It’s time for the city of Boston to embrace women’s professional sports, and the city’s sports faithful will have another opportunity beginning in 2026.
The National Women’s Soccer League has decided that Boston will be the home for its newest franchise, so it’s time to get excited about women’s soccer more often than the World Cup.
Boston is a professional sports town. The four major sports are all that matters here. The fifth, the Revolution, are still fighting for respectability and relevance after 27 years. We get it. They play all the way down in Foxborough, in a cavernous football stadium, hardly the proper atmosphere for soccer.
The ownership group for the Boston NWSL team fully understood that the first key to success is playing in the city they represent. The team will help renovate White Stadium in Franklin Park in a $30 million plan to transform it into a modern and intimate soccer venue that will be accessible to the Boston community.
There definitely is soccer interest in Boston. Yet there needs to be a renewed enthusiasm for women’s sports and a desire to embrace and support the latest major professional women’s sports team in Boston.
There have been unfortunate examples of women’s teams that failed in the past, including the Boston Breakers, who tried myriad ways to become part of the local sports fabric, to be accepted by the common Boston sports fan as a legitimate option, not just when the company offers free tickets, the day is sunny, and there’s little to do on a summer afternoon.
It wasn’t all the Breakers’ fault that they failed. There has to be dedication from a city that claims to be so passionate about its sports teams, and that love must spread to women’s sports. The Boston NWSL team is fully aware that making women’s soccer successful in a bustling city such as Boston will be a challenge.
The keys are branding, merchandise, local support, celebrity support, and creating the perception that White Stadium is the place to be — to see soccer’s greats, to bring your young, aspiring soccer players to see their heroes.
The foundation is there. The leader of Boston Unity Soccer Partners is Jennifer Epstein, daughter of Celtics minority owner Robert Epstein, and her all-female group has innovative ideas to bring success to the newest Boston team, beginning with playing at White Stadium.
“We started to think where we could site this team, and Mayor Wu and her entire administration, they’ve been just incredible partners who recognized what a civic achievement this could be,” Epstein said. “Not only create a top-tier professional stadium for world-class female athletes, but our team will use this stadium for 20 days in the calendar year. We have this treasured community asset that has been underutilized, and this could be a real opportunity to invest in that asset.
“And what an exciting opportunity for the students of public schools that they will have the opportunity to play [in White Stadium].”
Renovating White Stadium to serve as a community asset and allow high school teams to play there is a brilliant idea. The Boston NWSL team will begin its tenure here by improving the community, and that’s how it will maintain lasting power. Our professional sports teams could thrive in previous generations despite being impersonal, the owner an older man puffing a cigar whose lone focus was to place a winning product on the field.
That was before the days of the game experience, where fans want to be constantly entertained. They want to hear hip music. They want creative and enthralling halftime shows, and they also want to know their team is indeed part of the community, that they are a part of that community’s growth.
The goal over the next two years for the NWSL Boston ownership group is to ensure the best possible product is on the field by 2026. The group needs to promote the sport to a level where even the most casual fan knows there will be a new team here in two years.
And they’ll need to let us know why they are worthy of our support. It can’t be just because they’re new in Boston or they have some cool swag on their website. It also will be upon us to learn more about the NWSL, more about the amazing players who make up the league, and more about why it should be important for us to support women’s sports.
There is an investment boom in women’s sports. We’re finally realizing that elite female athletes are just as entertaining and enthralling as their male counterparts. We have to acknowledge that they deserve our full efforts and support because they are worthy; they work equally hard and sacrifice their bodies for love of their sport.
So it’s upon all of us to make this work. The NWSL has two teams that dominate in attendance — Portland Thorns FC and Angel City FC (Los Angeles); they have drawn 36 percent of the 12-team league’s attendance. Teams in New York, Orlando, and North Carolina drew fewer than 5,000 fans per game in the 2022 season.
There is no reason why a team in Boston should draw fewer than 10,000 fans per night if the team is marketed correctly and if this fan base actually embraces something new. Women’s professional sports have been seeking recognition for the past 30 years; just ask the WNBA.
It’s about time Boston gives these women the acknowledgement and support they deserve, as the Boston NWSLers promote and brand themselves to their new market while also embracing the community they will represent.