NWSL Ready

The National Women’s Soccer League 2022 season is just about underway! To celebrate their tenth season, Soccer 360 Magazine’s Sean Maslin has ten big questions ahead of the 2022 campaign!

10.) Who Are The San Diego Wave And Angel City FC?

This season marks the debut of two new teams into the NWSL: San Diego Wave and Angel City FC! While expansion teams can at times be a little lacking in terms of play on the field, the two California-based sides seem to be ready to win now. San Diego, led by former Manchester United manager Casey Stoney, will feature USWNT star striker Alex Morgan and longtime defender Abby Dahlkemper. Meanwhile, Angel City have added Christen Press and New Zealand international defender Ali Riley.

9.) Who Can Stop Trinity Rodman?

Rodman, 19, took the league by storm last season, scoring eight goals and tallying seven assists for the Washington Spirit. Her breakneck pace, coupled with her tactical finishing instantly made her one of the top players in the league, an astounding achievement considering her age. That she was also a key figure in the Spirit’s NWSL title run makes her 2021 even more special. If she can keep it up in 2022 then the Spirit may need to add to their trophy case.

8.) Who Can Claim The Challenge Cup?

For the third consecutive season, the NWSL Challenge Cup will kick off the NWSL season. The regional tournament has become a favorite among fans and has given teams a chance to get into fitness ahead of the season. Last year’s champion, the Portland Thorns, are primed to make it a second tournament in a row with their veteran heavy lineup.

7.) Is This Christine Sinclair’s Final Season?

Sinclair has been the rock for both the Thorns and the Canadian Women’s National Team, scoring an incredible 236 goals for club and country. While she is still going strong at 38, the Thorns will likely start looking at her heir apparent. Sophia Smith had a strong season with six goals in 2021 and will likely be given a heavy workload while Sinclair is away for World Cup Qualification.

6.) Can Franch Close The Gap For The Current?

The Kansas City Current’s first season back in the NWSL wasn’t exactly smooth sailing. The side finished at the bottom of the standings and allowed 36 goals, second worst in the league. Management placed an emphasis on improving their defense with Goalkeeper Adrianna Franch being the centerpiece. French is a two-time NWSL Goalkeeper of the Year and one of the best defensive organizers in the league.

5.) Who Can Be The Next USWNT Superstar?

Each NWSL season, there always seems like there are 1-2 players who catch fire and earn themselves a spot on the USWNT. Last season, it was Trinity Rodman. Keep an eye on Racing Louisville Jaelin Howell, who was selected second in the 2022 NWSL draft. Howell has already made two appearances for the USWNT and was a two-time Hermann Trophy winner (the MVP of college soccer) for the Florida State Seminoles. Louisville has a nice mix of veteran goalscorers in Jessica McDonald and Nadia Nadim up top to finish Howell’s passes. If she can find her scoring touch, she could have a breakout season in her rookie year.

4.) Who Will Win Defensive Player Of The Year?

Based on history, the answer seems to be simple: Becky Sauerbrunn. In the league’s ten years of operation, the Portland Thorns center-back has won the award five times. Although she is 36 she is coming off one of her best seasons for club and country. Keep an eye on Caprice Dydasco of Gotham FC, who won the award in 2021.

3.) Who will be the MVP?

When it comes to the MVP in any sport, history shows that the award tends to go to a player that can score. Last season, the NWSL bucked that trend giving the award to Jess Fishlock, the Welsh midfielder of the OL Reign. Fishlock and the Reign are two of the top contenders for the NWSL title and if she can get the side to the mountaintop, the MVP may very well be hers.

2.) Can The Spirit Repeat?

The biggest question on the field is if Washington has within them to make it two NWSL Championships in a row. On the field, there is little question about their talent and depth. Captain Andi Sullivan and Rodman are two of the top attackers in the league surrounded by USWNT veterans Kelley O’Hara and Emily Sonnett. Having the ownership question resolved too should help. Repeating is no easy task but the Spirit should be in the conversation.

1.) Will The League Be A Better Advocate For Change In Women’s Soccer?

For as much as 2021 was a watershed year for the league on the pitch, it could not overcome the incredible amount of controversy off of it.With multiple coaches fired due to abuse scandals, accusations of poor working conditions for players and referees, racial abuse, and pay disputes between ownership and the players there was a very dark cloud hanging over the entire season. That last year’s title was won by the Spirit, a side whose coach was fired over abuse accusations and a power struggle between ownership, is fitting for what a mess 2021 was for the league.

2022 is a pivotal year for the NWSL. Though the league has made progress over the last six months in addressing these issues, things are far from perfect. The supporters and players of the NWSL through the years have given the league leeway with the hope that eventually things would pay off. But the abuse accusations broke the trust that existed. The league has to figure out how it can earn that trust back. There are great opportunities for long-term growth but first the league has to show that it wants to be a positive advocate for change.

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