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Amid boom in women's sports, WNBA expands with new team in SF Bay Area

The new NBA season is set to start in just a few weeks, but it’s not the NBA that’s grabbing headlines — it’s the WNBA.
Amid boom in women's sports, WNBA expands with new team in SF Bay Area
Posted at 2:43 PM, Oct 05, 2023

Take whatever you think you know about women's sports and throw it out the window, because numbers prove they aren't just trending, but here to stay.

Howard Megdal, founder of women's sports publication The Next, says what we are seeing in terms of growth in women's sports isn't just a sprint — it's a meteoric rise in not just interest, but money. 

"It really is a bit of a gold rush when you look at the WNBA and women's sports writ large right now," said Megdal. 

In 2020, when the National Women's Soccer League added Angel City FC, the team's ownership had to pay a $2 million expansion fee to join the league. This past April, that expansion fee was $53 million for a San Francisco team.

In February, the same pattern was seen in the WNBA when the Seattle Storm sold a 14% stake in the team for $151 million — more than 10 times the previous record for a WNBA team. 

The news that an expansion team will be coming to the Bay Area solidifies what Howard says is a growing, independent interest in women's sports.

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"It's huge. You know, there's this misnomer about the way that people think about sports fandom and people think about this Venn diagram. Where there's the diagram of people who will watch sports and specifically men's sports, and then a sub-group that might be considering women's sports, but of course that misses the essential part of the Venn diagram: There are also people who are interested in women's sports who do not care about men's sports," he said. 

Take this past August's FIFA Women's World Cup in New Zealand attendance — viewership and digital records were smashed when more than 25,000 fans attended each match, 29% higher than 2019's World Cup. 

This past WNBA season, the league reported its viewership was up 67% over the previous year's numbers as more than half a million people watched each game. 

Megdal says these trends are showing us the future of women's sports in not only the U.S., but the world. 

"This was always something that made sense from a market viability standpoint, but now, no one even has to guess what it's going to look like because you're seeing the money, the people, everything jump in real time," he said. 

This newest WNBA team will be part of the NBA's Golden State Warriors orbit. The teams are meeting to finalize the team name and logo.

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