New division in USL W League will include 4 Bay Area-based teams

Six additional expansion clubs will join Oakland Soul and Stockton Cargo to create the NorCal Division, the USL W League announced Thursday. The new division is expected to participate in the league in 2023.

The USL W League named the San Francisco Glens, Academica SC, California Storm, Pleasanton RAGE, and Marin FC as the newest clubs to form the division. The league is a pre-professional one that often serves as a connection from college sports to professional for many women in soccer.

"The establishment of a NorCal Division is a watershed moment for the W League…paired with our Northwest Division, the W League’s footprint is now truly national..." said Amanda Vandervort, USL Super League and W League President.

The Olympic Club, which was founded in 1860, is the oldest in the league and one of the oldest athletic clubs in the country. Its purpose was to be "a home for elite amateur athletes." Since 2002, the club has fielded local competitive women's soccer teams. 

"It's absolutely vital that we have a robust and high-quality league like this on a national level and we're honored to get to play a role in making that happen here in Northern California," said Nick Lusson, Olympic Club athletic director. 

The SF Glens was established in 1961 by Irish Americans, making it the second-oldest of the eight teams. 

"This is a big step for Northern California soccer as a whole…establishing a first team in the W League and a U20 team in the USL Academy…shows we're committed to building our girls’ program and gives our Academy girls role models to aspire to," SF Glens Women's Director Jessica Hewins said.

Similarly to the SF Glens, Academica SC was founded by immigrants. Its founders came from the Azores Islands of Portugal 50 years ago. 

Pleasanton RAGE, created in 1983 with the focus of "holistic player development," said the investment the W League is making will "improve and grow" women's soccer at the pre-professional level in the region, and is something they are proud to be a part of.

The California Storm, first founded in 1995, had multiple famous players play for the team, including former USWNT players Brandi Chastain and Julie Foudy, both FIFA and Olympic champions. Brazilian player and coach Sissi also notably played for the team for 10 years.

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"The California Storm is very excited to be part of the launch of the USL W League in California," said Jamie Levoy, Executive Director. "We need more options for women to play here in the U.S…we look forward to working with [USL] to continue to grow the game for women and inspire the next generation."

More recently, Marin FC was founded in 2004 specifically "to support the development of elite competitive soccer teams and players" in the county. Similarly to Academica SC, the club has a men's team that will participate in League Two.

The newest of the active clubs is Stockton Cargo, founded a year ago to provide "first-class sports entertainment" for the city and throughout the San Joaquin Valley, and showcase the talent of local players.

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Oakland Soul, affiliated with their male counterparts, Oakland Roots Sports Club, will compete for the first time in 2023 in the division.

"We’re thrilled to be taking the next steps in realizing our vision for soccer in Oakland, a sport that should be open and accessible to everyone," said Lindsay Barenz, President of Oakland Roots and Oakland Soul.