Jill Ellis to lead NWSL expansion team in San Diego

5 days ago

Former U.S. national team coach Jill Ellis will serve as president of a National Women's Soccer League expansion team in San Diego.

The new team, owned by investor Ron Burkle, will be launched next season. The team is expected to announce a name in the coming weeks, and Ellis is hoping to appoint a coach in July.

“Thirty years on the sideline, this opportunity presented itself and I thought, what a great way to continue to champion women, provide opportunities for women, but also stay connected to the game I love,” she said.

Ellis stepped down as coach of the national team in 2019 after the United States won its second straight World Cup. She was hired as coach in 2014 and led it the U.S. to eight tournament titles. Over the course of her tenure, the United States lost just seven matches.

Ellis said she is committed to hiring women for many of the key positions, including coach. She recounted how she had shot down a suggestion that there weren't many qualified female candidates.

“There’s certainly enough. It’s not even that I have to look that hard," Ellis said. “So I think there’s some amazing coaches out there. This was an important part of my conversations with Ron because I feel like we could have a female-driven organization.”

Burkle is a co-owner of the NHL's Pittsburgh Penguins. In February, he backed out of plans for a Major League expansion team in Sacramento, California, that was scheduled to start play in 2023.

Burkle's business associate Matt Alvarez will lead the NWSL team. Alvarez had been announced as part of the withdrawn Sacramento MLS ownership group.

“We believe in Jill and will provide the necessary investment to build a club that all of San Diego will be proud to support,” Burkle said in a statement. "Jill’s expertise and history within the sport is unrivalled and we are incredibly excited to continue to work with Commissioner (Lisa) Baird to bring a world-class team to San Diego as we continue to grow the sport and women’s soccer.”

Baird announced earlier this year that the NWSL was adding a Sacramento team, but when the MLS expansion fell through, the NWSL team's future was uncertain until Tuesday's announcement.

It is expected that the team will play at the University of San Diego at the outset.

“What we want to do is we want to be fiercely competitive right from the beginning, to put a product on the field that’s going to compete, to have players that are hungry to win championships right off the bat," Ellis said on a conference call with reporters. "I don’t want to ease into this. I think we’re going to have resources and assets that are going to allow us to be competitive.”

The addition of San Diego will bring the league to 12 teams. Angel City in Los Angeles is also set to start play in 2022.

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