Sixth Street Partners has committed $125 million to acquire a new National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) franchise, making it the first institutional investor to become a majority owner of a US professional sports team. The overall investment includes a record $53 million league expansion fee, which marks a tenfold increase from the expansion fees paid in 2020.
Private capital groups have a history of owning sports teams in Europe and Asia, but they were prohibited from investing in US professional sports until 2019 when Major League Baseball amended its ownership bylaws to allow it. Many other US leagues have since followed suit. However, private capital has largely remained passive minority investors.
Alan Waxman, Chief Executive of Sixth Street, said the investment was intended to own the franchise for a minimum of ten years. He added that the NWSL was catching up with its male counterpart, Major League Soccer, which began play in 1996, and that it would be ten years before the NWSL becomes at parity with every metric with the MLS.
The NWSL franchise being purchased by Sixth Street will become the league’s 14th team and will be based in the San Francisco Bay Area. Other minority investors and board members for the team include former Meta Executive Sheryl Sandberg, former Golden State Warriors and NBA Executive Rick Welts, and four former US women’s national team members with ties to the region: Brandi Chastain, Leslie Osborne, Danielle Slaton, and Aly Wagner.
The NWSL commissioner, Jessica Berman, said the deal was “likely we are tackling issues that other leagues are wrestling with” and that the NWSL was proud to pioneer this for domestic leagues in the US.
Waxman said he was drawn to the investment after meeting with the four former players who had been leading the effort to bring a team to the Bay Area. Sixth Street has long-term investments with Real Madrid and FC Barcelona, as well as with the NBA’s San Antonio Spurs.