No new teams will be joining the National Women’s Soccer League for the 2020 season.
The league announced Thursday that it will remain at nine teams for the upcoming year, despite reports that an expansion side in Sacramento would join the NWSL in 2020.
“The league continues to engage in substantive discussions with several potential expansion groups with the possibility of announcing additional teams for the 2021 season in early 2020,” the league said in a statement Thursday.
At least one team will join the NWSL in 2021. It was announced in October that an expansion side in Louisville, Kentucky will begin play then. The team will be named “Proof Louisville FC” and will play in the Lynn Family Stadium, which is also home to the city’s USL Championship side.
Around the same time the 2021 Louisville expansion team was announced, the Equalizer reported that a group in Sacramento was “close to finalizing an agreement” to join NWSL for the 2020 season. Those plans didn’t come fruition. The Equalizer reported Wednesday that Sacramento is now likely to enter in 2021.
2020 will be the third straight season that the NWSL will play with just nine teams. It last played with double-digit teams in 2017, but the folding of the Boston Breakers dropped that number.
Should both Louisville and Sacramento join in 2021, it will bring the league to 11 teams, the most it’s ever had since beginning in 2013. Atlanta, Ga. and Cincinnati, Ohio are among the other markets that have been rumored to have interest in joining the NWSL.
“Our expansion committee has done a lot of work over the last 12-plus months to establish a pipeline, to establish our standards, our expectations and what we’re looking for with any expansion candidate,” NWSL President Amanda Duffy said in October. “Right now, it’s not so specific to geography – where we need to populate West Coast vs. East Coast – it’s about the ownership, the quality of the ownership, the quality of the facilities and resources that are being put toward operating this team.”
By most standards, the NWSL has a successful season in 2019. It struck a sponsorship deal with beer giant Budweiser, landed a TV deal with ESPN and the league saw a 22 percent increase in attendance.
Now that it’s confirmed that an expansion draft isn’t on the horizon, teams will likely be more active in signing and trading players in the coming weeks.