The 2022 season marked the 10th anniversary of the National Women’s Soccer League. Throughout that time, there have been some incredible championship teams.
But which team was the best to host the NWSL championship trophy? Here’s our ranking of every NWSL Championship team for the league’s first 10 seasons.
1. North Carolina Courage, 2018
The 2018 Courage team is the best in league history, having dominated all season long with a 17-1-6 record. During that season they set records for the most wins in a season (17), the fewest goals conceded (17), and the best goal difference in a season (+36).
Their domination continued into the playoffs when they defeated the Chicago Red Stars, 2-0, in the semifinal match, before defeating the Portland Thorns, 3-0, in the Championship game. The Courage became the first team to win the NWSL Shield (regular season champions), and the NWSL Championship in the same season.
2. Portland Thorns, 2022
The 2022 Thorns squad was an impressive offensive side, scoring an impressive 53 goals while only conceding 24 in 24 games. They finished the regular season with just three losses and a 10-3-9 record. They were led by Sophia Smith who scored 15 goals in the season.
Portland finished the regular season in second place, earning a first-round bye. In the semifinals, they took on the San Diego Wave securing a spot in the championship with a 2-1 win.
The Thorns dominated in the championship match. Smith gave Portland the lead in the fourth minute, and they never lost it. They earned their third championship with a 2-0 win over the Kansas City Current.
3. North Carolina Courage, 2019
North Carolina’s appearance in the 2019 championship was their third straight. The 2019 season was much like 2018, with the Courage completely dominating the regular season.
The Courage had a 15-5-4 record securing the NWSL Shield and the No. 1 seed in the playoffs. They also hold the league record for most goals in a season (54).
Much like the regular season, the Courage dominated in the playoffs. The semi-final match was interesting against Reign FC, with the match going to overtime tied at 1-1. In overtime, though, North Carolina found their offense, scoring three goals for the 4-1 victory.
In the final, North Carolina put together an impressive performance winning, 4-0, over the Chicago Red Stars to earn their second straight NWSL Championship.
4. Washington Spirit, 2021
The 2021 Washington Spirit team was full of youngsters, despite all of the adversity they faced was still able to lift the trophy at the end of the season. The 2021 season was a year in which players had to deal with ownership fallout and abuse allegations against their former head coach.
Minus two forfeits due to COVID-19 protocol, the Spirit went on a 9-0-3 hot streak from August until the end of the season to secure a spot in the playoffs.
In the first round of the playoffs, Washington defeated North Carolina, 1-0, in extra time to move on. In the semifinals, the Spirit took on OL Reign coming back from a goal down to win, 2-1. The championship game was a similar story with the Chicago Red Stars taking an early lead, but Washington was able to win, 2-1, in extra time to win its first NWSL Championship.
5. FC Kansas City, 2014
Kansas City had a ton of talent with the likes of Lauren Holiday, Becky Sauerbrunn, and Amy Rodriguez. It went 12-7-5 during their second season and were consistent throughout the entire season. It defeated the Thorns, 2-0, in the semifinal match and got a 2-1 win over the Seattle Reign in the Championship.
Rodriguez was one of the heroes of the playoffs for this team, scoring three of their four total goals.
6. Western New York Flash, 2016
The 2016 NWSL Final was one of the most entertaining back-and-forth matchups in league history.
Western New York finished with a 9-6-5 record to secure fourth place in the standings. It had to go to the Portland Thorns for the semifinal match, where it came away with a 4-3 victory in overtime. In that semifinal game, the Flash jumped to a 2-0 lead, but were unable to keep it and needed two goals in overtime to advance to the finals.
The championship match was just as exciting. The Flash took on the Washington Spirit and came back from behind twice in that match to tie the game, 2-2, in extra time. The match went to penalty kicks where Flash goalkeeper Sabrina D’Angelo saved three penalty kicks to secure the first championship for the Western New York Flash.
7. Portland Thorns, 2013
The Thorns were the first-ever NWSL champions.
During the 2013 season, the Portland finished in third place with an 11-5-6 record. The Thorns advanced to the championship game after a 3-2 overtime win against FC Kansas City. In the title game, they were able to pull off a 2-0 win over the Western New York Flash, despite having to play over 30 minutes with 10 players after a Kat Williamson red card.
8. Portland Thorns, 2017
In 2017, the Thorns went on a hot streak at the end of the season, winning 11 of their last 13 matches. They finished the regular season in second place with a 14-5-5 record.
Portland met the Orlando Pride in their semi-final match, coming away with a commanding 4-1 victory. The 2017 championship game was a battle. It was a chippy match that could’ve gone either way, but Lindsey Horan scored the game-winner for Portland to secure a 1-0 win against the North Carolina Courage.
9. FC Kansas City, 2015
For the second straight season, FC Kansas City defeated the Seattle Reign to win back-to-back NWSL Championships. Once again Amy Rodriguez scored the decisive goal in the 1-0 win.
KC had a rocky start at the beginning of the 2015 season but finished strong with only one loss in its last 10 games. It finished in third place with a 9-6-5 record.
AP Photo/Nick Wass