Getty Images

The National Women's Soccer League will return to Boston in 2026. The league announced Tuesday that they have awarded expansion rights to Boston Unity Soccer Partners (BUSC), a women-led ownership group, in an effort to bring women's soccer back to the historic sports city. The yet-to-be-named club will be the 15th team in the league.

The news comes just after Utah Royals FC and Bay FC were named earlier this year as expansion sides for the upcoming 2024 season. 

"I'm excited to expand the NWSL's footprint and continue its transformative growth in our return to Boston, one of the world's most iconic sports cities," said NWSL Commissioner Jessica Berman. "We are very proud to welcome Boston Unity Soccer Partners to our ownership group. They bring an impressive roster of business leaders committed to continuing Boston's legacy of sports excellence and delivering a successful team to a very passionate fanbase. We are thrilled for their entry to the league in the 2026 season and add a new chapter to the storied history of Boston sports."

No Breakers return in Boston

Boston Unity Soccer Partners is led by Juno Equity Founder and Boston Celtics Minority Owner Jennifer Epstein, strategic marketer and brand builder Stephanie Connaughton, Women's Foundation of Boston Co-Founder and CFO Ami Danoff and Flybridge Capital General Partner Anna Palmer. 

The managing board will include Epstein, who will serve as the controlling partner, and Connaughton, Danoff and Palmer, who will all serve as managing partners.

"Boston is the greatest sports city in the world, and we are thrilled to bring the NWSL back to this passionate fan base," said Epstein. "Our goal is to build a championship-caliber franchise that the city can be proud of, both on the pitch and in the community. We will be relentless and daring in our quest to add another chapter to the city's unrivaled sports legacy.:

The NWSL Boston franchise will be the first Division 1 professional women's soccer team in the area since 2017. A previous NWSL franchise, Boston Breakers, was a founding member of the league after previous stints in the WUSA and WPS. In their final year, they finished in 9th place among a 10-team table, with USWNT players Rose Lavelle and Midge Purce in their rookie season.

They officially ceased operations in 2018, after the NWSL Draft, and later a dispersal draft took place for rostered players with athletes headed to different teams across the league. After the Breakers folding, there was a perception that women's pro soccer could one day return to the major sports market. Though no official club name, crest, or colors has been announced for the new Boston franchise, any chance of a full circle moment for the Breakers return is unlikely.

The Boston Breakers trademark is currently filed with the United States Football League (USFL) as of April 2023. The minor league football organization is in recent talks to merge with the XFL ahead of the 2024 season. The trademark filing likely means that NWSL Boston will have an entirely new identity and the build-up to the 2026 season will allow a head start on branding and facilities.

Stadium renovations

The new Boston franchise will have the honor of the longest build-up to the league as an expansion franchise with their official announcement coming in at just over two years for a head start. 

"I feel very lucky that we have a bit of a runway here because there's really a lot that we need to accomplish before 2026. We're going to renovate a stadium, we're gonna build a practice facility, and we're going to build a great organization, then we're going to go out there and get phenomenal players to play on the team," Epstein said during an introductory press conference. 

"We want to use this runway to build this team really within the fabric of the community. So we will look for touch points throughout the way and bring them alongside with us on the path to 2026."

The new ownership group has already begun preliminary renovation plans for George R. White Stadium. The facility is located in historic Franklin Park, an established part of Boston. Local reactions to the plans have been mixed, with residents around Franklin Park voicing concerns during a community meeting. 

The renovation proposal includes shuttles to help fans to and from the stadium, and mobile stands used to increase a max capacity of 11,000 -- on par with being one of the smaller facilities in the league.

"This is going to turn into our permanent home and we're constructing it in a way that it will be our permanent home," said Epstein on the game day mobile stands and smaller capacity.

"I think what's important to us here in Boston. We have these five storied franchises here and our fans are used to an elevated and very exciting fan experience and we want to create something similar. So when we thought about the size of White Stadium for launch, we want to sell out that stadium, from day one and have it be the same unrivaled fan experience that Boston fans are used to. So, we will start there and we will grow as soon as we need to grow."

What's Next

The 2023 regular sesaon is in the final stretch and none of the 12 teams have officially been eliminated from playoff contention despite only three weeks of play remaining. The season ends on Oct. 15 and the postseason begins with quarterfinals on Oct. 22 and semifinals on Nov. 5. The 2023 NWSL Championship takes place at Snapdragon Stadium in San Diego, California on Nov. 11.