top-10 U.S. media market ahead of a new broadcast rights deal, which Berman said last week that she hopes to have finalized in the next two months.
“I’m excited to expand the NWSL’s footprint and continue its transformative growth in our return to Boston, one of the world’s most iconic sports cities,” Berman said. “We are very proud to welcome Boston Unity Soccer Partners to our ownership group. They bring an impressive roster of business leaders committed to continuing Boston’s legacy of sports excellence and delivering a successful team to a very passionate fanbase. We are thrilled for their entry to the league in the 2026 season and add a new chapter to the storied history of Boston sports.”
Boston’s full name and branding is expected to be revealed next year. The “launch crest,” as the team describes it, is green and black and depicts the Leonard P. Zakim Bunker Hill Bridge.
The team is expected to be joined by one other expansion team for the 2026 NWSL season. Bay FC and Utah Royals FC will begin play in 2024, bringing the league to 14 teams.
Boston Unity Soccer Partners paid a $53 million expansion fee, the same as Bay FC, whose entry into the league was also approved by the NWSL Board of Governors in January. The NWSL was previously in the Boston market from launch in 2013 through the 2017 season. The Boston Breakers, who have no ties to the new Boston group, folded in early 2018 after a deal to sell the team collapsed.
Among the required infrastructure for Boston’s succesful bid is a training site for the team — especially important given the relatively limited use and unique nature of the White Stadium setup that has been proposed, one in which Boston Public Schools control the majority of dates for the year.
“We have a few different opportunities that we are exploring and throughtfully going to make a decision,” Epstein said about a training facility. “Having a top-tier training facility that these world-class athletes deserve to make use of is a priority for us. To also make it proximate to the city and the home pitch, these are all big factors in how we’re analyzing our choices.”
Epstein said that White Stadium will be treated as the NWSL team’s “permanent” home when questioned about some of the temporary details of the plans, including seating and some facilities. She said there are no plans for temporary bathrooms, although that was listed as a possible plan in the group’s presentation to the city earlier this year.
Epstein also alluded to Boston fans being used to high demand for tickets. She said the 11,000-seat capacity of White Stadium for NWSL games will work well with the demographic.
“I think what’s important to us here in Boston, we have these five storied franchises here,” Epstein said. “Our fans are used to really just an elevated and very exciting fan experience. We want to create something similar. So, we thought about the size of White Stadium for our launch; we want to sell out that stadium from day one and have it be the same unrivaled fan experience that Boston fans are used to. We will start there and we will grow as soon as we need to grow.”
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