When it comes to professional sports, girls don’t often get to see women represented, unless they look to the sidelines where the cheerleaders are performing. But women’s professional soccer, in which the U.S. has excelled since its team won the very first official FIFA Women’s World Cup in 1991, has long been a sport where girls can find inspiration and strength.
And now Natalie Portman, along with a group of other female entrepreneurs, is seeking to bring even more accessibility and visibility to women in sports. Portman is spearheading an effort to add a new Los Angeles-based team to the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL). Tentatively called the Angel City FC, Portman’s group includes other famous actors/investors including Jennifer Garner, Serena Williams and Eva Longoria.
@weareangelcity posted an introductory tweet, complete with a video, after being awarded rights to form the expansion team.
The time has come to reshape expectations on & off the soccer field.
— We Are Angel City (@weareangelcity) July 21, 2020
Top-tier athletes are also supporting the Angel City FC venture. Mia Hamm, Julie Foudy, Lauren Cheney Holiday and Abby Wambach are among the former U.S. Women’s National Team (USWNT) athletes and Women’s World Cup stars who have invested in the NWSL expansion team.
“After spending time with the USWNT players, their union rep, and getting to know some of the owners of the NWSL and the league’s supporters, it became clear having a team in L.A. could not only elevate the league and players’ exposure, but also bring these incredibly talented women to the city of L.A. — my city,” 39-year-old Academy Award winner Portman told Sportico. “We have the ability to engage, promote and support the best players in the world in the most popular sport in the world on a yearly basis, not just every four years.”
There are currently nine other teams in the National Women’s Soccer League, including two West Coast teams, the Portland Thorns and the OL Reign. Racing Louisville FC will join in 2021, making Angel City FC the 11th team to join the NWSL. L.A. last had a women’s team in 2010, the Los Angeles Sol.
Visibility of women in sports is of crucial importance when it comes to inspiring girls to reach their full athletic potential, as well as giving these incredibly gifted and determined female atheltes the same attention and support we give to male athletes.
“We often talk in politics about symbolic representation, the idea that you ‘can’t be what you can’t see,'” Rutgers University professor Kelly Dittmar said to The Atlantic. “But if you can see the potential for [women being celebrated as American sports heroes], you aren’t just seeing the potential that women can be successful soccer stars, but even more broadly, that these very physically strong and also emotionally strong women are being given the credit they deserve.”
Angel City FC is expected to begin playing in the spring of 2022.