Southampton apply to join Women's Championship

St Mary's Stadium
Southampton and Manchester United are the only two Premier League clubs currently without an affiliated senior women's team

Southampton have joined Manchester United in applying to enter a women's team in next season's Women's Championship, BBC Sport has learned.

Saints and United, who announced their bid on Wednesday, are the only two Premier League clubs currently without an affiliated senior women's team.

Southampton currently run female youth sides up to under-21 level, but now want a senior team too.

The Football Association will not name the successful bids until after 27 May.

Other applicants for places in the restructured women's leagues already have senior women's teams playing at lower levels of the pyramid.

If both Southampton and United are successful it will mean that every Premier League club has an affiliated women's side next season.

The FA - which runs the women's leagues in England - say there are up to five spaces available for licences in next season's restructured second tier, which was renamed as the Women's Championship in February.

BBC Sport understands the division has been heavily oversubscribed, with clubs including Crystal Palace and Sheffield United having also confirmed their bids to join the league.

Watford, an existing second-tier side who opted not to apply in autumn's initial closed application phase, are also now believed to have submitted a bid to remain in tier two, but will face additional competition from clubs including Charlton Athletic and Lewes FC.

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