Investors are trying to bring professional women’s soccer to Denver

Start thinking of potential team names and mascots.
4 min. read
USA Women’s Samantha Mewis (3), Mallory Swanson (2) and Lindsey Horan embrace Julie Ertz to celebrate the first goal of the night during the game against New Zealand, Friday, Sept. 15, 2017, at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park, Commerce City, Colo. (Jessica Taves for Denverite)

Denver hosts professional football, baseball, men's basketball, men's ice hockey and men's soccer teams -- two of which have won championships in the past year. But for a city known for its sports lovers, Denver lacks any professional women's sports team.

A group of investors and community leaders are trying to change that by bringing professional women's soccer to the city. Former professional soccer player and Colorado local Jordan Angeli is leading the effort, along with Ben Hubbard, CEO of Denver-based insurance company Parsyl, and Tom Dunmore, a sports executive who has experience with professional soccer. On Tuesday, the group launched For Denver FC, a volunteer group, to lead the charge.

"As a former professional player and Lakewood product, I grew up dreaming of one day playing professional soccer at home in Colorado," Angeli said in a statement Tuesday. "Our state consistently produces some of the best women's soccer talent in the world. We can create a club that thrives from this pipeline and offers some of the best players in the world the opportunity to play in their home state in front of a devoted fan base and passionate women's soccer community."

Colorado locals Lindsey Horan and Sophia Smith will both represent the U.S. Women's National Soccer Team in the World Cup, beginning on July 20 in Australia and New Zealand. Horan and fellow Colorado player Mallory Swanson helped the U.S. women win the World Cup in 2019.

The group plans to submit an expansion bid later this year to one of the two leagues that host professional women's soccer leagues.

There is the decades-old National Women's Soccer League (NWSL), which banned four coaches and sanctioned eight employees following a report about abuse earlier this year. Then there is the new and untested USL Super League, which plans to launch the summer of 2024.

For Denver FC plans to work on engaging the community and adding investors while getting the team off the ground. In their statement Tuesday, leaders said the name "For Denver FC" is a placeholder, and that the group plans to solicit community input on a team name and identity in the future.

The group hopes a Denver women's soccer team will start playing its first games in 2026. In the meantime, For Denver FC is hosting a combination watch- and launch-party on Friday, July 21 at Number 38 when the U.S. women's team plays Vietnam in the World Cup.

The potential team is part of a recent growth in women's sports, after decades trailing men's teams in investments and attention.

The U.S. women's national soccer team only won pay parity with the men's team in May of 2022. Under new NCAA rules, players can profit off their name, image and likeness, but according to Sports Illustrated, as much as 66% of that money goes to male athletes. Meanwhile, WNBA star Brittney Griner's detention in Russia drew attention to the lack of teams and few opportunities in the U.S. for professional women's basketball players compared to men.

But things are starting to change, slowly, with growing investments in sports like basketball and soccer. In April, the NWSL announced its 14th franchise will be located in San Francisco for a record $53 million franchise fee, with investments reaching $125 million. In the past, NWSL franchise fees ranged from $2 to $5 million.

But major gaps still exist. For comparison, CBS sports reported in May that Major League Soccer (MLS), which represents men's professional soccer in the U.S., might add its 30th club in San Diego for $500 million. And the New York Times reported in April that Apple signed a 10-year, $2.5 billion deal for MLS broadcasting rights. NWSL's broadcasting rights cost CBS $4.5 million for three years.

"This is an idea whose time has come," Hubbard said in the Tuesday statement. "This is about soccer, but so much more. We're excited to engage fans, families, civic leaders and investors in laying the foundation for a community asset that will be a powerful force for good in Denver and beyond."

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