Arguably the best club soccer team in European women’s football, Olympique Lyon, is looking to expand into the United States.
Jean-Michel Aulas, president of OL Groupe, which owns Lyon’s men’s and women’s teams as well as the grand Groupama Stadium, said in a statement that Lyon was in negotiations to “take over” an NWSL team. Negotiations could finish soon enough that it could start with the 2020 season.
“Our international expansion also involves a project in the United States with the decision to take over a women’s football franchise,” Aulas said, via Lyon’s website. “The project is progressing well and we aim to be operational before the start of the next season, in March-April 2020.”
It’s unclear exactly whether Aulas would purchase a team off a current investor, start an expansion franchise, or revive a former club like the Boston Breakers or FC Kansas City. The Washington Spirit and Sky Blue FC are both in tough situations and could do with an injection of cash. Lyon had revenues of more than $300 million over the past year, and assuming some would be allocated to the NWSL club, that would be a massive boost for them.
In addition, Lyon’s women’s team is currently the four-time defending UEFA Women’s Champions League winners, especially thanks to Norwegian superstar Ada Hegerberg. Lyon has also won Ligue 1 for 13-straight years, staying above Paris Saint-Germain despite significant investment in talent from the French side.
If Lyon plans to treat an NWSL team like its club in France, this is a win-win proposition from NWSL. It allows a massive brand to lend its weight to the league, and also enables some of Lyon’s young guns to come to the U.S. and compete against some of our best stars. In addition, it could lead to more chances for American players with Lyon, should U.S. Soccer allow them to move abroad at some point after the Olympics.