It’s official: Bay FC is the name of the new National Women's Soccer League franchise, the first Bay Area team in the NWSL.
The announcement came in star-studded ceremonies June 3 at The Presidio's Main Parade Lawn in San Francisco as soccer players, investors and fans of all ages celebrated the "FC Day for the Bay" launch event.
“For it to come to life, it's surreal, honestly. We launched the team two months ago - it was an amazing moment. But for us to be able to launch our team name, our logo, our colors and to see it now ... is the most amazing feeling in the world," said Leslie Osborne, one of three members of Santa Clara University’s 2001 NCAA Championship soccer team to join the event.
Osborne, along with former U.S. Women's National Team members Brandi Chastain, Danielle Slaton and Aly Wagner – all Santa Clara alums – are the founders of Bay FC and were behind the effort to bring women's professional soccer back to the Bay Area. Osborne is an assistant athletic director at SCU.
Slaton, a Fox sport analyst, said she looks forward to building a community that collectively supports her and her fellow founders' mission.
“Part of today is a call to action for people to get involved, to show up, to buy tickets, to get merchandise, to flaunt their gear. And this is just the first step in a long line of things that are going to bring Bay FC together,” she said.
All four Bay FC founders are veterans of the Olympics and FIFA Women's World Cup.
During the WUSA league heyday, Chastain was on the San Jose CyberRays; Osborne and Chastain later played on the WPS Bay Area team FC Gold Pride. Post-professional soccer career, Chastain became an assistant coach of her alma mater's women's soccer program.
Chastain, Osborne, Slaton and Wagner have had an ongoing presence in the Bay Area throughout the years, taking part in the local soccer community and in organizations that focus on women's and girls' sports participation, such as the Bay Area Women's Sports Initiative (BAWSI). Now, they are seeing their years-in-the-making dream for a women's pro team here come to fruition.
“This has been three years in the making, from the moment I called Aly, Danielle and Brandi and said, ‘We should do this,’ “ said Osborne.
Osborne said the addition of an NWSL Bay Area women's professional soccer team made sense considering the presence and popularity of the sport here, from youth leagues to college soccer programs.
At Saturday's event, Alan Waxman, CEO of San Francisco investment firm Sixth Street (a major investor in the new team); Golden State Warriors' four-time champion Andre Iguodala and local politicians such as state Sen. Scott Wiener, D-San Francisco, touched upon the importance of Bay FC for the Bay Area in general and for women and girls in particular.
“Brandi, Danielle, Leslie and Aly have been inspiring fans and particularly young women for years - young women like my daughter Nina who's 5 years old and is an avid soccer player,” said San Jose Mayor Matt Mahan. “I'm just so excited that she's going to be able to grow up and cheer on a hometown team that gives her strong, powerful, confident women role models to look up to."
Another Bay FC investor, NWSL board of governors member and former Meta Platforms COO Sheryl Sandberg took the stage to introduce Osborne, Wagner, Chastain and Slaton, and expressed her excitement about having a Bay Area women's pro soccer team.
She then honed in on the far-reaching effects of women's sports: “For all of us, this is much bigger and much more than soccer. Women's sports are critical to creating the path the world needs for change. Girls who play today become women who lead tomorrow.”
“Girls who fight to defend their goals become women who fight to defend their rights,” Sandberg said. “Girls who calmly create an attack become women who are confident under pressure. And girls who work together to score goals become women who work together to achieve their goals.”
“This investment says, ‘We believe in women, we believe in women's sports, we believe in women's soccer, and we believe in this community to drive change globally,’ “ said Chastain.