Players from all over the world come to the United States to play for the 12 teams of the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) If Europe is the supposed center of the footballing world, why then would so many players gravitate towards a nation that doesn’t even call it the “right” word? Why would so many fans dedicate their weekends, and the occasional weekday, to beating drums, waving scarves, and screaming chants for their favorite teams? Why should you watch the NWSL?
The answer to why you should watch is two-fold. One: there is no other women’s soccer league like the NWSL on Earth in terms of parity. On any given week in any given game, anything can, and will, happen. While of course there are generally better performing teams than others, you will never go into a game fully confident the number one team in the standings will win their game. Absurdly fantastic goals are the norm in this league, and literally, any player can score them. While this could sound frustrating, it actually makes every game worth watching.
Take the September 10, 2022 match between the San Diego Wave and the Washington Spirit. San Diego were the obvious favorites in this matchup, given that Washington had not won a match in 16 games. To the shock of everyone, Washington center-back Amber Brooks scored not one but two goals. Combine those with a converted penalty from Ashley Hatch in the 100th minute and the Spirit somehow managed to get their first win over a team that would end up making the playoffs in their inaugural season.
As demonstrated, this league is chaotic in the best way possible. There are no guarantees. Every game has the potential to be a classic. From a player perspective, this is incredibly unique. Take Swedish defender Hanna Glas, who signed with the Kansas City Current ahead of the 2023 NWSL season. In an interview with The Athletic, Glas complimented the league’s singular parity:
“One thing right now is, let’s say the French, the English, the German, and mostly also in the Swedish leagues, two, maybe three teams are competing for the title. I feel the NWSL is a more competitive league. Every team, every game is pretty tough.”
The NWSL’s chaotic energy also manifests itself into meme-able moments. For example, in the Wave-Spirit game profiled above, I didn’t mention that the number two isn’t just for how many goals center-back Amber Brooks scored. It’s also the number of middle fingers she flashed at a referee after a poor decision. If you think this is peak entertainment, here are some of our NWSL staff’s favorite chaos moments:
Marta pretends to stab Rachel Daly with the corner flag
Ifeoma Onumonu scores a goal but the referee decides it’s a corner for some reason
And the consensus staff favorite:
Emily Sonnett gets a red card and then immediately gets in a fight with Amy Rodriguez
Let it be known this league is plenty of fun. The play is fantastic and the players bring chaos to every game. That being said, it’s also worth discussing NWSL players’ strong commitment to activism and bettering playing conditions, whether that’s in their own team, across the league, or worldwide. If you’ve read anything about the NWSL, you probably are familiar with the league-wide reckoning that took place starting in 2021, where seven coaches were ultimately fired due to misconduct. None of this would have come to light if the courageous players past and present had not shared their stories. The players truly started a new and safer era in NWSL history for and with each other. This is best represented by the now-iconic act of solidarity among all teams in the first match week back after the abuse allegations began:
This image says everything. As much as the NWSL is incredibly competitive, the players stand in solidarity with each other. And they know the fans are right behind them. That is what makes the NWSL so special. This league empowers fans and players alike to stand up for what’s right, even if you have to get a little chaotic.