On the banks of the Missouri River, in the shadow of the iconic “Kit” Bond bridge, sports entrepreneurs and J.P. Morgan alumni Angie and Chris Long have taken a ground-breaking step for a new generation of women soccer stars.

On March 16, the club they co-own, Kansas City Current, kicked off their opening game in the National Women’s Soccer League at the CPKC Stadium — the world’s first purpose-built stadium for women’s professional soccer. 

“It’s a remarkable thing to be a part of, and it’s been the ride of lifetime,” Chris said. “It was surreal seeing the joy of the community and the reactions of the players, and how touched they were by the moment.”

The day that Angie describes as pure joy — and that garnered 21 billion impressions online globally — came after three-and-a-half years of building a team, a brand, a platform and trail-blazing facilities from scratch. 

J.P. Morgan bankers Zach Effron and James Millard were there to cheer on the home side from the stands, which were built with $80 million of financing from the firm. “The stadium was packed and the buzz around the ground was palpable — fans were really excited to be part of a historic event,” said Effron, who took his three daughters to the game. “The line for the team store was way out of the door for the whole game. The game itself was amazing, with the Current scoring the first goal and winning 5-4 against arch rivals Portland Thorns. It was awesome. You couldn’t have scripted a better opening.”

“It’s a remarkable thing to be a part of, and it’s been the ride of lifetime. It was surreal seeing the joy of the community and the reactions of the players, and how touched they were by the moment.”

The power and potential of women’s soccer

While the Longs have always been soccer fans, the 2019 Women’s World Cup in Paris marked a pivotal moment for them. The experience of watching their daughter play in matches during the day and attending women’s national team games at night reinforced the power of the sport. Seeing how far women’s soccer had come internationally was the confidence booster they needed to bring it to their hometown.

In 2020, the Longs and another prominent local duo — Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes and his wife Brittany, a former soccer professional  — bought the Kansas City Current team. Among their top priorities was to build their own stadium, which has since brought jobs and economic growth to the community, and created a new home for one of America’s fastest-growing sports. 

“It was the right thing for Angie and Chris to do; women’s teams should have their own stadiums,” Millard said. “Without a dedicated stadium, a women’s team can’t control its destiny with regard to scheduling, and it will miss out on significant revenue streams — everything from naming rights to ticket sales. Those are revenues that can be re-invested in the club and in the facilities for future growth.”

A level playing field 

The first women’s soccer stadium has been a long time coming. However, the Longs’ passion for the sport and commitment to the project — and J.P. Morgan’s willingness to support it — were what the women’s league needed to advance to the next stage of maturity.

Indeed, J.P. Morgan has played a big role in supporting the growth of soccer in the U.S. In 2016, it became the first bank to finance the construction of a Major League Soccer stadium, for Orlando City SC; in 2019, the firm closed on a loan to finance Austin FC’s new stadium; and in 2021, it provided capital to Houston Dynamo and Inter Miami. The group has also executed multiple stadium and arena financings for teams in other U.S., Canadian and European leagues.

With the firm’s support, momentum is now building in women’s soccer, drawing new fans and financial backers. “The valuation growth of teams in the National Women’s Soccer League continues to outpace the men’s sport by an impressive clip, and continues to provide an attractive point of entry as the league continues to expand,” Effron said.

Fifteen to 20 years ago, valuations of leading Major League Soccer men’s teams were around $25 million. Today, some top $1 billion. “It will take a while for the women’s league to reach that, but there is a lot of upside and we are seeing a lot more sophisticated money going into the space,” noted Tim Self, who is part of the Public Finance Lending team at J.P. Morgan. “Stadiums are a key priority for many professional team owners — both in the NWSL and in other professional sports leagues. We’re going to see more owners wanting to have their own stadiums.” 

“Women’s teams should have their own stadiums. Without a dedicated stadium, a women’s team can’t control its destiny with regard to scheduling, and it will miss out on significant revenue streams — everything from naming rights to ticket sales. Those are revenues that can be re-invested in the club and in the facilities for future growth.”

Long-lasting ties

The success of the CPKC Stadium can be partly attributed to the Longs’ deep-rooted relationship with J.P. Morgan. Before launching Palmer Square Capital, an investment firm in the Kansas City area, wife-and-husband team Angie and Chris Long spent part of their careers at J.P. Morgan. Angie held several senior roles during her 13 years at the company, including deputy head of North America Credit Trading. Chris started his career as an analyst in J.P. Morgan’s Financial Institutions and Leveraged Finance Groups, and continued at TH Lee Putnam Ventures and Morgan Stanley before founding Palmer Square Capital in 2009. He now serves as Chairman, CEO and Portfolio Manager, while Angie is the Chief Investment Officer and leads all investment-related activities.   

In so many ways, all that has occurred with the Kansas City Current ties back to the duo’s time at J.P. Morgan and the relationships they built while there and since then. Indeed, many of the business firsts that have happened over the last 15 years with their investment firm have been done in partnership with J.P. Morgan.

“Relationships matter,” Chris said. “If you don’t lose sight of them, you can build something really special over time.” 

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