On Saturday, April 15, the 2017 National Women’s Soccer League kicks off its fifth season, highlighted by a fantastic new partnership with Lifetime, a team with many familiar faces in a new market (North Carolina), an updated website and much more. Here are five things to know about the upcoming season:
Year Five Begins
While 2016 marked the first time a woman’s professional league had reached a fourth season in the United States, the fifth season promises to be historic as well. On the field, the most competitive women’s pro league in the world will show its growing stability, while continued investment by U.S. Soccer and the league’s owners will resume to establish the NWSL as the best women’s league in the world.
The National Women’s Soccer League began in 2013 with eight teams: the Boston Breakers, Chicago Red Stars, FC Kansas City, Portland Thorns, Seattle Reign FC, Sky Blue FC, Washington Spirit and Western New York Flash. In 2014, the Houston Dash joined the league to make it nine, followed by the Orlando Pride in 2015 to up the total number of teams to 10.
The Reigning Champs Have New Name, New Home
On Jan. 9, the NWSL announced that North Carolina Football Club had acquired the rights to the NWSL 2016 Champion Western New York Flash. With this agreement, the Flash has been renamed the North Carolina Courage (also referred to as NC Courage) and will play at the newly named Sahlen’s Stadium (formerly WakeMed Soccer Park) in Cary, N.C. in the 2017 NWSL season. As part of the deal, the players that were under contract to the Flash became part of the NC Courage roster.
Founded by the Sahlen family in 2008 as the Buffalo Flash in the USL W-League, the WNY Flash was one of the USA’s most decorated women’s professional soccer teams, winning four championships in three different leagues. Most recently, in its final season, the club won the 2016 NWSL Championship on October 9 by defeating the Washington Spirit in penalty kicks.