Super League Tampa Bay, a new professional women's soccer team, appointed Christina Unkel as its first club president and Denise Schilte-Brown as its head coach.
Super League Tampa Bay is part of the United Soccer League and will begin its inaugural season in August 2024 alongside 10 to 12 other teams, "bringing top-tier women's pro sports to the region for the first time," the league says in a statement.
Unkel lives in Sarasota and has an MBA and law degree from Stetson University. She owns multiple businesses and works as a sports TV analyst for Apple TV, the release states. Unkel has also worked as a soccer referee for FIFA and was a college soccer player.
Unkel was a practicing civil litigation attorney with Maglio Christopher & Toale PA in Sarasota from 2015 to this past February, according to her LinkedIn profile. Her focus included construction law, business Law and complex litigation/class action. Unkel was also CEO of the Womens Sports Museum in Sarasota for three months in 2020, right before the pandemic.
"The women's game is at an inflection point where it is not only the fans looking for more experiences, but also players, broadcasters, and advertisers." Unkel says in the statement. "The marketplace is fully ready to embrace women's professional soccer and I am humbled to be part of its inauguration into Tampa Bay."
Tampa-based Denise Schilte-Brown will join Super League Tampa Bay in November 2023, upon the completion of her 16th season as head coach for the University of South Florida Bulls. Schilte-Brown has led USF to six American Athletic Conference championships, including five straight seasons with a championship from 2017 to 2021, the release states. In 2020, she led the USF team as it won both the regular season and tournament championships in the same season for the first time.
Shaw says the appointments show the team will be ready for major league play in August 2024.
Super League Tampa Bay’s formal name, colors and crest will be revealed later this summer, according to the team.
USL Super League will be the highest level of professional women's sports to ever field a team, the league says. It will develop a world network, including 10 to 12 professional teams in the first season, 65 pre-professional teams in the W League and more than 80 USL Academy programs for elite players under the age of 20.
The Tampa-based league oversees the USL Championship men's professional league, which includes the Tampa Bay Rowdies.