The NWSL has some truly outstanding international soccer talent rostered on the nine current teams in the league.
We are all incredibly lucky to be able to watch some of the best in the world, week in and week out in this league. You have five time FIFA Women’s Player of the Year, Marta, playing in Orlando. Women’s World Cup winner, Nahomi Kawasumi, putting in crosses for Seattle. The former New Zealand captain and Olympian Abby Erceg defending the goal in North Carolina.
One evening I was talking with a friend about Kim Little and the impact she had on the league. After the conversation ended, I started to think about the wealth of talent in the NWSL and the players who have come and gone in the league. We often talk about the NWSL as a training round for the future of the USWNT but other countries have sent us their best and brightest and reaped the benefits for themselves.
I came up with my own ranking. But I wanted to see if my thoughts held up so I then reached out to the masses of the internet to get their feeling on who should be ranked where.
I set forward the criteria as 1) The players impact on the league while playing, 2) Their impact on the league after they left, if they are no longer playing in the league, 3) Their personal awards (MVP, Best XI, ect) and if they have any 4) NWSL titles.
What follows is a list of the power rankings (based on votes) of the greatest international players the NWSL has seen in it’s six year history.
The French midfielder was an impactful player from the get-go, on a team that was full of impactful players. She played just over 30 games for the Thorns before heading back to Europe but having the 2015 Silver Ball winner in the league did bring a little elevation to the league.
While her time with the English women’s national team has been choppy as of late, the English forward has been one of the true bright spots in Houston. Playing in both the attack and the defense for Houston has kept them much more alive this season than they were expected to be the first week of the season.
While the focus has largely been on the American World Cup winners in the last few years, it should not be understated that Naho has shown just why she has a World Cup winner’s medal at home. Her two stints on the Seattle Reign have shown her ability to cross the ball on to a player’s head or foot with astonishing ability.
Stories like Nadim’s go far past just a feel good sports story. During her time in the NWSL, Nadim brought into focus a world many here in the US didn’t often think about in terms of the human element. She was also a PK champion during her time for Sky Blue FC and Portland.
Angerer was a solid goalkeeper during her years for the Thorns. But it is maybe her impact on the league as the Thorns goalkeeping coach that puts her as high on this list as she is. Her work with the goalkeeping unit in Portland has shown just how impactful a coach can be.
Abby Erceg may go down as one of the best, if not the best, non-federated defenders in NWSL history when all is said and done. On top of her work in the NWSL, highlighting the New Zealand federation’s lack of support for their women’s national team has, hopefully, helped make things better for her fellow Kiwi’s.
Marta brings a legitimacy to whatever team and league she is on. There is no way of getting around that fact. Her name on a roster might mean more in terms of marketing dollars than nearly any other name in women’s soccer. She might be a step or two slower than a decade ago, but she still makes magic happen when she touches the ball.
If you look at the list of top goal scorers in NWSL history, Little still finds herself near the top. Even being out of the NWSL, she still has left her mark on the league in the history she helped create. It was Little who Kerr had to pass for the scoring record (more on Kerr in a minute). It was Little who Rapinoe had to pass for the Seattle scoring record. She might be gone but her name still lives on in the league’s records.
Jess Fishlock makes every player around her better. She makes a mark, cleat or otherwise, on every game she plays in. And when she is in the match, other teams have to pay attention to her in ways that few other players command. She has scored game winners, assisted them and brought to Seattle two NWSL Shields.
What is there to say about Sam Kerr? She owns the single season scoring record, and the most goals in NWSL history. Kerr nearly brought Sky Blue FC to the 2017 playoffs behind some of the most brilliant moments the season had to offer, including a four goal game against two time NWSL Champions FC Kansas City. Sam Kerr will go down among the all time greats of the league and is on pace to do so for the sport at large.