NWSL: The California invasion of Angel City and San Diego Wave

The crests of Angel City FC and San Diego Wave FC sit side-by-side.

All eyes will be on the state of California as it introduces not one, but two NWSL expansion teams during the 2022 season.

Both Angel City FC and San Diego Wave FC will make their long-awaited debut when the third annual NWSL Challenge Cup begins in March.

The NWSL has had its fair share of ups and downs during the last year. But the introduction of the two California clubs is a bright spot for the league.

From the Hollywood sign to 2pac’s “California Love”, we all have something that pops into our mind when we think of California. It’s a testament to the global influence of the Golden State’s culture. And now, Angel City and the Wave will have their chance to make an impact through women’s football.

What to expect ahead of the inaugural season

Besides a list full of famous founders and investors that are on the board for Angel City, both clubs have named stellar coaches joining in on the action.

Freya Coombe is no stranger to the league. The former NJ/NY Gotham FC coach sits at the helm at Angel City. Coombe had been named Sky Blue interim coach during the 2019 season, which led her to the newly branded Gotham FC last season.

On the other hand, Casey Stoney is a name some NWSL fans might not be so familiar with. The former Manchester United Women’s manager has an impressive resume when it comes to football. As a player, Stoney made 130 appearances with the England women’s national team, and played at clubs such as Liverpool, Chelsea, and Arsenal. She brings a wide range of knowledge and experience to the table.

The inaugural season will be exciting to watch as both teams look to bring new beginnings and hope for these clubs.

Stadiums

Lest we not forget about the immaculate stadiums that will also make their NWSL debut as the home turfs of these clubs. At Angel City, Banc of California stadium will be sporting not only ACFC but also LAFC in the MLS. The stadium holds 22,000 at full capacity, including premium seating and a supporters section. In December, ACFC announced they have already sold 13,200 season tickets for 2022.

Members of the 1999 FIFA World Cup championship team pose for a photo at Banc of California Stadium.
Members of the 1999 FIFA World Cup championship team pose for a photo at half time of the USWNT vs. Belgian game at Banc of California Stadium on April 07, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Katharine Lotze/Getty Images)

Head just over 120 miles south on I-5, and you’ll find Snapdragon Stadium. It’s already home to San Diego State University, but will also host the Wave during their inaugural season with its 35,000-seat capacity.

“Snapdragon Stadium provides elite facilities for our players and amenities to our fans,” said club president Jill Ellis. “From day one, we set out to deliver an unrivaled gameday experience for fans that match the energy and the quality of soccer on the field.”

Battleground state 

There is nothing like showing up to a stadium and instantly feeling the energy of the crowd miles away from the pitch. One’s heart is pumping out of your chest before the game has even begun like the beating of the home supporter club’s drum.

NWSL fans are used to seeing these rivals and match ups but there will be a new rivalry coming in 2022. The Golden State will not only bring a new match up on the West Coast but an interstate battleground. As Jill Ellis has stated that the game day experience will be top caliber, and fans are sold on the fact that this will be another matchup not to miss out on.

Players to watch

Angel City

Besides a list full of famous founders and investors, Angel City began making a name for themselves by signing USWNT star Christen Press before the expansion draft. This signing was the jet fuel that ACFC was looking for to launch them into the new year. Press, who previously played with Manchester United, has been a household name.

Christen Press of Manchester United looks on.
Christen Press of Manchester United looks on during the FAWSL match against Everton on 9 May 2021 in Leigh, England. (Photo by Charlotte Tattersall/Getty Images)

Over the last few years, Press has made her opponents wish they didn’t have to cover her. Nothing but top class for this USWNT star. Let’s not forget about Canadian Olympic gold medalist Vanessa Giles joining the squad. This top tier defender has recently finished her stint in the Division 1 Feminine league with FC Girondins de Bordeaux.

San Diego Wave

San Diego Wave FC made a splash with signing their first players being none other than USWNT stars Abby Dahlkemper and Alex Morgan. During the NWSL window of trade, San Diego began making waves. The trade that was made between Gotham FC and San Diego Wave securing Kailen Sheridan to the club. No doubt that Sheridan will be making waves and miraculous saves over on the West Coast this upcoming season.

One of the latest additions to this star stunning roster is Sweden international Sofia Jakobsson. For those who have seen the USWNT face off against Sweden, Jakobsson is a mainstay in her national team. The force she brings to any attacking front is one that will have the Wave crashing down on the opposition.

Sweden's Sofia Jakobsson controls the ball between Finland's Essi Sainio and Elli Pikkujamsa.
Sweden’s Sofia Jakobsson controls the ball between Finland’s Essi Sainio and Elli Pikkujamsa during the FIFA Women’s 2023 World Cup Qualifier on 25 November 2021. (Photo by BJORN LARSSON ROSVALL/TT NEWS AGENCY/AFP via Getty Images)

The trades and signees continue with San Diego recently adding Australia international Emily Van Egmond and Orlando Pride midfielder Taylor Kornieck. Both players will provide substantial stability to the team through their versatility. Kornieck is not a new name to NWSL fans; the 2020 third overall college draft pick provided the Pride with a dominant midfield presence that could not be overlooked.

After the college draft and the expansion draft, both California teams began showing positive signs of what their starting rosters will look like. Needless to say, it’s very possible that both teams are going to be a force to reckon with.

MORE from Her Football Hub: