A group of celebrities led by Hollywood star Natalie Portman and Serena Williams has founded a women’s professional soccer team set to debut in 2022, the women’s pro soccer league said on Tuesday evening.
Big-names involved in the effort include the tennis megastar, as well as Hollywood stars Jessica Chastain, Eva Longoria, America Ferrera and Jennifer Garner.
“A majority woman-founded group” led by Portman “has secured the exclusive right to bring a professional women’s soccer team to Los Angeles to kick off in Spring 2022,” the National Women’s Soccer League said.
The team’s formal name is yet to be announced, but “the group has formally coined itself ‘Angel City’ in honour of its planned home in Los Angeles,” the statement said.
It would become the 11th team in the NWSL. Currently, there are nine teams in the league, but one other team -the Louisville FC – is set to rejoin the league in 2021.
The founding investor group includes Williams’ young daughter Olympia, and several former US Women’s National Team players including Mia Hamm, Lauren Cheney Holiday and Abby Wambach.
Gaming entrepreneur Julie Uhrman will be the franchise president.
“Today we take an exciting step by announcing the first women majority-owned and led ownership group,” said Portman, who won an Oscar in 2011 for her role in “Black Swan.”
“Sports are such a joyful way to bring people together, and this has the power to make tangible change for female athletes both in our community and in the professional sphere,” she said.
Portman, who has been active in causes such as the “Time’s Up” movement against sexual abuse in the entertainment industry, said that the franchise hopes “to make a substantive impact on our community, committing to extending access to sports for young people in Los Angeles.”
The NWSL, which had its inaugural season in 2013, was the first US professional sports league to restart activities amid the novel coronavirus pandemic.
The league’s Challenge Cup tournament has been held since June 27, with teams playing in two stadiums in the state of Utah without spectators and without some of its biggest stars, including Megan Rapinoe.
The tournament’s final game is scheduled for Sunday.
The United States is a powerhouse of women’s football and are the current world champions.
Meanwhile, US Open organisers said the cancellation of next month’s tournament in Washington DC “in no way impacts” the behind-closed-doors Grand Slam scheduled for the end of August.
The Citi Open tournament was due to mark the resumption of the men’s tennis season after the coronavirus lockdown but has been called off because of “continued uncertainties” amid the pandemic.
The event in the US capital was set to start on August 13, but the ATP Tour has pushed its return back to later in the month.
The Cincinnati Open and US Open are still scheduled to take place back-to-back in New York from August 20, despite several leading figures in men’s tennis casting doubts over the hardcourt Grand Slam.
“This decision in no way impacts the US Open or the Western & Southern Open,” the United States Tennis Association (USTA) said in a statement.
“The USTA will create a safe and controlled environment for players and everyone else involved in both tournaments that mitigates health risks.”
It added: “We constantly base our decisions regarding hosting these tournaments on our three guiding principles that include safety and health of all involved, whether hosting these events are in the best interest in the sport of tennis and whether this decision is financially viable.