The San Diego Spirit was a Women’s United Soccer Association team from 2001 to 2003. It averaged 6,000 fans per game and fielded FIFA World Cup Champions. Everything halted when the league suspended activity in 2003.
Almost two decades later San Diego will once again have a professional women’s soccer team.
The National Women’s Soccer League announced Tuesday that its 12th team will be in San Diego. The team is expected to join the league for the 2022 season.
Former FIFA Women’s Coach of the Year and two-time World Cup-winning manager Jill Ellis will serve as the team’s president. She announced plans to hire an all-female staff.
“This is a proud and historic moment,” Ellis said in a release. “Bringing women’s professional soccer back to San Diego, an area with a rich soccer history and passionate fanbase will have a deep and positive impact on this community.”
Ron Burkle, a businessman and the Pittsburgh Penguins’ co-owner, will own the expansion franchise. Burkle was set to own Major League Soccer’s Sacramento expansion team but pulled out because of the COVID-19 pandemic’s impact.
“San Diego is filled with an unwavering and fervent fanbase with a wide interest in soccer,” Burkle said in a release. “We are thrilled to bring women’s professional soccer to San Diego and believe this club will be deeply embedded in this community.”
Ellis’ spell as an executive comes after one of the most decorated managerial careers of all time. She managed the United States women’s national team from 2014-2019, winning eight tournament titles.
Before her time at U.S. Soccer, she coached at Illinois and UCLA, where she was an NSCAA National Coach of the Year winner and led UCLA to six consecutive Pac-12 Conference titles and eight NCAA Women’s College Cups.
The NWSL will enter its 10th season in 2022, and San Diego’s expansion will create a regional rival with Los Angeles’ expansion team, Angel City FC.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: NWSL’s San Diego expansion team led by former USWNT coach Jill Ellis