Nike has extended its sponsorship of the National Women’s Soccer League for the next four years, SI.com has learned. It’s a positive sign for the U.S. women’s top flight, which is holding its championship game on Thursday night between the Seattle Reign and FC Kansas City (FS1, 9:30 p.m. ET).
Neither of the U.S.’s previous Division I women’s soccer leagues, the WUSA and WPS, survived beyond a third season. But the NWSL is optimistic about its future heading into Season 4 next year. The Nike extension is a big part of that.
“We’ve always known we’d be around [for Season 4] and we’re excited about our future,” NWSL commissioner Jeff Plush told SI.com, “but this is the real exciting telltale sign that not only are we around, but other people are investing in us and believe in us and believe in the women who make up our league.”
Plush didn’t specify the cash value of Nike’s commitment, but he called it “a significant commitment” that includes apparel and an NWSL-specific game ball for the first time next year.
He added the league is in talks with Fox Sports about extending its TV deal next season.
All nine NWSL teams will be back for next year, said Plush, who said an expansion announcement could come soon. The Guardian reported recently that MLS’s Orlando City would add an NWSL team next year.