Like most who follow the National Women’s Soccer League, I’ve been eagerly counting down the days to the start of the 2019 season. The off-season lacked a bit of drama for most teams, and while there was the occasional huge news drop, like the termination of the deal between the NWSL and A&E which will no longer have game of the week broadcasts on the Lifetime network, the late “will she or won’t she” drama of Tierna Davidson declaring for the NWSL draft, or the Reign FC name change that came with the move to Tacoma. As teams finalize rosters for the upcoming campaign in the shadow of the World Cup this summer, and league activity ramps up to come at us fast and furious, here are what I’m looking forward to this year.
New Gaffers In Charge
One of the signs on how competitive the NWSL is a team changing a head coach when results are poor or when a team needs a new voice to get the players over the hump, and into the playoffs. Washington and Orlando sacked veteran coaches when the teams ended in the bottom third of the standings, while Houston parted ways with Vera Pauw and hold new manager James Clarkson. I’m excited to see how the Marc Skinner can give Orlando a new identity in what is to be a challenging year. As players heading to the World Cup come and go, will Orlando be able to take a step forward in development? I’m curious how the Spirit will bounce back with what has to be a shift in culture from how Jim Gabarra ran the show. Coach Clarkson has the pieces to finish higher than the 2018 version of the team. However, the Houston Dash appear to have the talent in place to see the team make the playoffs for the first time in team history. Houston appears less impacted from the World Cup as the other teams with new coaches. Could this be the year the Dash make the postseason?
World Cup Bounce
With the league not on television and attendance dropping for most teams last season, the “World Cup bounce” is something that needs to happen for the league to continue on a positive trajectory. NWSL matches will be streaming on Yahoo Sports domestically, but I want to see what sort of TV deal the league can get in place after the World Cup is over. My expectation is the league has to have at a minimum the playoffs and championship games broadcasted on television. I’m trying to give the league office the benefit of the doubt on having a plan to boost the presence of its players and the product on the field once all the players that missed time in France return. Additionally, I’m hoping to see a spike across the league at the gate. Each team in the league should be thinking of marketing during and after the World Cup, and I know it isn’t going to have the same impact across the teams. I just want the momentum to actually be a thing. Perhaps even have the league announce any plans of expansion around this time. This pipe dream is starting to get carried away.
Can Lightning Strike Twice For the Courage?
I think it’s fair to say that North Carolina was one of the most dominant teams to play in the world. On top of all the Courage achieved domestically, the team came away with the International Champions Cup over the likes of PSG and Lyon. Recently, the ICC was announced to take place in Cary with the Courage defending the cup at home. Obviously the champions of the league last year are also favored for this season, and even though my loyalty isn’t with North Carolina, I’m just looking forward to seeing if they can be as successful this year as they were in 2018. Every match played for the Courage will be must-watch as far as I’m concerned, either to watch the dynasty continue or to see them stumble, it will be entertaining to me.
Those are my top three things I’m excited for this NWSL season. Hopefully, we are all in for a treat as women’s soccer will be in the spotlight. There are several unanswered questions still to be seen, such as how will the season go for Sky Blue or will the Reign attendance change with a new location. That being said: Are you not entertained?