Many soccer fans only follow the USWNT during major tournament years, like the World Cup or the Olympics the following year. But women’s soccer happens every year in the many top-tier leagues around the world. Mexico has Liga MX Femenil, England has the FA Women’s Super League, Australia has the W-League, and the United States has the NWSL.
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National Women’s Soccer League
The National Women’s Soccer League, more commonly known as the NWSL was started in 2012 and is currently comprised of 9 clubs across the U.S.
Teams in the NWSL play a 24 game season from roughly April to October each year. Teams are comprised mainly of American players, with a few international players on each team as well. The NWSL is owned in part by US Soccer, which means that it’s often the preferred league for US Women’s National Team players, though some teams have more or less than others.
Players typically enter the NWSL though the College Draft in January, or through trades from other leagues. Due to the opposite schedules, there is a large amount of crossover between the NWSL and the Australian W-League which means players can play professional soccer year-round.
How do I pick a team?
Simple, you pick the Chicago Red Stars, the oldest continuously-operating club in the country. TheRed Stars are a perennial playoff contender and truly embody the grit and determination of Chicago. If you’re a Midwesterner, you really can’t go wrong supporting the Red Stars!
Our next suggestion is to…support your local team! Do you live near one of the other NWSL teams? Then that’s your team! Women’s soccer is growing every year, but the grassroots, day-to-day support that comes from local communities is integral. This guide is written by a supporters group for the Chicago Red Stars, but all NWSL teams have SGs. If you’re looking to join a group, make sure they are independent from the team’s front office and a foster a positive environment for fans. These are the officially recognized groups for each team:
- Chicago Local 134 – Chicago Red Stars (hey, that’s us!)
- Bayou City Republic – Houston Dash
- Junkyard Dogs – North Carolina Courage
- The Crown – Orlando Pride
- Rose City Riveters – Portland Thorns FC
- Royal Guard – Reign FC
- Cloud 9 – Sky Blue FC
- The Court – Utah Royals FC
- Spirit Squadron – Washington Spirit
Why would I want to join a supporters group?
Because SGs have the most fun! Supporters Groups are the people standing up, drumming, chanting, singing, and yelling throughout the matches. Even if you’re watching games online you can usually hear them. SGs often hold pregame parties or tailgates, watch parties for away matches, and sometimes organize trips to other states for matches. SGs are typicially independent of the team, but officially recognized. This means the team does not control the group or its actions, but they do get perks that might be special events, lower ticket prices, and permission to bring instruments, flags, signs and other things into stadiums.
Does your local SG seem intimidating? We promise they aren’t really. SGs would LOVE to have you join them. Some require dues (~$20) for official members, but any of them will welcome you to stand and sing during the match even if you’re not a member. Member dues usually go toward tailgate essentials and support inside the stadium (banners, signs, flags, etc.) The people you meet in your NWSL SGs will be your fiercest, weirdest, and coolest friends!
Check out the websites and twitter feeds of your local SGs to learn where you can find them and how to get involved! If you’re coming to Chicago, here’s your guide!
I heard that the USWNT players are on these teams…
Yep – and if you don’t live near a team or have any other attachment or inclination toward one, you could pick your club based on the players there. For instance, Alex Morgan plays for Orlando, Carli Lloyd plays for Sky Blue, Megan Rapinoe plays for the Reign…but remember that supporting a soccer club is an act of love and passion. Don’t be surprised if your fave gets traded – hopefully you will forever be a fan of your chosen club!
The Chicago Red Stars currently have four USWNT players (Alyssa Naeher, Julie Ertz, Morgan Brian, and Tierna Davidson – Chicago’s #1 draft pick in 2019!); one Australian player (2-time reigning Golden Boot winner Sam Kerr); two Mexican players (Katie Johnson and Maria Sanchez), and a number of other players who have been recently called into national team camps (Danny Colaprico, Savannah McCaskill, Arin [Gilliland] Wright, Casey Short, etc.). You can do your own research to find out where your favorite players play!
How do I watch games?
If you’re in the US, you can watch games on Yahoo! Sports. If you’re an international fan, the NWSL streams games on their website for you. If you’re lucky enough to be in Chicago, you can watch all Red Stars games on NBC Sports Chicago. Often the end of the season games end up on ESPN networks, so stay plugged into NWSL news to find out more.
How can I keep up with NWSL news?
Follow the many incredible writers and reporters that cover the Red Stars!
- Sandra Herrera
- Claire Watkins
- John Halloran
- Annie Costabile
- Danny Santaromita
- Hot Time in Old Town – SB Nation
- Southside Trap Podcast
Here are our recommended follows for league-wide news:
And for more general coverage of soccer:
- AllForXI (SB Nation – Women’s Soccer)
- Stars and Stripes FC (SB Nation – USWNT & USMNT)
- Grant Wahl
- SB Nation Soccer
- The American Outlaws (and AO Chicago)
Want to come see the Chicago Red Stars play the North Carolina Courage on July 21st, 2019 AND welcome back the World Cup players? Click the image below and enter code LOCAL134 for two free tickets courtesy of us!