To announce its inaugural season, Bay FC, the new women’s professional soccer team, recently held a media launch at the DoubleTree by Hilton on Gateway Place by the airport.
The glorious journey of the current moment enriched the history even more. Or perhaps vice-versa. The event was so amazing that former San Francisco Giants legend Hunter Pence and his wife Lexi even showed up to address the media and show their support.
But first, the four Bay FC co-founders—Brandi Chastain, Aly Wagner, Danielle Slaton and Leslie Osborne—took the stage to unveil the team’s 2024 jersey and answer questions. They formed a perfect quartet. Three of them were born in San Jose. All four starred for Santa Clara University years ago.
Chastain spoke to her youth attending Earthquakes games in the old NASL days, circa late-’70s, early-’80s. During those games, she said, many other kids ran around Spartan Stadium engaged in various activities like sliding down the dirt hill behind the east grandstand, but Brandi remained in the audience, glued to the game.
“I remember sitting in the stands while the kids were running around, and I remember at Spartan Stadium, it used to have … a dirt berm on the backside of the stadium and all the kids would run to that,” she recalled. “And I couldn’t get out of my seat. I was just fixated on the players.”
With Bay FC now launching its first season, Chastain said she wanted to relay the torch to the current generation.
“For me, every fan that walks through that gate, that’s the intention we have for them, is to be mesmerized and entertained and full of joy and delight, that they can hardly wait to come back,” she said. “It’s too bad we only have ‘X’ amount of games in our stadium because we want that feeling and we are intentional about making that happen.”
The very first attempt to establish a top-flight women’s professional league in the Bay Area resulted in the San Jose CyberRays playing their home games at Spartan Stadium and winning the 2001 WUSA Championship. Chastain led that team. Gauging from the global roster Bay FC has already assembled, they just might repeat that accomplishment.
On stage at the DoubleTree, Chastain spoke to that history. It was impossible to separate it from the journey of the current moment.
“This is the first home of a domestic women’s soccer championship team, so we have history here already,” she said. “And I believe our responsibility is to give that to our players … we’re going to share that with them, and we want them to feel that ownership and the delight that comes along with it. Yes, there’s a responsibility, but it’s not a burden, it’s a gift. And that’s what today is. And going forward, we can write the history that we want.”
The history didn’t stop there. The same hotel, now the DoubleTree, was formerly the Red Lion Inn in 1995 when Major League Soccer, the men’s game, made its own historical announcement via simulcast from New York City that San Jose would host the league’s inaugural game in 1996. Going back even further, the old San Jose Earthquakes offices in the ’70s were directly across the street, at 2025 Gateway Place.
The moment was an emotional one, especially for Chastain. Continuing, she spoke about her own family history.
“My mom was a trailblazer for me and a tremendous example of a woman who, she didn’t have secondary education, but she went on to become a vice president of a company because she was determined,” Chastain said. “And I think that’s the type of environment that we have also been living in, and we believe in, and we want to push forward.”
Even though two previous iterations of women’s pro soccer in the Bay Area have not survived, this time around the differences were blatantly obvious. The money was there. The stadium was there. The foundation was there. It was a much more substantial project, Chastain said.
“I think what we have in front of us is a remarkable opportunity to showcase women—women in sports, women in business, women however they want to show up here.”