27 February 2020

National Women's Soccer League preview: A breakdown of teams, players and who's most likely to win this season

The National Women's Soccer League is back in action on April 18.

The league released their fixtures recently and with the college draft finalised the season ahead looks to be one filled with excitement.

Here's a break down of everything you need to know for the upcoming season.

North Carolina Courage

Courage won the league last year (PA Images)

Last season's finish: 1st

Key signings: Alleandra Watt, Sinclaire Miramontez and Addisyn Merrick

Key players: Lynn Williams and Kristen Hamilton

Courage are back-to-back NWSL champions and are favourites to win again this year. Lynn Williams has been the side's top goal-scorer for the past three seasons, scoring 12 in the last campaign.

Chicago Red Stars

Ertz was impressive in the World Cup last summer (PA Images)

Last season's finish: 2nd

Key signings: Kealia Ohai, Julia Bingham and Camryn Biegalski

Key players: Julie Ertz and Kayla Sharples

Chicago lost their top scorer Sam Kerr when she signed for Women's Super League side Chelsea in November and so the team have drafted in Kealia Ohai to bolster their attacking options.

Julie Ertz will be back in the team after her glorious run at the World Cup where she was a part of the winning US team.

Portland Thorns

Sinclair celebrates a goal last season (PA Images)

Last season's finish: 3rd

Key signings: Sophia Smith, Morgan Weaver and Meaghan Nally.

Key players: Christine Sinclair and Lindsay Horan

New signing Sophia Smith decided to leave Stanford University to become a professional player this season as she became the first teenager to be a first pick in the college draft.

Also, star forward Christine Sinclair became the all-time international goalscorer, male or female, as she struck her 184th for Canada in January.

Reign FC

Rapinoe is the captain of Reign (PA Images)

Last season's finish: 4th

Key signings: Kelcie Hedge, Sam Hiatt and Sofia Huerta

Key players: Megan Rapinoe and Bethany Balcer

Megan Rapinoe has been propelled into stardom after she captained the US to a World Cup win in the summer, although she only played six league matches last season.

Reign have not won the title since 2015 and Rapinoe will be aiming to captain her team to a first league trophy for five years.

New signing Sofia Huerta was the top-scorer for Houston Dash last season and has been signed to make the Washington-based side more prolific in front of goal..

Washington Spirit

Hatch is Spirit's top goal-scorer (PA Images)

Last season's finish: 5th

Key signings: Ashley Sanchez, Natalie Jacobs and Averie Collins.

Key players: Rose Lavelle and Ashley Hatch

Ashley Hatch has been the side's top goalscorer for the past two seasons, netting seven in the last campaign.

Rose Lavelle will be hoping to bring her form from the World Cup back to domestic football after she scored three goals in their triumphant campaign in the summer.

Utah Royals

Press is a key player for the Utah Royals (PA Images)

Last season's finish: 6th

Key signings: Tziarra King, Kate Del Fava and Cyera Hintzen

Key players: Christen Press and Amy Rodriguez

The Royals look as though they will be losing captain Becky Sauerbrunn to Portland Thorns, so will be hoping their new signings can make up for losing the US international.

Amy Rodriguez and Christen Press battled to be the club's top scorer last season, with Rodriguez winning after she scored nine, one more than her teammate.

Houston Dash

Daly has been selected for the Lionesses (PA Images)

Last season's finish: 7th

Key signings: Bridgette Anrzejewski, Katie Naughton and Chloe Castaneda.

Key players: Rachel Daly and Jane Campbell

Rachel Daly impressed last season, catching the eye of England manager Phil Neville which has led to her inclusion in the Lionesses SheBelieves Cup squad.

Defensively, goalkeeper Jane Campbell won two awards last season for her incredible shotstopping.

Sky Blue FC

Lloyd continues to impress at her club (PA Images)

Last season's finish: 8th

Key signings: Evelyne Viens, Kaleigh Riehl and Amanda McGlynn

Key players: Carli Lloyd and Mallory Pugh

Sky Blue defender Gina Lewandowski re-signed for the side in January. She joined the club in the middle of last season and will now stay until 2021.

US international legends Carli Lloyd and Mallory Pugh impressed once again in the 2019 campaign and have both been chosen to take part in the SheBelieves Cup.

Orlando Pride

Ashlyn Harris, left, and Ali Krieger, right, are a couple and play together at Orlando Pride (PA Images)

Last season's finish: 9th

Kay signings: Taylor Kornieck, Courtney Petersen and Konya Plummer

Key players: Ashlyn Harris and Ali Krieger

Pride drafted seven players in the college draft in January in a bid to have a more successful season in 2020.

However, they will be without star striker Alex Morgan as she is away having a baby.

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