NWSL: The Best Sports League You’ve Never Heard Of

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By: Karen Valenzuela, @VictoriaNoir89

March Madness is over and your life is suddenly and depressingly sportsless. You need a sport to watch that is professional, high quality, and full of talented athletes.

You need the National Women’s Soccer League. Wait, wait! Don’t click out of this article! “But I don’t even watch men’s soccer, let alone women’s.” Hear a fellow sports nerd out, though. Because there are a million and one reasons why the NWSL could be your next sports obsession.

First off, it is absolutely the most easily accessible professional league there is on the planet. All you need is Internet connection. The official NWSL YouTube channel streams every game live, and then leaves it up on the channel in case you missed it. The last two seasons’ matches are all still up there now in case you’re in the mood for a rewatch of one of your favorites. Even if you simply want to check out a game to see if you like it, just pop onto the NWSL YouTube page. You don’t need a cable subscription and there aren’t any fees. It’s simply there for you to enjoy!

Nadia Nadim (9) and Maya Hayes (11) of Sky Blue FC celebrate Nadim's goal against Houston Dash.

Nadia Nadim (9) and Maya Hayes (11) of Sky Blue FC celebrate Nadim’s goal against Houston Dash.


There isn’t nearly enough support for the NWSL to function on its own yet, considering it’s only starting its third season this week. As a result, the average NWSL athlete makes between $6000 and $15000 per year, which is well below the poverty line, and a few of the teams have been finding host families for their players so that they can play during the season without needing to pay for housing, offering free season tickets as incentive. It’s preposterous, frankly, but it also puts into perspective how important this league and this sport is for the future of women’s sports as a whole. These women have a lot of passion when it comes to soccer. But they’re also driven and inspired by the young female fans who watch NWSL and hope to play professional sports one day. Considering NWSL players are playing a professional sport for an average of $25 to $50 per day, they really must have a staggering amount of passion for the sport and the impact they have as role models.

This is probably one of the biggest reasons why NWSL fans are so hospitable and welcoming to newcomers. We love new fans. We want more new fans. Because fans mean support, and support means money, which means these players might actually be paid appropriate salaries some day. This league needs to succeed and it needs more supporters to do so. Every team has gone above and beyond to connect with their fans for that reason.

Fans of Portland Thorns FC raised this banner during a home game in 2013.

Fans of Portland Thorns FC raised this banner during a home game in 2013.


During the YouTube live stream of each match, you have the option of participating in the chat with other viewers. Oftentimes, people of all genders who are new to women’s soccer come in from all corners of the globe to chat—about the sport, the teams, the players, the rules, etc. It’s such a warm and welcoming atmosphere, international fans joining in on the discussion with American fans. And while there are team rivalries (the Seattle versus Portland MLS soccer rivalry has crossed into the NWSL), we’re an incredibly close group of people across team boundaries. The NWSL is like a family. We’re bonded through the drive to support a league that might someday give women a chance to play a sport they’re passionate about without needing a second job on the side. Watch a game or two as the season starts this weekend. Join the discussion. NWSL fans will welcome you with open arms no matter who you are or where you hail from.

This season is the perfect time to start paying attention to NWSL. Besides the fact that the teams got makeovers with extra snazzy new kit designs before this upcoming season, 2015 is a huge year for women’s soccer in general. From June 6 to July 5, Canada will be hosting the FIFA Women’s World Cup. That means a lot of the players you see playing for their NWSL club in April and May will be seen wearing their nation’s colors in June and July during the single biggest women-only tournament ever put on in the history of the world. This year’s WWC has already boasted record-breaking ticket sales in each of the six cities hosting the tournament. It is going to be huge. There will absolutely be a massive rise in popularity for women’s soccer all across the globe, as this year we have seen nations qualify who barely even had a squad four years ago. The level of play has gone up and the competition will be fierce.

