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Ohio Group Announces Pursuit of NWSL Franchise in Cleveland

An Ohio-area group announced on Tuesday its intentions to bring a NWSL expansion team to Cleveland.

The Cleveland Soccer Group and the Rock Entertainment Group have launched a campaign called “Back the Bid,” with the intention of adding a professional women’s soccer team in Cleveland. The Rock Entertainment Group is also part owner of the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Lake Erie Monsters of the American Hockey League.

“We need to show the league that Cleveland is the best market with the best fans,” CEO of the Cleveland Soccer Group Michael Murphy said in a press release. “Clevelanders have always stepped up for our great city. Just like they rallied to bring the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame here, we know we can count on their support, enthusiasm, and unique Cleveland grit. Our mission is to unite soccer fans and lovers of Cleveland by ‘Backing the Bid.’”

A soccer ball with an NWSL logo on it sits on a field.

The NWSL will have 15 teams by 2026, and a Cleveland group would like Ohio to have the 16th team.

The NWSL currently has 12 active teams, with three more expansion teams arriving by the 2026 season. Of those teams, though, there are none in Ohio, with the nearest team being Racing Louisville FC. 

The league announced in May that it would like to have 16 teams by the 2026 season, and Boston already won the rights to the 15th organization in September.

Cleveland is host to three men’s professional teams, while Cincinnati has three and Columbus owns two. However, Ohio does not have a processional women’s team in either basketball or soccer.

“Cleveland has a storied history of representing major sports and events on a national stage,” David Gilbert, President and CEO of Destination Cleveland and Greater Cleveland Sports Commission, said. “The NWSL would find in Cleveland a committed city and fan base that would support its players and make an ideal partner to continue the long-term growth of the sport.”