As the 8th National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) season is quickly approaching, I figured it would be the perfect time to delve into a few storylines unfolding for four of the nine (soon to be ten) NWSL teams, and even the league itself.
NWSL: The 2019 NWSL season was arguably the most successful year in the league’s history. Benefiting from the “Post World Cup Bump”, the NWSL garnered record attendance numbers and secured a major sponsorship deal with Budweiser. The Portland Thorns, the golden child of the NWSL, set a club attendance record with 22,329 fans (and they even achieved it on a weeknight). Other clubs saw exponential bumps in attendance too. The Chicago Red Stars had to open additional seating to accommodate the sudden “newfound” interest in their team. There is no denying that there are more eyes on the NWSL now than ever before. The ball is literally on the NWSL’s pitch. Let’s hope the league doesn’t squander this opportunity like they have done in the past. To be fair, the NWSL is proving to loyal fans, like myself, that slowly but surely, they are getting it together. After Amanda Duffy, the “intermittent” commissioner shocked the NWSL by joining the front office of the Orlando Pride, the NWSL had to frantically find a replacement. They hired Lisa Baird, former chief marketing officer for the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee and senior VP of marketing for the NFL. From what I’ve read so far, the NWSL seems to be in good hands with Baird at the helm.
 Budweiser produced an amazing and (tear jerking if you’re sensitive like me) commercial supporting the NWSL. Honestly shout out to the Budweiser. You rock.
 “Newfound” meaning the period of time once every four years (or during a big tournament) when the public realizes how really freaking good women’s soccer is. It’s not like you can watch it year round or anything, Bruce.
 The NWSL did not have an official commissioner for 3 years. Intermittent does not mean 3 years, NWSL.
Sky Blue F.C.: To be incredibly blunt, for the past couple of years, Sky Blue F.C. has been an absolute sh** show. The Equalizer, an online publication dedicated women’s soccer, wrote a scathing exposé on the deplorable conditions players faced in their day to day lives. I won’t go into specifics because those can easily be found with a simple Google search, but even recreational teams were treated with more respect and dignity. To no surprise, it resulted in serious public outcry and owner Phil Murphy (yes, that same Phil Murphy who is the Governor of New Jersey) was forced to release a statement:
“I don’t find the status quo tolerable – and these players deserve better. They deserve to operate in a professional and supportive environment so they can do what they do best – play the game, inspire fans, and build community through the power of the world’s most popular sport.” – Chris Murphy
Sky Blue has not just been a stain on the NWSL, but on women’s soccer as a whole. The scandal resulted in a period of serious upheaval for the Piscataway- based soccer team. Out went Tony Novo as general manager, and in came Alysaa Lahue, (former V.P., who proved to be the team’s saving grace). It didn’t take long for Lahue to win over the hearts of the Sky Blue FC diehards and the NWSL a like. After Rutgers University’s (the team’s home field) liquor license expired, she took it upon herself to buy all the fans beer. Additionally, she secured both a new training facility and home field, Red Bull Arena, for the team going forward (a serious upgrade from what they had in the past). As general manager, she landed two of the brightest young stars in the game, Mallory Pugh and Midge Purce. They add to an already promising team filled with storied veterans such as McCall Zerboni and the Jersey Girl herself, Carli Lloyd. The Sky is looking blue for Sky Blue (I’m sorry I had to) and I truly believe this is the year that they turn things around (or so I pray).
 Murphy legitimately hired a Crisis P.R. firm to help navigate the scandal. Lol.
Orlando Pride: In my opinion, The Orlando Pride is the most frustrating/mind boggling team in the NWSL. The roster is stacked with three (now four with the addition of Emily Sonnett in the offseason) USWNT players, two Canadian national team players, two Australian national team players, one New Zealand national team player, and two Brazilian national team players (including five time FIFA World Player of the Year, Marta). The roster is rounded out by former USWNT player, Sydney Leroux as well as NWSL veterans Carson Pickett and Toni Presley. The Pride have an absurd amount of talent and potential, yet seem to squander every season. They made the playoffs since 2017 and have finished in the bottom half of the table every year since. Since it is an Olympic year, the Orlando Pride (and the rest of NWSL) will start their season without any national team players. The Pride hired former Birmingham City Ladies’ coach, Marc Skinner, to head the team last season and his inaugural season was a letdown to say the least. I believe that if the Pride don’t start winning games, there should o be a new opening in the NWSL coaching market. It is up to the rest of the roster and newly hired general manager, Amanda Duffy to turn things around.
North Carolina Courage: Underdog mentality no more. Paul Riley and the Courage have cemented themselves as the best women’s soccer team in the world (especially after beating Olympic Lyon in the International Champion’s Cup). They have dominated the NWSL for the past couple of seasons, winning back to back championships and regular season titles. I have no doubt it will be any different this year. Nuff said.
Teams Not Mentioned (but still are super fun to watch): Chicago Red Stars, Washington Spirit, Utah Royals FC, Houston Dash, OL Reign
My End of Season Table Predictions:
- North Carolina Courage
- Chicago Redstars
- Portland Thorns
- Washington Spirit
- OL Reign (formerly Reign FC)
- Utah Royals FC
- Sky Blue FC
- Orlando Pride
- Houston Dash
The Washington Spirit host OL Reign on April 18th at 1:00pm to open the 2020 year. Fasten your seatbelts boys and girls, it’s gonna be a FUN season.