Athletes Unlimited announced on Tuesday the newest addition to the exploding pro women’s sports landscape, the Athletes Unlimited Softball League (AUSL).

Launching in 2025, the AUSL will feature four teams playing a 30-game season (60 total games) in a traditional format, complementing the existing AU Pro Softball Championship Season and creating a new opportunity for the world’s best players to compete. ESPN has signed on as a founding broadcast partner of the AUSL, and will carry at least 18 games exclusively on its linear platforms (ESPN, ESPN2 and ESPNU) in 2025. 

Softball legends Jessica Mendoza, Cat Osterman and Natasha Watley have signed on as advisors to the AUSL, consulting with AU leadership and current athletes on the strategic direction of the new league. They appeared today at a press conference at the College Softball World Series in Oklahoma City alongside AU co-founder and CEO Jon Patricof and AU Senior Vice President and Director of Softball Cheri Kempf to officially announce the new venture. 

The AUSL will become a city-based league beginning in 2026, while the inaugural season in 2025 will be a touring property featuring games in 6-8 different cities. The existing AU Pro Softball Championship Season will follow the conclusion of the AUSL season and will be renamed the AUSL Champions Cup beginning in 2025, while continuing to use AU’s innovative scoring model to crown an individual champion. Further details about the AUSL, including locations, competitors, schedule and additional broadcast partners will be announced at a later date. 

Athletes Unlimited launched in 2020 with its first AU Pro Softball Championship Season later adding pro women’s lacrosse, volleyball and basketball leagues as well as AU Pro Softball AUX, an additional two-week softball season. The AUSL marks the latest expansion of Athletes Unlimited’s presence in softball.

“Athletes Unlimited has been building on the momentum in women’s pro sports since our launch five years ago,” said Jonathan Soros, Athletes Unlimited co-founder. ”We’ve been growing steadily in softball, and the AUSL will be our biggest expansion yet to create more opportunities for fans to watch the world’s best athletes.” 

“With our established infrastructure as well as strong existing sponsorship and broadcast partners and the support of USA Softball, we believe the AUSL is set up for success,” said Patricof. “As the sport prepares to return to the Olympics in 2028 amid increasing fan interest at the college and professional levels, now is the time to seize on this positive momentum and expand the sport even further.” 

“I am confident the AUSL will succeed, building off all the efforts made by so many to build and grow this sport to where it is now,” said Kempf. “The AUSL will benefit from the AU team’s five years of experience, an established and committed broadcast partner in ESPN and a unique relationship with the current players that has not been seen before in this sport. These relationships, along with a unified and supported structure, are what we believe to be the key to success at the professional level.” 

“Athletes Unlimited continues to have an open mind and view for what best serves our sport and athletes,” said Osterman, a three-time Olympic medalist, four-time All-American and six-time professional All-Star. “AUSL is much needed in our sport, as the traditional model is popular amongst fans, but also gives athletes the opportunity to develop and progress within the consistent environment of a season. The AUSL will also help to determine who will compete for the newly named AUSL Champions Cup in the current AU format. It’s a great moment for our sport and amazing to have an organization like Athletes Unlimited continuing to be innovative in serving both athletes and fans alike.” 

“Athletes Unlimited has generated unprecedented national coverage for professional softball by ensuring widespread broadcast distribution for its leagues,” said Mendoza, a two-time Olympic medalist, four time All-American, broadcast analyst and Athletes Unlimited Advisory Board member. “I am confident the AUSL will be the next step in the continued growth of this sport in the U.S., and provide countless opportunities for today’s best players both on and off the field.” 

“The AUSL will continue the mission that Athletes Unlimited began in 2020 to elevate professional softball,” said Watley, two-time Olympic medalist, four-time All-American, and seven-time All-Star softball player. “The AUSL not only gives players another platform to showcase their talent at the highest level, but allows many athletes to extend their softball careers past college and professionally. It also inspires millions of young girls to follow their idols and aspire to be a professional athlete one day.”

“USA Softball is extremely excited for this new era of Athletes Unlimited and believes it is a great step forward in growing the sport of softball,” said Craig Cress, CEO of USA Softball. “Providing these athletes with the chance to play professionally in a more traditional league will not only impact current athletes but also future generations of softball athletes.” 

In conjunction with today’s announcement, Athletes Unlimited has also started new Twitter and Facebook pages that will focus specifically on softball. Fans can follow @AUProSoftball to stay up to date on all AUSL news as well as follow along for exclusive content during the upcoming summer seasons. 

Named one of Fast Company’s Most Innovative Companies in 2023, AU features an Advisory Board comprised of an illustrious group of high-profile contributors from the worlds of sports, business, and entertainment, including basketball legend Sheryl Swoopes, U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team superstar Abby Wambach; and two-time NBA champion and entrepreneur Kevin Durant, among many others.