Just three years in, NWSL’s San Diego Wave sells for women’s club record $113m

March 15 – The San Diego Wave, who this weekend will start just their third season in the NWSL, will set a new record for the most expensive sale of a women’s club franchise following a staged $113 million deal agreed with Los Angeles-based couple Arthur Levine and Lauren Leichtman.

San Diego Wave said that the billionaire couple who have made their money in private equity, have come on board initially as minority investors with an estimated $35 million for a 35% in the club.

The second transaction, according to Sportico, will be made at the end of the 2024 season, and is estimated to be around $78 million for the remaining 65% stake.

The club has been valued at $120 million though Levine and Leightman are paying at a discount value. Even so, it is still a huge price compared to the previous highest NWSL club sale of $63 million for the Portland Thorns in early January – then a world record sale for a women’s club.

The club is being sold by billionaire Ron Burkle who paid $2 million towards expansion fees when San Diego Wave joined the NWSL. In their first season in 2022 they finished third in the regular league season and topped it in 2023. In both years they were beaten in the semi-finals of the Champions Cup (the top four clubs from the league play-off).

“We are excited to join forces with San Diego Wave FC and help build upon the impressive foundation established by Ron Burkle,” Leichtman said in a statement. “This investment aligns with our values and vision for supporting initiatives that empower women and foster opportunities for aspiring female athletes.”

In their first season in 2022 the San Diego Wave averaged crowd of 8,721, which more than doubled in 2023 to an average 20,718. They play in the 35,000 capacity Snapdragon Stadium which will also be the home of new MLS franchise San Diego FC when they begin play in 2025.

Their player roster includes US Women’s National Team standouts Naomi Girma in central defence, attacking starlet Jaedyn Shaw and the US’s all-time record goalscorer Alex Morgan, all of whom were instrumental in the USA’s W Gold Cup win in the final against Brazil last weekend.

The Wave open their 2024 NWSL campaign away from home tonight against NJ/NY Gotham FC.

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