[NWSL: Preview] The NWSL is a novelty as far as women's pro leagues go. Unlike WUSA or WPS, the outlook for the NWSL looks brighter in Year 2 than in Year 1. All eight founding clubs return and are joined by the Houston Dash, the second club to be launched by an MLS club. There has also been a major upgrade on the field as the league has attracted U.S. national team players who remained abroad in Year 1 and a growing number of foreign stars. Here's what's new in Year 2.
NWSL SCHEDULE, Week 1:
Saturday, April 12
8:00 pm ET
Houston vs. Portland
FC Kansas City vs. Sky Blue FC
Sunday, April 13
4:00 pm ET
Washington vs. Western NY
7:00 pm ET
Seattle vs. Boston
HOUSTON DASH.The NWSL planned to stick to eight teams for 2014, but a late bid by MLS's Houston Dynamo to field a team was accepted. The Dash immediately went out and hired longtime Notre Dame coach Randy Waldrum, the first big-name college coach to jump to the pros. Don't expect the Dash to be the huge success that the Portland Thorns FC, the first MLS-backed team, were in Year 1, but it should sell out its opener against the Thorns Saturday in the reduced capacity at BBVA Compass (about 7,000 seats) and has already sold around 2,000 season tickets -- not bad when you consider half the league drew less than 2,500 in Year 1.
U.S. IMPORTS.Foreign clubs aggressively pursued American players out of college and following the demise of WPS. Players like Megan Rapinoe and Tobin Heath split time in 2013 between French clubs and their NWSL teams. Rapinoe has since left Lyon to play full-time for Seattle, while Heath will return to Portland after her season at Paris St. Germain.
As the U.S. national team gears up for its 2015 Women's World Cup push, the pressure to return home has increased. Christen Press (Chicago), Whitney Engen and Meghan Klingenberg (both Houston) -- all starters in Tom Sermanni's final game as national team coach on Sunday -- will join their NWSL clubs from Tyreso after the UEFA Women's Champions League final -- if Tyreso qualifies -- or when the second transfer window opens May 19. Sarah Hagen (FC Kansas City) and Amber Brooks (Portland) have left Bayern Munich in Germany, and Yael Averbuch returned from Gothenburg in Sweden.
NWSL 2014 Countdown:
Thorns' Riley would be interested in women's job
All regular-season games streamed on YouTube
Clubs confirm rosters for new season
FOREIGN IMPORTS. Except for the Canadian and Mexican national team stars allocated to NWSL clubs, there were not many foreign stars in NWSL for Year 1. Only two foreigners -- Canadian Diana Matheson (Washington) and WelshwomanJess Fishlock (Seattle) -- were first-team all-league picks in 2013. As a practical matter, most European stars were unavailable because of Euro 2013 in Sweden.
In Year 2, a bevy of foreign stars are headed to NWSL: German Nadine Angerer (Portland), the 2013 FIFA Women's Player of the Year, Spaniards Veronica Boquete (Portland) and Vicky Losada (Western New York), Scotswoman Kim Little (Seattle), Dane Cecilie Sandvej (Washington), plus Japanese stars Nahomi Kawasumi (Seattle) and Nanase Kiryu(Sky Blue FC) and Australians Katrina Gorry(FC Kansas City), Lydia Williamsand Emma Kete(both Western New York)
TWO NEW COACHES.Two clubs have changed coaches in the offseason.Paul Riley, tipped as a possible successor for Sermanni as U.S. national team coach, was named the Thorns coach after Cindy Parlow Cone stepped down for family reasons, while Tom Durkin takes over at Boston, where captain Cat Whitehillfinished the 2013 season as player-coach.
THREE NEW STADIUMS.Three teams are moving into new homes: Boston (Harvard Stadium), FC Kansas City (UMKC's Verizon Field) and Seattle (Memorial Stadium). In the case of Boston and FC Kansas City, the moves are upgrades from high school stadiums, though FC Kansas City will play in a stadium with a smaller capacity (3,200) than it averaged in 2013.
2013 NWSL, Attendance:
4,626 FC Kansas City
4,485 Western NY
1,677 Sky Blue FC