The NWSL is going to play a huge part in the popularity wave, feeding off of the Women’s World Cup to showcase the stars of the tournament on their club teams after the Cup is over. Imagine paying $20 for a ticket to see the most important players from the biggest tournament of the year back playing with their club teams in July and August. And then you get to meet them because they always spend time with fans after the game. It doesn’t get any cooler than that!

The Teams
There are only nine teams in the NWSL so far. But if viewership continues to improve this season, we could be seeing other cities make bids to get their teams into the league for the 2016 or 2017 seasons.

NWSL TNM PIC 1

FC Kansas City (Kansas City, MO)

  • NWSL 2014 Champions.
  • The A-Rod & Holiday Connection: US Women’s National Team forward Amy Rodriguez and midfielder Lauren Holiday are the dangerous duo, a truly lethal duo.
  • Strong professional ethic, nearly flawless, consistency when it comes to fundamentals of the game.
  • Becky Sauerbrunn, USWNT defender: Crucial to FCKC’s steadiness and consistency and a defensive mastermind. Named 2014 NWSL Defender of the Year.


Seattle Reign FC (Seattle, WA)

  • Regular season champions/Shield winners, 2nd place in playoffs.
  • Team manager Laura Harvey: After SRFC finished second to last in 2013 season, LH took a lot of risks, made a trade nearly every day. SRFC went on to have the best record of any NWSL team in 2014. (3 losses in 26 games)
  • Kim Little: Scottish national, midfielder, magician. 1st in goals scored and 2nd in assists in 2014 NWSL season. 2014 League MVP.
  • Hope Solo and Megan Rapinoe: Hope is the USWNT’s #1 goalkeeper, and arguably the best keeper in the world. USWNT’s Megan Rapinoe is tops in scoring goals, assisting goals, and celebrating goals. Also quite the personality, so look her up.
  • Mostly unchanged defensive line and midfield from last season. SRFC had the least amount of goals scored on them in the league.
  • A team of technical geniuses. Beautiful soccer.
  • Chemistry between players both on and off the pitch.


Washington Spirit (Washington, D.C.)

  • USWNT’s goalkeeper Ashlyn Harris, defender Ali Krieger, and defender Crystal Dunn combine to make a nearly unbreakable defense.
  • New additions from abroad should make a positive impact on level of play.
  • Potential to be in top 4 again this season, maybe even favorites for the championship.
  • Never Say Die mentality. Fight to the End drive.


Portland Thorns FC (Portland, OR)

  • Won the championship title in NWSL’s 2013 inaugural season.
  • Most popular team in the league (Portland is called “Soccer City, USA” for a reason).
  • Loud, proud, hugely supportive fans. NWSL’s biggest fan turnout to home games.
  • Star Power: USWNT’s poster girl Alex Morgan, mid/forward Tobin Heath, defender Rachel Van Hollebeke. German national team’s goalkeeper Nadine Angerer lauded by many as best GK in the world. Canadian great, Christine Sinclair.
  • Impressive off-season trades and signings will make them one of the teams to beat in 2015


Chicago Red Stars (Chicago, IL)

  • USWNT forward Christen Press (Stanford alum) can create goals out of nowhere.
  • USWNT Julie Johnston (NWSL Rookie of the Year in 2014, Santa Clara alum) is hugely solid in both midfield and defense.
  • USWNT Shannon Boxx: key for CRS at defensive mid position, veteran who has years and years of experience and skill.
  • Capable of reaching top 4, maybe even a dark horse for the championship title in 2015.
  • Known for being a very aggressive team on the pitch (some say overly aggressive).


Western New York Flash (Elma, NY)

  • Youthful squad, fresh faces, hungry to prove themselves.
  • Experience from USWNT defender Whitney Engen and USWNT forward Sydney Leroux brings a lot of speed to the front line.
  • Acquired Amanda Frisbie from Seattle Reign. She sat out 2014 season for Seattle due to injury and has plenty of untapped potential.
  • An underdog team you’ll want to root for.


