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New Wave FC season underway as women's sports grabs the spotlight

 April 10, 2024 at 1:00 PM PDT

S1: Welcome in San Diego , it's Jade Hindman. On today's show , the wave FC kicks off their new season amid a shining era for women's sports. This is midday edition , connecting our communities through conversation. You're listening to Kpbs Midday Edition. I'm Jade Hindman. The San Diego Wave FC recently kicked off their third season , and in the three years since they've been playing , they've found success on the pitch and in the stands , breaking multiple attendance records and making it to the semifinals. So what can fans expect this season ? Says our. Hernandez is a journalist who covers soccer in the U.S. and Mexico , and he joins us now. Cesar , welcome back to midday.

S2: Thanks for having me.

S1: So glad to have you on. As I just mentioned , the National Women's Soccer League team has seen remarkable success in its first few years.

S2: I remember during wave's inaugural season in 2022 , I got a coffee with Ellis and was incredibly impressed by the way that she laid out , how she was utilizing her experience as a coach and using that player management style over to people management as a club president , and building connections and trust in the organization through that. And people are inspired by that. And I remember one front office staff member telling me how excited they were to be coached in an office setting , one of the best coaches in the world. So as for the actual , you know , head coach of wave , you know , Ellis was able to bring in the well-respected Casey Stoney as head coach , and she was also able to bring in a prominent player like US women's national team superstar Alex Morgan , who not only led the league and goals in wave's 2022 inaugural season , but also helped bring in tens of thousands of fans that you want , that you see that are in the stands or want to see Morgan and all of her teammates. So those fans also shouldn't be overlooked. You know , they're breaking attendance record numbers that you just need to mention right there at Snapdragon Stadium. And they helped make the venue a daunting one for visiting teams. And in 2023 , they led the league in average attendances with 20,000 plus last year. And last month , they set a new NWSL home opener record with 32,030 2066 actually to be exact , in attendance. So you couple that with smart signings for game changers like defender Naomi Girma and upcoming player like Jaden Shaw , reliable goalkeeper like Caitlin Sheridan , and you have the right mixture on and off the field for wave.

S1: Yeah , you mentioned some of those star players.

S2: You know , let's let's be real. It's it's a it's still a little too early to to make predictions about the team. Were really truly assess them. But so far it's not bad. They kick things off last month with a title and the Challenge Cup , which is a one off game between last season's champions and the regular season leaders , wave as last season's regular season leaders. They defeated current champions Gotham FC one nothing and then after winning the Challenge Cup , they kicked off the regular season with a loss and a win at home , and I chatted with head coach Casey Stoney after their loss , and she told me that she thought her team still played well in a 2 to 1 defeat to Kansas City , and days later they responded with a one nothing win over the Seattle Rain , and that included a dramatic late goal in the dying minutes of the match. So obviously that one loss is an ideal. But I agreed with Stoney's assessment that they looked fluid and they played well in that game , and they were able to get the job done in their latest results. So so far , you know , not not bad. But yeah , I want to say it's still a little too early to make any real assumptions or assessment here.

S1: All right. Well how does the roster look different this season.

S2: So I think , you know , it's it's pretty similar. You know , there's some slight changes , you know. New midfielder Savannah McCaskill has looked excellent. And let's be highly involved in the build up of plays. Uh , Caitlin Torpey and Hannah Landis are interesting young additions. But as for departing players , you know , midfielder Taylor Flint , she went to Racing Louisville who just so have to be waves next opponent and away game. So that should be a fun one.

S1: Well , you know , this past weekend women's college basketball really captured the sports spotlight. Multiple viewing records were broken over the course of this year's NCAA tournament. Then in soccer , we you know , we see the attendance records for the wave FC matches being broken.

S2: I mean , if we're if we're looking at a soccer perspective , we're seeing how it's not only growing domestically , but also globally and domestically. When we're looking here in the US through the NWSL , you're seeing more teams are out of this season. Salaries are going up , their record signings for the league , a new broadcast deal that is reported worth $240 million. And they want to continue to expand as well with more teams in the future. And that's needed because , you know , we've seen , uh , like I said , how soccer is increasing across the globe. And we saw in the Women's World Cup last year where the US women's national team fell in the round of 16. So competition is increasing all over the globe. And looking here domestically , I mean , you mentioned right there , you know , the Women's March Madness. You see , you know , the big deal that San Diego wave were , were sold for. And , you know , I think it once again highlights the growing power and the highly deserved attention that women's sports is getting. Yeah.

S1: Yeah. Well , I mean , and on that , I mean , on the cusp of the start of this season , it was announced that San Diego Wave FC was being sold for a record $120 million.

S2: You know , last month , Sportico , they first broke the news that they would be sold in a two part deal to the Levine Levine family. And according to Sportico and their sources , you know , it's $35 million now for 35% of the team. And they've agreed to buy the other 65% for 78 million after the 2024 season. So that's about $113 million of the valuation is expected to be higher once the deal is all done , and it puts the valuation closer to $140 million range. But but keep in mind , the last record for purchase of an NWSL team was $63 million early this year for the Portland Thorns. So like I said , you see this , you see the investment being made in player transfers and a new broadcast deal. And those numbers that we talked about with women's college basketball. And , you know , like I said , it highlights the growing power that the women's sports are getting.

S3: Yeah , it's.

S1: Nothing to sneeze at for sure. Uh , yesterday , the U.S. women's national soccer team beat Canada to win the Shi Believes Cup.

S2: I mean , I've mentioned Sha , you know , Jade and Sha. She looks like she's going to not only be the future of the US women's National team , but also an important figure in the current era. Alex Morgan obviously , despite being one of the older players , she still shown that she has plenty to offer. Naomi Girma , who I mentioned earlier too. She's 23 but plays with the confidence of someone who's 33 in my opinion and is such a reliable presence. And I keep saying reliable because she is such a reliable presence in defence for club and country. And then you have Abby Dahlkemper , you know , wave's first signing that unfortunately has dealt with some injury issues in recent seasons , but she's now back on the field since late 2023 and looking like a like a very good player once again.

S3: All right Cesar.

S1: Hernandez covers soccer for ESPN. Cesar , thank you so much for joining us today. Great conversation.

S2: Thank you so much for having me.

S1: That's our show for today. Don't forget to watch Evening Edition tonight at five for in-depth reporting on San Diego issues. Of course , we'll be back tomorrow at noon. And if you ever miss a show , you can find the Midday Edition podcast on all platforms. I'm your host , Jade Hindman. Thanks for listening.

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San Diego Wave FC defender Naomi Girma waves to fans following an NWSL match at Snapdragon Stadium.
Bennett Lacy
San Diego Wave FC defender Naomi Girma waves to fans following an NWSL match at Snapdragon Stadium.

San Diego Wave FC's third season is underway. In their short history, the professional women's soccer team has seen success on the field, as well as in the stands. We hear about the prospects for the new season, amid news of new ownership and record-breaking attendance numbers.

The Wave's season opened as women's sports grabbed the national spotlight during this year's NCAA women's basketball tournament. We hear about what the moment means for the future of women's sports.


Cesar Hernandez, soccer reporter, ESPN