Finally, professional women’s soccer is back this weekend.
The National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) kicks of this weekend with a matchup between the North Carolina Courage and the Kansas City Current, followed by another game on Saturday, and then four more games of Sunday.
The league has taken huge steps over the last four or so years, adding in three new expansion teams, and more on the way.
If you’re a new fan to the league, or you’ve been a fan of women’s soccer since the United States Women’s National Team won the World Cup in 1999, here is a breakdown of each team in the NWSL, and what we can expect from them in this upcoming season.
The Dash made some strong movies of players in the offseason (hello, Diana Ordóñez), and with a new coach at the helm, this could be a big year for the team. I honestly cannot wait to see Ordóñez team up with Ebony Salmon on the pitch, who was traded from Racing Louisville last year, and scored a plethora of goals for the Dash. This team will be a fun one to watch all season long.
I know I just said the Houston Dash made some strong moves in the office season, but so did the Orlando Pride. They did well in the NWSL draft, and with their captain, the great Marta back to full health, could this be the year that the Orlando Pride finally make it to the playoffs? With Marta being able to link up with her fellow Brazilian Adriana, plus Ally Watt (who was traded from OL Reign last season) the Pride have some good pieces in place.
Angel City FC
Oh, Angel City. The official golden child of the NWSL. If you don’t know, Angel City FC is owned by a bunch of celebrities, which annoys some people in the league, but excites others. I personally think it’s really fun, and it’s a great example of rich famous people putting their money where their mouth is.
If Angel City can get all of their players back from injury (we’re looking at you, Christen Press and Sydney Leroux), the team may be able to reach the playoffs. They also went big during the NWSL draft and picked up youngster Alyssa Thompson, who has already made an appearance with the senior National Women’s Team.
Chicago Red Stars
With Tierna Davidson back from injury ready to anchor the backline, and Mallory Swanson (formally Pugh before she married MLB star Dansby Swanson) playing the best soccer of her life, the Chicago Red Stars have a pretty strong chance of winning in the playoffs, after getting eliminated during it for the past couple years. Honestly, if they just give Swanson the ball, she will create magic.
This team has had some growing pains since joining the league in 2021, but after getting a new coach and some new players, Racing Louisville is primed to make it into the playoffs this year. I’d be great if they could bring in another international player to get some more variety in the attack, that might be hard with the Women’s World Cup this summer.
North Carolina Courage
It’s crazy to think that the team that once won the NWSL championship two years in a row would go on to not even make the playoffs just a few years later. After losing one of the best players in the league, Debinha, during the offseason, the North Caroline Courage need to find another star attacker that can score goals for them. That will be difficult during a World Cup year, but the Courage know how to get things done. I’m hoping for the best with this team, but my expectations aren’t super high as they begin to rebuild.
NJ/NY Gotham FC
Gotham FC wants to win a championship real bad, and they want to do it now. With the addition of Kelley O’Hara and Lynn Williams to the squad, they’ve squared up their attack and defense pretty well. Also, the fact that their front line will be Williams, Midge Purce, and Ifeoma Onumonu is pretty iconic if you ask me. Allie Long will also be back from maternity leave, so it’s safe to say that Gotham has all the working parts to at least make it to the playoffs this year.
Portland Thorns FC
Last year’s reigning champions will have to put in a ton of work to win back-to-back titles this year. After loosing their head coach, as well as others in the coaching staff, this may be more of a rebuild year for the Thorns than a winning year. However, they haven’t had much change in the offseason, so there’s no real reason that they should play terribly in this upcoming season. It’s all going to come down to tactics if a team wants to beat the Thorns, so I can already tell each of their games will be good ones to watch.
Kansas City Current
The Kansas City Current came out of absolutely nowhere last season and somehow made it to the championship match, only to lose to the Thorns. It looks like the team is set on making it to the finals again this season, since they added in Morgan Gautrat, Vanessa DiBernardo and Debinha to their midfield. It’s a truly lethal combination in the midfield that teams are going to have to figure out how to deal with if they want to score on this team. I’m expecting big things from them this year.
This young team won the NWSL championship in 2021 and then completely fluttered out last season. They have so much incredible talent on this team (hello, Trinity Rodman), so I still think they will be able to do some amazing things this season, especially since they have Mark Parsons as a new head coach. Parsons led the Portland Thorns to a championship win when he was with the team a few years ago, so I expect him to do the same with the Spirit during his time with this team.
San Diego Wave
The San Diego Wave did what Angel City FC thought they were going to do last season, and it was pretty surprising to almost every one who follows the NWSL. You can thank head coach Casey Stoney for being incredible at her job, and Alex Morgan for having her best season she’s ever played in the NWSL. Morgan walked away with the Golden Boot award last year, so it will be a tough act to follow for the team that just entered the league a year ago. If San Diego does well this season, we’ll know they are a serious team and not just a fluke.
And last, but certainly not least, we have OL Reign. My personal favorite team in the NWSL, the Reign have a huge year ahead of them. After winning the Shield last season (they finished at the top of the leaderboard before playoffs started) it was almost a sure thing that the Reign were going to win the whole enchilada. They should have, too! They have some of the best attacking talent in the entire league, plus amazing subs like Megan Rapinoe, who can still make mind blowing things happen on the pitch this late in her career. This will also probably be Rapinoe’s last season in the NWSL, so why not go out with a championship, right?
You can stream NWSL matches on Paramount+, as well as select matches on CBS and CBS Sports Network. To see the full schedule for the 2023 season, click here.