The National Women’s Soccer League will welcome a new member to the league landscape in 2018 as Real Salt Lake owner Dell Loy Hansen announced on Thursday the club is set to bring a NWSL franchise to the state of Utah, adding another piece to the growing pyramid of the club.
As the top tier for women’s professional soccer in the United States, the NWSL is a league of many firsts for women’s soccer in America while still being in the infancy of its existence as it continues to grow and develop the sport of soccer in our country.
The NWSL has provided five seasons of historic achievements for the women’s game in a time where the United States Women’s National Team won the World Cup for the third time.
Announced in 2012, the NWSL took over as the premier women’s soccer league in the U.S. after the Women’s Professional Soccer League (WPS) disbanded in the spring of 2012. The league was officially announced in November of the same year, albeit without an official name for the league at the time of the announcement.
Eight teams entered the league at the outset with the Boston Breakers, Chicago Red Stars, FC Kansas City, Portland Thorns FC, Seattle Reign FC, Sky Blue FC, Washington Spirit and Western New York Flash making up the first class of the NWSL.
The first-ever NWSL match was held on April 13, 2013 when FC Kansas City FC hosted the Portland Thorns in a 1-1 draw in front of 6,784 fans in a game where FC Kansas City forward Renae Cuellar scored the first goal in league history in the draw.
The inaugural NWSL season culminated with the Portland Thorns winning the NWSL Championship when they defeated NWSL Regular Season Winners – the Western New York Flash – 2-0 to become the first-ever champions of the NWSL. Below is the list of all the trophies won during the NWSL’s five seasons:
FC Kansas City (2; 2014,2015)
Portland Thorns (2; 2013, 2017)
Western NY Flash (1 Championship; 2016, 1 Shield: 2013)
Seattle Reign (2 shields; 2014, 2015)
North Carolina Courage (1 shield; 2017)
The 2013 season forged a new path for soccer and set a new standard for the women’s game United States.
Ahead of the league’s second year, the NWSL became the first women’s professional league to reach nine teams when the Houston Dash entered the league as a part of the Houston Dynamo organization in 2014. The league would later move to its current standing of ten teams when the North Carolina Courage entered the league at the beginning of the 2017 season.
The league’s third year brought about a unique situation as the 2015 Women’s World Cup was hosted on North American soil with Canada being the host nation. The World Cup created both positive and negative repercussions to the NWSL as league logistics suffered but ticket sales soared.
The season provided greater exposure for the women’s game through the World Cup but also shortened the league’s schedule and created roster instability early in the year and into the summer months. When the United States Women’s National Team won the World Cup in ’15, attendance rose dramatically at NWSL matches, much to the credit of the USWNT’s success.
2016 provided another first for the league as the season solidified the NWSL as the only women’s professional soccer league to play more than three seasons as the ’16 season began its fourth season.
Last season’s attendance was the highest the league had ever seen – including the 2015 season which saw the World Cup make its way into the hearts and minds of fans across the country – where the total attendance in the 120-match season surpassed 600,000 for the first time.
With the dawn of Utah’s own NWSL team, the league landscape remains at ten teams spread across ten states, providing the opportunity for fans of the game to witness world-class players in one of the world’s premier women’s soccer leagues.