Sky Blue FC (Piscataway Township, NJ)

  • Just barely missed out on play-off spot in 2014 season, but look fit to make it to top 4 in 2015 season.
  • Used to be a club in the Women’s Professional Soccer league (WPS) from 2008 until 2012 when the league folded.
  • Kelley O’Hara: USWNT defender, midfield, forward. Best-All-Around. Plays just about every position outside of goalkeeper.
  • New additions will be effective: Danish national Nadia Nadim and Australian Samantha Kerr up front as forwards.


Houston Dash (Houston, TX)

  • New kids in the league: 2014 was Dash’s first season in the NWSL, finished 2nd to last.
  • Stephanie Roche: Ireland national team superstar signed for 2015 season.
  • Morgan Brian: college draft first pick from University of Virginia and USWNT midfield wonder. Brings youth and experience.
  • Carli Lloyd: Acquired from WNY Flash for 2015 season. Always the backbone of whatever team she’s playing for in the midfield. A goal scorer and a warrior.
  • Partnership with MLS club Houston Dynamo, so the Dash fan base has been steadily growing. With exciting new signings, they’re only going to get better.


Boston Breakers (Boston, MA)

  • Impressive in pre-season, defeating Jamaican national team twice with a score of 5-0 in both games.
  • Alyssa Naeher: USWNT goalkeeper, winner of 2014 season’s Golden Glove award for most saves, most impressive performance in the net.
  • Cat Whitehill: Former USWNT defender, brings veteran experience to the defensive backline.
  • A few coaching issues during off-season, technical issues in 2014 season with keeping possession of the ball.
  • They’ll be the wildcard team of the 2015 season. Nobody knows what to expect and they’ll be fascinating to watch for that reason.


Last year’s off-season action had nothing on this year’s. 2015 pre-season saw some signings of high quality international players: Houston Dash acquired Ireland international superstar Stephanie Roche, runner-up for the Puskas award (best goal of the year) at FIFA’s 2014 Ballon d’Or awards ceremony. (She beat out Robin Van Persie with an epic display of talent.) England’s clutch goal-scorer Jodie Taylor has joined the Portland Thorns. Washington Spirit picked up Nigerian superstar Francisca Ordega and Argentine Estefanía Banini. Seattle Reign picked up Denmark native Katrine Veje and Scottish defender Rachel Corsie, adding to SRFC’s duo of international bad asses—Scottish Wonder Woman Kim Little and the flying Welsh dragon Jess Fishlock.

The NWSL needs your support! These women who train hard and play hard because they love the sport, because they want to inspire others to do the same, need your support! Check out the NWSL schedule and YouTube channel! Give it a chance. It’ll be your new favorite thing. Trust us.

Houston Dash kicks off against Washington Spirit on Friday April 10 at 8:30 pm ET in the National Women’s Soccer League 2015 season opener! See you all on YouTube!


    3 Comments

  1. NealApril 9th, 2015 at 11:51 am

    Lovely. Just lovely. That map is like super legit. Such a wonderful article for anyone even remotely interested in checking out the league. Knocked it out of the park. 😀

  2. Nat WApril 9th, 2015 at 3:47 pm

    So glad to see an article like this on TNM! I can’t wait for this season to start (i follow it from Australia) especially with the women’s world cup just on the horizon! It’s going to be an awesome year for Women’s football!

  3. Cristian GuerraApril 14th, 2015 at 12:53 pm

    I am Senior leaving in Chicago for the last 43 year without any doubt this one the best article have seen .I am
    by heritage Hispanic by logic i should follow men soccer ..but far from it i discovery the wonderful world of women soccer year ago in London when the USA women soccer win the title ,i was at the game since them i never went back to men soccer .. i got hook
    .Saturday i will at the game between Red Star and Seattle Reign,at will witness first hand the ballet synchronized of the Seattle Reign

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