LONDON: Manchester United have been awarded a licence to join next season’s Women’s Championship, ending their 13-year absence from the senior women’s game.
West Ham United will move straight up to the top flight – the new 11-team, full-time Women’s Super League.
Charlton, Leicester, Sheffield United and Lewes will join the Red Devils in being added to the second tier.
But current top-flight side Sunderland and second-tier Watford and Oxford are to drop out of England’s top two tiers.
The shuffles follow a restructuring of the women’s leagues – which are run by the Football Association – and sees existing clubs have to reapply for their places, before a second, open application phase.
Southampton, Crystal Palace and Derby County were among the other sides to bid to join the new second division, but were unsuccessful.
Manchester United, critisised after disbanding their women’s team in 2005, are expected to be managed by former England international Casey Stoney, who won 130 caps.
The WSL, which was won by Chelsea in 2017-18, will increase to 11 clubs, all of whom must meet new, full-time criteria and run a youth academy.
Of the 15 clubs who were not already playing in the top two tiers who applied for a licence, West Ham will be the only club to join the top flight.