Louisville’s new soccer stadium lands NWSL franchise

United Soccer League (USL) franchise Louisville City FC has secured another asset for its new stadium with the news that it will host the National Women’s Soccer League’s (NWSL) fourth expansion team.

The new Louisville NWSL club is set to begin play in the 2021 season at Lynn Family Stadium, the soccer-specific venue with a capacity of nearly 14,000 that is poised to open in Spring 2020. The announcement marks the first time that Louisville has had a top-tier pro sports team since the Kentucky Colonels of the American Basketball Association ceased operations in 1976.

Louisville will become the sixth NWSL club to affiliate with a men’s pro team. Soccer Holdings, LLC, the ownership group of Louisville City FC, will operate the NWSL team using its existing management group. Louisville City won back-to-back USL Championship titles in 2017 and 2018. It currently plays at Slugger Field, which is primarily a baseball stadium.

NWSL president Amanda Duffy said: “With the club’s growing, passionate fanbase, coupled with its strong ownership group, and its significant investment in a soccer specific stadium in a downtown location, we are thrilled to bring the highest level of women’s professional soccer to the area.”

Barring further announcements before 2021, Louisville’s addition will bring the NWSL back up to 10 teams, a mark it hit in 2016 and 2017 before the collapse of the Boston Breakers franchise. Commenting on the agreement, John Neace, chairman of Soccer Holdings, LLC, said: “As an owner, we jumped at the chance to join this exciting league.

“The athleticism in the NWSL is second to none while attendance is growing. This is a sound business decision as we complete the new soccer-only stadium and expand the entertainment district around it.”

In August, Louisville City FC agreed a deal for the Lynn Family to sponsor the club’s new stadium under a 10-year naming rights partnership. The club has partnered with Messer-Harmon JV to build the new $65m (£50.5m/€58.5m) stadium and in April live entertainment company AEG Facilities was appointed to manage the venue.

Speaking to the Louisville Courier Journal newspaper, Neace said the investment in the NWSL will provide valuable additional playing dates for the new stadium. He added: “The stadium is an asset. You’ve got to make the asset sweat.

“So in order to make the asset sweat, you’ve got to have events in the asset. And the women’s league gives us 12 more events. It’s incumbent on us, it’s our job, to promote those events well and get raving fans in the seats. But if we’re successful with that, we help this asset pay for itself.”