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Ryan Reynolds' soccer team promoted to the English Football League

Reynolds and “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” star Rob McElhenney, who co-own the Wrexham team, lead the celebrations after watching their victory.
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It was the Hollywood ending they had hoped for.

Three years after A-list actors Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney bought Wrexham Association Football Club, a small soccer team in north Wales, it secured promotion to the English Football League on Saturday for the first time in more than a decade.

And the “Deadpool“ and “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” stars led the celebrations Saturday after Wrexham beat Boreham Wood by a score of 3 to 1. McElhenney was in tears after the game but was later seen smiling about their achievement.

The game started badly for Wrexham, which conceded a goal 43 seconds into the 90-minute game when Lee Ndlovu lobbed the goalkeeper. But a header from Elliot Lee tied the game, and two goals from star striker Paul Mullin in the second half saw the team win comfortably.

Ryan Reynolds walks pitch-side ahead of the English National League football match in Wrexham, Wales
Ryan Reynolds walks pitch-side ahead of the English National League football match in Wrexham, Wales, on April 22, 2023.Oli Scarff / AFP via Getty Images

Despite its being Welsh, Wrexham plays in the English soccer league, and next season it will ply its trade in League Two, the fourth and lowest division of England’s main professional soccer system.

The club, which was founded in 1864 and lays claim to having the oldest international soccer stadium in the world, has never reached the heights of the English Premier League and has been playing Vanarama National League — where attendance averages slightly more than 2,000 fans, and players often supplement their incomes with part-time jobs.

Once a hub of coal and lead mining, the small town of Wrexham was formerly an industrial powerhouse. Its decline was mirrored by the fortunes of the team until Reynolds and McElhenney’s takeover, which was completed in February 2021.

Their attempts to transform the team have been documented in “Welcome to Wrexham,” a limited series produced by Disney+ and FX. McElhenney said in the series that he was initially attracted to the club and the town because it reminded him of blue-collar Philadelphia, where he grew up. 

Wrexham co-owners Rob McElhenney, left, and Ryan Reynolds during a match in Wrexham, Wales
Wrexham co-owners Rob McElhenney, left, and Ryan Reynolds celebrate before their team secured promotion into the English Football League.Martin Rickett / PA via AP

Since then, the series has followed the team as it narrowly missed out on promotion last year and focused on various fans and local characters from the town.

The success of both the team and the series has sparked an unlikely tourism boom to the town, which is about two and a half hours from London, and three from the Welsh capital of Cardiff.

In February, Will Ferrell was pictured enjoying a pint with fans on his first visit to watch the team, while McElhenney’s “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” co-stars Charlie Day, Glenn Howerton and Kaitlin Olson were in the stands for Tuesday’s game against Yeovil Town. 

Promotion into the English Football League can have huge cash benefits for a soccer club, which is generally awarded a payment by the Premier League equivalent to $1.25 million, as well as increased revenue from broadcast opportunities and a boom in ticket sales.

However, if Reynolds and McElhenney intend to take the club into the highest reaches of the English game, it's likely to cost substantially more than what they have proposed.

The average value of the playing squad of a Premier League team is is almost $2 billion, according to the Sportico website.