NWSL Season Kicks Off April 16th – Beyond the Basics

TV Coverage

The announcement came out Thursday that the NWSL will have six games broadcast via FS1. The first match doesn’t air until Sept. 7, three of the games will be postseason  games. It’s rumored that another TV rights deal might be in the works, let’s hope so!

Here are the first three FS1 matches:

Wednesday, September 7: Chicago Red Stars vs. FC Kansas City (8:00 p.m.) Sunday, September 11: Portland Thorns vs. Western New York Flash (9:30 p.m.)

Sunday, September 25: Houston Dash vs. Seattle Reign (9:30 p.m.)

All that matches can be viewed on YouTube on the respective team’s channels.

Stadium Sharing with MLS

The trend of NWSL teams using the same venues as the associated Major League Soccer team continues with the new Orlando Pride sharing the Orlando Citrus Bowl. Past relationships between the Chicago Red Stars/Chicago Fire, Houston Dash/Houston Dynamo, Portland Thorns/Portland Timbers have been successful, not only venue-wise but fanbase-wise.

I’ll be interested to see where they select for the location for the championship match. Jeff Plush, NWSL Commissioner, mentioned the venue for the final at the 2016 draft address.

“What you’ll see for 2016 is us trying to really take the championship up to another level. (We’ll) have multiple events that are marketed well in advance of what they were last year. And that’s just not a one-night thing. That could be a two or three-day celebration of the sport and also the young women in our league,” Plush said.

Games of Year

As much as I want to say every game will be the game of the year…there are a few that stand out. I’ll get an eyeroll at this but other than the first weekend being exciting overall, I’ll be interested to check out the Orlando Pride’s first match on Sunday (10 p.m. ET) against the Portland Thorns. With stars like Alex Morgan, Ashlyn Harris and Lianne Sanderson and it being the first match, I’d like to see how they mesh together, and it’s Alex Morgan’s first game against her former club. The Thorns were so-so last year with players in and out but should be solid.

Beyond opening weekend, I picked a few other key match-ups for the first half of the season.

-Washington Spirit v. Houston Dash on April 27 at 8:30 p.m. ET, should be interesting as two strong offensive sides face-off.

-Seattle Reign and the Portland Thorns play in Seattle in week 5 (May 14, 10 p.m. ET), which is always a fun one. Lots of star power on both sides.

-In a rematch of the 2015 NWSL Championship, Seattle and Kansas City (May 1 at 7 p.m. eastern) will play an intense match.

I predict the Washington Spirit will get to the playoffs, provided Crystal Dunn can have the same success as last year, plus the addition of an actual center forward in Katie Stengel should be big. I think Seattle will be solid with Kim Little, Jess Fishlock, Keelin Winters and possibly Megan Rapinoe leading the way. Houston and Chicago are mid-table for me with the game changers being away for national team duties a portion of the season. It’s just NWSL’s fourth (but monumental) year, and there are so many off season retirements, injuries and trades, plus the Olympics stealing players, so I think it’s going to be another semi-unpredictable year.

Players to Watch – New and Old

Going through the rosters, these are the players I’m excited to watch to see if they fly or flop – or continue previous success. Most have been around but a few are newbies.

-Seattle Reign: Lauren Barnes

-Chicago Red Stars: Vanessa DiBernardo/Danielle Colaprico

-Kansas City FC: Erika Tymrak  

-Washington Spirit: Katie Stengel

-Houston Dash: Janine Beckie/Kealia Ohai

-Portland Thorns: Emily Sonnett

-Western New York Flash: Alanna Kennedy

-Sky Blue FC: Racquel Rodriguez

-Boston Breakers: Libby Stout/Stephanie McCaffrey

-Orlando Pride: This might surprise some – Alex Morgan. Can she stay healthy and make an impact?

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