Five Storylines to Keep An Eye On This NWSL Season
While everyone loves the action on the football pitch, everyone else also loves a good story off of the field as well. This upcoming National Women’s Soccer League season will have plenty of stories both on and off of the field to keep supporters watching, writing, and posting all season long.
Here are the five major ones worth paying special attention.
#1 The NWSL Challenge Cup Returns!
After a fantastic first year the NWSL will be bringing back the Challenge Cup to kick off the 2021 season. Last year’s competition aimed to give the league and its players a bigger audience in the United States (partnering in the United States), but also to show that the league could provide compelling drama worth tuning in every week for. They succeeded in delivering excellent matches, an underdog winner in the Houston Dash, and were the professional sports league in North America to return to play after the COVID-19 shutdown. The hope is that this tournament can continue to grow and become a staple of the women’s soccer calendar, much like the FA Cup does in England and the NCAA Tournament does for Men’s and Women’s Basketball.
#2 The Regular Season Is Back As Well!
Last year was a very odd season for the league. While the Challenge Cup was an incredible success, the league was limited in their ability to stage matches once teams left Sandy, Utah. As of this moment, the league has planned to play the Challenge Cup in home markets followed by a 22 game regular season. While the supporters will certainly welcome as many games as possible, there has to be a bit of a worry with regards to the players handling that level of a workload after having most of last year off. Schedule congestion will also be in an issue with the possibility that teams may need to have games postponed due to COVID outbreaks.
#3 Expansion, Expansion, Expansion
This season brings a brand new side to the league: Racing Louisville. The Kentucky side isn’t the only team coming to the league in the coming years. Next year, the league will finally be coming to California with Angel City FC and Sacramento both joining. Their growth doesn’t seem to be ending there. Interest seems to be springing up across the U.S. for teams in Boston, St. Louis, Detroit, and a return to Utah (more on that in a second).
#4 The Royals are now KC Royal Blue
The Utah Royals are now more. After a breakup with controversial owner Dell Loy Hansen, the league announced over the winter that the Royals would be moving back to Kansas City. The side, tentatively known as KC NWSL, will bring over the Royals full roster and will play at the Field of Legends, the former home of the Kansas City Wizards of MLS. Another piece of good news: The Blue Crew, the supporters group of the defunct FC Kansas City, has announced that they will support the new side.
#5 No Break For The Olympics
In year’s past the NWSL would shut down during either the Summer Olympics or the World Cup. But this year things will be run a little differently with league games continuing during the Tokyo Games. While rosters will certainly be tested, the league is in a precarious spot with the likelihood of matches being rescheduled due to COVID-19 being high. Of course, this could all be moot if the Olympics are cancelled. But for the moment, expect international matches during the morning and NWSL games at night this summer.
Story by Sean Maslin