Emerson College’s only independent, student-run newspaper since 1947

The Berkeley Beacon

Emerson College’s only independent, student-run newspaper since 1947

The Berkeley Beacon

Emerson College’s only independent, student-run newspaper since 1947

The Berkeley Beacon

New Boston NWSL team, all-female ownership group excite Emerson women’s soccer players

Illustration by Rachel Choi
The logo for Boston’s forthcoming NWSL franchise.

Despite the Red Sox losing streak and the end of Tom Brady’s Patriots legacy, Boston sports fans have something to celebrate.

On Sept. 19, the National Women’s Soccer League awarded the city of Boston expansion rights for the league’s fifteenth team. 

As one of the nation’s most iconic sports cities, Boston and its athletic legacy is an integral part of the community. Fierce fanbases dedicate time and money to supporting their favorite teams, whether that be the Red Sox, Bruins, Patriots, Celtics or all of the above. 

Typically, however, the most fervent support for Boston sports is centered on male athletes and male-dominated competition. With the addition of this NWSL team, female athletes and women’s sports fans, like Emerson College sophomore midfielder Linae Bezdek, can feel better represented in Boston’s  professional sports community.

“As an athlete myself, it is so validating to see people interested in watching women’s sports and makes me more and more proud to be an athlete every day,” Bezdek said.

Boston has history in the NWSL, with the Breakers representing the city from 2007 to 2018 as one of the founding teams of the league. They disbanded before the 2018 season, citing financial issues.

Jennifer Epstein, the controlling partner of the new female-led ownership group, has deep roots in Boston sports, tying this team to the classics. Her father, Robert Epstein, became a managing partner of the Celtics in 2002, so she grew up surrounded by devoted Boston sports fans. This unwavering sense of family, along with a genuine love for women’s soccer, encouraged her investment in the NWSL team for the city. Her intentions are to build a winning team and a loyal fanbase that the city can be proud of. 

The female-led ownership group is backed by investors with ties to the Celtics and Red Sox organizations. Of the invested capital, 95% comes from women and 40% from investors of color. The diverse group of women behind the team serve as role models to younger sports players, like first-year defensive midfielder Eana Melki.

“It makes me feel like women actually have a place in the sports world,” Melki said.“It keeps me motivated to keep working.”

While it’s still second to classic American pastimes like baseball and football, soccer has grown in popularity in the U.S. in recent years, especially women’s soccer. The NWSL is the fastest-growing professional sports league in the U.S., and with the addition of Boston’s and two other new teams (Utah FC and Bay FC), the league is hoping to maintain that upward trajectory. 

“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,” NWSL commissioner Jessica Berman said in a Sept. 19 press release.

Emerson’s women’s soccer players share the same sentiment, thrilled to experience both increased viewership and encouragement to reach their goals from new, local role models.

“I think it’s a great step towards promoting soccer as an American sport,” first-year defender Ali Dening said in an interview with the Beacon. “As Americans, we tend to be more into the other kind of football, so it’s exciting to see my kind of football get more attention.” 

Boston’s team is expected to play at an updated White Stadium in Franklin Park—only about three miles from the Lions’ home turf, Rotch Field. The stadium, originally built in 1949, currently sits in disrepair due to negligent maintenance since the 1980’s. The ownership group is partnering with the city to rehabilitate the space and enhance the community, bringing new life to the field and in turn, soccer in Boston.

The proximity of the field to the heart of the city offers an opportunity to build a fanbase for both the Boston team and the sport as a whole.

“[The new team] will help increase viewership of women’s soccer as more people will have the opportunity to watch it live,” Melki said.

The team’s name and crest will be announced in 2024, and players will step onto the field in 2026.

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About the Contributor
Anna Knepley
Anna Knepley, Sports Editor
Anna Knepley (she/her) is a freshman journalism major from just outside of Baltimore, Maryland. She currently serves as the assistant sports editor. Outside of the Beacon, she can be found hanging out with friends, exploring the city and writing for the CPLA newsletter. 

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    Ali Dening / Oct 1, 2023 at 5:47 pm

    this anna must be a really smart and cool writer