The 2023 NWSL season is set to begin on March 25 and will run until Nov. 11. The offseason has brought a ton of trades, free agent moves, and exciting signings. Here is where we think each team ranks to begin the season.
1. Kansas City Current
After falling short in the 2022 NWSL Final, the Current went all in during the offseason to bring in key playmakers to win a championship.
Through free agency, Kansas City was able to snag Debinha, who has proven to be one of — if not — the best players in the league. Signing Debinha is a huge boost for this team. They also brought in experienced midfielders Morgan Gautrat and Vanessa DiBernardo. On top of that, they were also able to select Michelle Cooper with the second pick in the 2023 NWSL Draft. Cooper is a proven goalscorer that can make an instant impact in this offense.
One of the biggest questions for this team is going to be what kind of formation they go with. With so many midfield options, they’ll have to figure out how to get all the playmakers on the field in a working combination.
2. Portland Thorns
Portland dominated the league last season on the way to winning their third NWSL Championship. Although the team will be under first-time head coach Mike Norris, it would be hard to believe that they don’t pick up right where they left off.
The Thorns have gone through the offseason without making many changes to their 2022 NWSL Championship roster. They return league MVP Sophia Smith, talented midfielder Sam Coffey, and veterans Becky Sauerbrunn and Christine Sinclair to name a few of their stars.
In addition to an already stacked roster, star midfielder Lindsey Horan could also make her return to the NWSL when her loan to Olympique Lyonnais ends in the summer.
3. OL Reign
Last season, OL Reign won the NWSL Shield but had a disappointing finish to the season falling short in the semifinals. The Reign is another team that didn’t go through many roster changes ahead of the 2023 season. They did strengthen their roster by acquiring Emily Sonnett and Elyse Bennett via trades.
Laura Harvey has a ton of talent and this team is capable of competing for the Shield again as well as the Championship, but it will be interesting to see how they handle the absence of key players during the 2023 Women’s World Cup.
4. Houston Dash
Even though the Dash lost their key player Rachel Daly last season, they quickly found another star when they traded for forward Ebony Salmon. The forward found her form in 2022 when she joined the Dash midseason and went on to score nine goals for the team.
Houston made a splash trade when they acquired Diana Ordóñez, who during her rookie season scored 11 goals and should create a dangerous combo between her and Salmon.
They were also able to strengthen their defense by trading for Courtney Petersen, who should make an instant impact as well.
Houston does have a new head coach in Sam Laity, but this is going to be a team to watch.
5. San Diego Wave
In their inaugural season, the Wave came very close to playing for the NWSL Championship but fell just short in the semifinal match.
The strength of this team was the defense led by possibly the best goalkeeper in the league, Kailen Sheridan. Alex Morgan played a massive role in the first season’s success as well, scoring 15 goals in 17 games.
San Diego added even more depth to the squad when they added free agents Danielle Colaprico and Rachel Hill. The Wave could struggle while international players are away but if they can get off to a hot start, they have the depth to make a run.
6. Washington Spirit
Washington is an interesting team as last season they struggled tremendously, but they have a ton of young talent on the roster. After winning the championship in 2021, Washington ended the 2022 season in the bottom half of the standings.
They brought in experienced head coach Mark Parsons, who had many successful seasons as the head coach of the Portland Thorns.
The Spirit did lose USWNT players Kelley O’Hara and Emily Sonnett, but they were able to bring back their stars like Aubrey Kingsbury, Trinity Rodman, Ashley Hatch, and Ashley Sanchez.
7. Racing Louisville
Louisville is an interesting team to watch going into the 2023 season. Their roster on paper is pretty impressive after picking up quite a few players during the offseason.
They were able to sign Brazilian midfielder Ary Borges, midfielder Paige Monaghan, and South African forward Thembi Kgatlana. Louisville does have some key injuries with Kgatlana, Emina Ekic, and Nadia Nadim all recovering, but all three will play a big part when healthy.
Racing’s biggest need was to improve the defense and they did that in a big way when they acquired veterans Abby Erceg and Carson Pickett, both of those players will tremendously help a backline that struggled. They also added Finnish defender Elli Pikkujämsä.
8. NJ/NY Gotham FC
Gotham had a disappointing 2022 season. They recognized that and made moves this offseason to try and correct that.
They made quite a few offseason moves like signing Kelley O’Hara, Lynn Williams, and Yazmeen Ryan. In addition to player acquisitions, they also hired Juan Carlos Amorós as their new head coach, who was previously the head coach of the Dash.
This is a team that is taking the win-now approach with their offseason moves, but we’ll have to see if it works out and if they make a run to the playoffs.
9. Orlando Pride
Orlando has lost a lot of key players this offseason, but they do have quite a bit of talent still on the roster, including star Marta who they were able to re-sign which was huge. They were also able to draft five rookies including defender Emily Madril with the third overall pick.
The biggest question is likely where the goals are going to come from. They’ll likely lean on their three rookie forwards Messiah Bright, Summer Yates, and Kristen Scott. They were also able to sign Brazilian forward Adriana who will likely start.
Orlando had found a rhythm at the end of the 2022 season so if they can figure out the personnel, they could surprise a lot of people.
10. North Carolina Courage
In the past two years, North Carolina has lost a lot of key players. There were 25 players rostered in 2019 when the Courage dominated the league and went on to win the NWSL Championship. Of those 25, only five players are still with the club.
This offseason, they lost their top two goal scorers in Debinha and Diana Ordóñez, who were responsible for 23 of the 46 total team goals. They also traded two defenders in former captain Abby Erceg and Carson Pickett — both will be massive losses.
In the Erceg and Pickett trade, they were able to get USWNT defender Emily Fox, who is a big addition.
With a mix of new faces and international signings, it’s hard to know how this team will perform, but there isn’t a lack of talent on the roster.
11. Angel City
Like San Diego, Angel City surprised people with how well they played at times last season. Being an expansion team is difficult, but Angel City was able to come in Year 1 and set the tone.
This team will have a scary good top three forwards when Christen Press and Sydney Leroux return from injury to join the No. 1 overall draft pick in Alyssa Thompson.
They don’t have much of a midfield and that could prove to be a weak spot that they can’t overcome.
12. Chicago Red Stars
Chicago has historically been a very good team each season, but it’s expected that this will be a rebuilding year for this team.
This team still has familiar faces like Mallory Swanson, Tierna Davidson, Casey Krueger, and Arin Wright.
The Red Stars lost their whole starting midfield through free agency, which puts them in a difficult position. They did acquire league veteran Cari Roccaro, who had her best season yet last year with Angel City but who else will start with her in the midfield is still a question. Of the 13 midfielders listed on their preseason roster, seven are non-roster invitees.
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