Everything you need to know about the 2024 NWSL season

March 15, 2024
Beyond arming each team with splashy new kits, the league is evolving to stay competitive with Europe’s pro women’s leagues, like England’s Women’s Super League (WSL), Spain’s Liga F, and France’s Division 1 Féminine.
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Everything you need to know about the 2024 NWSL season
Source: San Diego Wave FC

👀 What’s new

The NWSL is in their makeover era. Beyond arming each team with splashy new kits, the league is evolving to stay competitive with Europe’s pro women’s leagues, like England’s Women’s Super League (WSL), Spain’s Liga F, and France’s Division 1 Féminine.

Here’s what changed since the 2023 season wrapped up:

🏆 The Challenge Cup is no longer a season-long tourney, but just tonight’s one match between last season’s champion (Gotham) and NWSL Shield winner (Wave). Alrighty then.

📈 Two expansion teams — Bay FC and the Utah Royals FC — will debut this weekend, with two more on the way by 2026: a long-awaited Boston squad and another still-undecided team.

🧼 Meanwhile, two original NWSL teams — the Portland Thorns and the Chicago Red Stars — are under new ownership, removing the last high-profile decision-makers who had a hand in the league’s former widespread systemic abuse.

🏟️ The Kansas City Current’s CPKC Stadium, one of the only women’s soccer–specific facilities in the world, hosts its first game tomorrow when the Current face the Thorns at 1 p.m. ET. New levels of joy, unlocked.

🌎 With international roster spots increased from five to seven on each team this year, there’s a massive influx of global talent in the league.

🦇 And while some teams looked overseas for new talent, Gotham became a supercharged superteam, signing four players from the current USWNT to their championship squad.

📺 And then there’s the new $240M media deal, the largest ever signed in women’s sports. Games will air on a combination of platforms in the U.S., including CBS, Paramount+, ABC, ESPN, Prime Video, NWSL+ (the league’s free streaming network), and ION. The NWSL wasn’t kidding when they said, “Keep up.”

⚙️ How it works

Everything you need to know about the 2024 NWSL season
Source: Ben Nichols/ISI Photos/Getty Images

Teams will play 26 matches (up from 22 in 2023), facing each competitor twice — once at home and once away. The regular season runs from now through November, with an international break from July 8th to August 16th while some players compete in the Paris Olympics.

  • That said, the NWSL will hold a still-unnamed tourney featuring all 14 teams and a few other international participants (minus their Olympians) during that time. Curious.

The top team at the end of the regular season will walk away with the NWSL Shield, and for the first time, the best eight teams (up from six) will advance to the single-elimination playoffs.

💪 The contenders

Everything you need to know about the 2024 NWSL season
Source: Meg Oliphant/Getty Images

🦇 NJ/NY Gotham FC: The expectations are sky-high for the 2023 Cinderella story champs to run it back, especially as a superteam. After adding midfielder/defender Crystal Dunn, defender Tierna Davidson, and midfielders Rose Lavelle and Emily Sonnett to their already-stacked lineup, it’s back-to-back championships or bust for the Bats.

🌊 San Diego Wave: After finishing on top of the table in just their second season, the Wave unsurprisingly made very few changes in the offseason. Forwards Jaedyn Shaw and Alex Morgan have excellent chemistry, while two-time Defender of the Year Naomi Girma is a brick house. Now it’s time for this talented team to make a strong playoff run.

🌹 Portland Thorns: Having led the Thorns since their inception in 2013, captain Christine Sinclair will retire from soccer at the end of this season. But Sincy’s passing of the torch is already underway as the squad signed CanWNT’s new captain, midfielder Jessie Fleming, in the offseason. Look for her and 2022 NWSL MVP and 2023 Golden Boot winner, forward Sophia Smith, to be magic.

☔ Bay FC: As a first-year expansion team, it will take some time for Bay FC to build chemistry, but the top-notch international stars headlining this lineup means their potential is unmatched. Forward Asisat Oshoala put Nigeria on the map at the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup (WWC) and will be joined on the pitch by Zambian forward Racheal Kundananji, once she recovers from a knee injury.

💧 Kansas City Current: USWNT fans will recognize the Current’s new head coach (HC) — Vlatko Andonovski, former HC of the senior women’s squad. Though his national team tenure was not great, Andonovski previously won two NWSL championships with the bygone FC Kansas City and has Brazilian superstar midfielder Debinha guiding his team as he searches for redemption.

🍊 Orlando Pride: Two words: Barbra Banda. The forward and heartbeat of Zambia’s national squad courted the second-highest transfer fee in the women’s game this offseason and will be a young stud alongside Orlando’s veteran Brazilian stars: forward Adriana and the legendary Marta, who could be nearing retirement. Ready your best red lip.

👼 Angel City FC: If there’s one thing to know about LA, it’s that this team is investing heavily in young talent. Angel City now boasts the teenage Thompson sisters, forward Alyssa and defender Gisele, as well as 16-year-old Casey Phair, the youngest player in WWC history. The kids (and bicycle-kicking Syd the Kid) are certainly alright.

🐶 The underdogs

Everything you need to know about the 2024 NWSL season
Source: Justin Fine/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

⭐ Chicago Red Stars: After finishing dead last in 2023 following star forward Mallory Swanson’s patellar tendon tear, there’s no place for the Red Stars to go but up. With Swanson healthy (and locked in on a massive contract), the team’s rebuild can begin in earnest after key members of the backline exited in the offseason.

👑 Seattle Reign FC: Quite a lot has changed for the Reign (including their name) since losing to Gotham in the 2023 championship. Forward Megan Rapinoe retired and the aforementioned Lavelle and Sonnett left for Gotham, leaving a gaping hole in Seattle’s starting lineup. But if anyone can handle this rebuild, it’s HC Laura Harvey, widely regarded as one of the best in the game.

🧨 Washington Spirit: Like many NWSL teams, the Spirit are under new leadership this season. HC Jonatan Giráldez will helm the squad after an extremely successful run with FC Barcelona Femení, but not until the summertime, leaving the Spirit under an interim’s control for now. It’s a gamble, but owner Michele Kang has faith in her plan — and star forward Trinity Rodman.

💨 Houston Dash: The Dash may have signed veteran forward María Sánchez to an enormous contract, but with only one postseason appearance in 10 seasons, the team has long way to go before they’re recognized as a powerhouse club. Will this year be the start of something new?

✊ NC Courage: It may take some time for the Courage to find their chemistry after losing defender Emily Fox to the WSL’s Arsenal and 2023 MVP Kerolin to an ACL injury. Fortunately, midfielder/forward Ashley Sanchez’s arrival should provide some sort of spark.

🐎 Racing Louisville FC: Expectations are low after new HC Bev Yanez called the team a “work in progress,” in the offseason. Yikes. But, above all, Louisville, anchored by dynamic midfielder Savannah DeMelo, will try to enhance their possession game this season.

🫅 Utah Royals FC: USWNT legend and new HC Amy Rodriguez approached the Royals’ roster build a bit more conservatively than fellow-expansion squad, Bay FC, but one player to keep an eye on is the No. 1 overall draft pick, forward Ally Sentnor, hailing from college powerhouse, UNC.

📺 How to watch

Everything you need to know about the 2024 NWSL season
Source: Nick Tre. Smith/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Challenge Cup kicks off tonight at 8 p.m. ET on Amazon’s Prime Video, with games running on ABC, NWSL+ and ION throughout the weekend in the U.S. At time of publishing, the NWSL has not announced its Canadian broadcast partner, but you can try watching for free on the NWSL’s website.