In a candid and insightful interview, Aly Wagner, co-founder of Bay FC and former professional soccer player, shared her journey from a young soccer enthusiast to a trailblazing figure in women’s sports. 

With a robust career that spans playing in international leagues, representing the U.S. Women’s National Team at the World Cup and Olympics, and pioneering as a broadcaster and football club co-founder, while raising four children, Wagner’s story is one of passion, perseverance, and profound impact. 

Now at the helm of Bay FC, Wagner is dedicated to building a globally recognized football club in the Bay Area, while championing the growth and visibility of women’s sports.

Can you share with us your soccer journey and how it led you to co-found a professional women’s football club in the Bay Area?

Aly Wagner: I began my soccer journey at a young age, starting at four on the sidelines of my sister’s games. Soon after my mother began coaching me and I quickly demonstrated a natural talent for the sport, routinely scoring multiple goals in games. My passion for soccer deepened as I spent countless hours practicing (with a French trainer, from age 8 until 18) and setting personal goals, aiming to play in the Olympics and join the national team by age ten. 

My dedication and persistence paid off as I advanced through various competition levels, joining the U.S. Women’s National Team residency program in 1999. Despite significant challenges, including two ACL tears, I achieved my dreams, playing in the 2003 World Cup and the 2004 Olympics. Over my career, I participated in seven World Cups and eight Olympics before injuries led me to retire in 2009 at age 29.

Post-retirement, I transitioned into broadcasting, starting with the 2015 Women’s World Cup, and became the first woman to call a men’s World Cup game in 2018. 

During the pandemic in 2020, I co-founded Bay FC, bringing a professional women’s soccer team to the Bay Area. It’s particularly meaningful to bring change and make such an impact in my native region.

Can you tell us about your experience playing for the Olympique Lyonnais in France and how it influenced your career?

Playing for Lyon was one of the highlights of my career, both on and off the pitch. I loved the French lifestyle, enjoyed the simplicity of daily routines like visiting local markets and taking the metro to training. The relaxed pace and the opportunity to linger in cafés and engage with the community made me feel more present and enriched my experience. 

On the field, my coach, Farid Benstiti, gave me the freedom to be creative and express myself, which contrasted sharply with the style of play I experienced in the United States. This freedom reignited my passion for the sport, made me a better player, and boosted my confidence, ultimately improving my performance when I returned to the U.S. National Team.

How did you and your co-founders decide to launch a professional women football club in San Jose? What kind of opportunity did you see in the Bay Area?

We launched Bay FC in the Bay Area to address the surprising lack of professional women’s sports teams in a region with such a rich sports culture, dense and diverse demographics, and substantial resources. Recognizing the community’s passion for sports and the need for a platform to celebrate women’s professional athletics, we saw an opportunity to create meaningful change. 

By establishing Bay FC, we aim to harness the area’s innovative spirit and commitment to progress, providing a dedicated space for women’s sports to thrive and disrupt the status quo. And we are really excited about the upcoming launch of the professional women’s basketball team in San Francisco to deepen this impact!

Who are the key investors behind Bay FC, and what is their vision for the team’s impact on women’s sports?

The investment firm Sixth Street, along with a diverse group of Bay Area women leaders, professional athletes, and business executives, invested in Bay FC to promote equity and growth in women’s sports, sharing the vision of women’s sports being one of the smartest investments for today and the future. 

Women’s sports is at a critical inflection point of significant growth, fan engagement and global viewership. This investment, the largest ever in a global women’s professional sports franchise, is seen as a landmark moment in Bay Area sports history and a pivotal point for large-scale investments in women’s sports.

How do you think that Bay FC will disrupt the status quo and empower the next generations of women soccer players?

Bay FC will inspire future generations of players thanks to the transformative power of witnessing and experiencing the electric atmosphere of Bay FC games, which can change perceptions of what is possible for young players and inspire them to pursue their dreams in football.

We have a unique opportunity to disrupt the sports market and establish Bay FC as a leading global brand in women’s football, capitalizing on its foundation as a women’s club and with the potential to rival major men’s sports brands like Barcelona.

Our strategy involves perfecting local activations and game experiences in the Bay Area, leveraging the diverse community as a springboard for global expansion. By resonating with the global community through the club’s branding, style of play, and technology-driven outreach, we aim to attract fans worldwide. 

International players from Ghana, Zambia, Nigeria, Canada currently play for Bay FC. Is the goal to create a world-class club that attracts top players from all over the world?

Absolutely! Bringing global talent into Bay FC’s squad is a strategic move aimed at enhancing on-field performance and establishing a strong international brand. 

With a focus on recruiting players from various countries, including historically untapped regions like Germany and talent-rich nations like France, our club seeks to leverage diverse skill sets and perspectives.

Additionally, considering the success of Brazilian players in the league and the potential in South America, the decision to scout talent globally aligns with our objective of building a competitive team while expanding our global presence.

How has women soccer changed in the last few decades since you started your career?

Women’s football has seen significant improvement in player quality and tactical sophistication, with countries like Spain and France emerging as talent hubs. 

Despite historic media coverage disparities, recent shifts, including social media engagement and corporate sponsorships like Ally Financial’s 50/50 media commitments, signal a growing recognition of the value of investing in women’s sports. While media coverage was previously heavily skewed towards men’s sports, with a ratio of 95/5, recent efforts aim to address this imbalance. Bay FC’s partnership with NBC, broadcasting games on NBC Sports Bay Area and beyond, reflects this changing landscape and the increasing visibility of women’s sports.

What are your biggest hopes and expectations for the Olympics Games in Paris this summer?

The Olympics will showcase the best version of women’s football that we have seen yet. I have high hopes for the US team with a new coach and for developing younger players for future tournaments.

The Olympics have always celebrated women athletes, and with the momentum behind women’s sports, women will be front and center at the Paris Olympics.

Any final words you would like to share with our readers?

If you’re a fan of football, whether men’s or women’s, you’ll love watching Bay FC play. The matches are fun, entertaining, and showcase fantastic quality on the field. Come support this team and be part of something special we’re building.

Merci Aly

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