SANTA MONICA – The countdown has begun for many women’s soccer fans as the National Women’s Soccer League kicked off its preseason last week, but with the new season, fans will be greeted by an exciting new season despite all the changes.
The biggest changes to affect fans have been the folding of Kansas City FC and the Boston Breakers, leaving a number of fans without a team to call their own. However, with the introduction of the Utah Royals, the transition of finding a new team out of the 10-team league shouldn’t be a problem. The only question to truly weigh this season down is who will take home the NWSL crown?
Easily, the North Carolina Courage is the most obvious choice for fans. Having secured the championship title in 2016, the Courage returned in 2017 with a new name but the same determination of its predecessor, the WNY Flash, dominating the league with a 16-1-7 finish. However, the Courage fell short in the post-season finale in a 1-0 loss to the Portland Thorns. With very few changes to their roster, NCC’s strong defense and patient attacking can be expected to return in 2018 with a vegences for the another stab at the title.
The Royals are probably the most exciting change to the NWSL in the 2018 season. Untested, they present a wide range of possibilities to the league’s growing presence in the soccer world. Despite being the wildcard of the league, Utah presents the most notable lineup in the league with five allocated players including defender Kelly O’Hara and Becky Sauerbrunn. With former Seattle Reign head coach Laura Harvey at the helm, the Royals could have a breakout inaugural season.
The Dash caused the biggest upset prior to the 2018 preseason as they agreed to Carli Lloyd’s request to move to Sky Blue FC. The move caused Sky Blue to send NWSL 2017 MVP Sam Kerr to Chicago and Houston acquiring the face of the Red Stars, forward Christen Press. The standout forward could be just the boost the Dash needed to reboot its struggling franchise after finishing third from the bottom in 2016 and 2017.
However, with as young of a league as the NWSL, anything could happen any given season, and with the folding of two teams, rosters have never been rearranged more. The 2018 season will be one of excitement and anticipation with newcomers to every team from big trades and draft picks prior to the season. Luckily, fans will quickly get a taste of what to expect from their teams as the March 24 season opener is fast approaching.
Photo: Lynn Williams, Samantha Mewis, and McCall Zerboni celebrate in NC on Oct. 8, 2017 after an NWSL semi-final. Photo by Andy Mead.