TAMPA, Fla. — Within the last year, the Tampa Bay area has seen two new soccer teams introduced in the local sports community, and now, there will be a third coming soon.
The USL Super League announced Tuesday a new professional women's soccer team is coming to the Tampa Bay area in August 2024.
The new franchise will compete at the highest level of women's professional soccer in the U.S. and is the first time the Tampa Bay region will have a top-tier women's pro sports team.
“This is about inspiring, energizing, and uniting our Tampa Bay community," Darryl Shaw said in a statement, who joins his childhood friends David Laxer, co-owner of Bern’s Steak House, and Jeff Fox, former Chief Information Officer of BluePearl Pet Hospital, as owners of the new team. "We’re ready to build a team that not only wins on the field, but also makes a positive difference off the field.
"To us, success comes when you become part of the fabric of your community."
Once sanctioned by U.S. Soccer as a division one league, the USL Super League will be equivalent to other professional sports leagues across the world and will look to bring in international players who have competed in the FIFA Women's World Cup and Olympic Games.
Since the new league plans to play its season from fall through spring, all players will still be able to represent their national teams while also competing in the league.
“When I stepped onto the court in high school as a female athlete, there weren’t a lot of role models out there for me to look up to,” Tampa Mayor Jane Castor, a star basketball and volleyball player at Chamberlain High School and the University of Tampa, said in a statement. “Today, women’s sports are exploding in popularity, and our new team will put Tampa Bay at the forefront.
"This announcement is the start of something special—for our city, for our region, and for so many girls and boys who’ll get to see amazing new role models right here in their hometown.”
The Tampa Bay-based team will decide its name, colors and crest at a later time in the future after receiving involvement from an advisory board that includes community voices and soccer fans created to give guidance on connecting with the region and presenting a positive impact.
“This commitment to bring top-tier women’s professional sports to Tampa Bay, in a new stadium where it can truly shine, represents a sincere investment in making this great community even stronger for the future,” USL Super League President Amanda Vandervort said in a statement. “The Super League is driven to make world-class professional women’s soccer more accessible for more players, fans, and communities across the U.S., and Tampa Bay’s new team is a key part of that effort.”
Tampa Bay will begin playing in August 2024 at a temporary location until a soccer-specific permanent stadium is built -- which will also be used as a year-round venue for a wide range of activities, including opportunities for youth and community soccer leagues and non-soccer events.
Now that the team has been announced, engagement with stakeholders to find a city where the stadium will be located can officially begin.
There will be 10 to 12 teams competing in the USL Super League with other confirmed host cities including Charlotte, North Carolina; Dallas/Fort Worth; Lexington, Kentucky; Phoenix; Spokane, Washington; Tucson, Arizona, and Washington, D.C. The additional franchises will be announced at a later date.
The Super League also has plans for five more franchises, pending stadium agreements, that won't be part of the original group. Those would be in Oakland, California; Chattanooga, Tennessee; Indianapolis; Jacksonville, Florida, and Madison, Wisconsin.
The new league said it hopes to close the “opportunity gap” between men’s and women’s professional soccer in the United States. There are more than 100 men’s pro teams in contrast to 12 women’s teams.
The Tampa Bay area is home to three soccer organizations, two of which are professional clubs -- USL Championship's Tampa Bay Rowdies and NISL's Tampa Bay Strikers -- and the other a semi-professional team -- USL League Two's St. Petersburg FC.
The region's pro women's soccer team will hope to establish a winning culture that has not only been replicated by the Rowdies and Strikers in the past year but also by the other pro sports teams in the Tampa Bay region such as the Rays, Lightning and Buccaneers.
To learn more about the USL Super League, click here.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.