2024 nwsl season preview

The NWSL season kicks off this Saturday, March 15, and it’s primed to be bigger and better than ever. Change is afoot in the league, with two expansion teams joining the competition, tons of offseason player movement, and a crop of new international talent. That enhanced star power, along with the league’s landmark media rights deal, makes this the most highly-anticipated NWSL season yet.

We’ve teamed up with Jackie Gutierrez at Women Kick Balls to prepare you for all of this season’s 182 matches.

Check out the complete Women Kick Balls guide and be sure to follow @WomenKickBalls to stay up-to-date on all things women’s soccer.

View the full 2024 NWSL schedule.

by the numbers

  • 1.2M - More than 1.2 million fans attended NWSL matches in 2023, setting a new league record and a 26 percent year-over-year increase.
  • 1 - The 2023 season ended with a Cinderella story, as Gotham FC raised its first NWSL Championship trophy after finishing in last place the previous season.
  • $240M - The NWSL signed the most lucrative media rights deal for any women’s sports team to date at $60 million a year. 121 games will be televised and/or streamed in this new deal across four national distributors — a fourfold increase from 2023.
  • $53M - One of the newest teams joining the league this season is Bay FC, which paid an NWSL-record $53 million expansion fee to become the league’s 14th franchise.

season 12 storylines 🍿

New Teams

Two new franchises will kick off in 2024, Bay FC and Utah Royals FC, bringing the total number of NWSL teams to 14. The first NWSL team in the Bay Area, Bay FC, was co-founded by four USWNT legends: Brandi Chastain, Aly Wagner, Danielle Slaton, and Leslie Osborn. The Utah Royals are returning to the NWSL after previously operating from 2018-2020. Real Salt Lake owners Ryan Smith and David Blitzer are part of the new Royals ownership structure.

New Faces

The new faces aren’t just reserved for the player pool. Seven teams feature new head coaches this year, including World Cup champion, Olympic Gold medalist, and two-time NWSL champion, Amy Rodriguez, who returns to coach her former club, Utah Royals FC. Rodriguez is the first former American NWSL player in league history to become a head coach within the league.

New Places

The Kansas City Current will debut the world's first women’s professional sports stadium in their season opener on March 16. The $117 million, 11,500-capacity CPKC Stadium will have a brick-and-mortar team store — the first physical store in NWSL history.

New Playoff Format

With two new franchises, the league has expanded the playoff field, allowing eight teams to qualify for the postseason this year rather than six. This new format will feature four quarterfinal matches and eliminate the bye previously given to the top two teams.

Who to Watch 👀

  • A Rookie: Angel City FC signed 18-year-old defender Gisele Thompson, the younger sister of forward Alyssa Thompson, to the squad this offseason. This sister duo will look to help Angel City FC’s youthful squad to another playoff appearance.

  • A Vet: Crystal Dunn made a huge offseason move, joining the reigning champs Gotham FC (as did a few other USWNT stars). All eyes will be on the Bats and Dunn as they form what might be the NWSL’s first superteam. 

  • A Newcomer: Barbra Banda made headlines after signing a landmark contract with the Orlando Pride on March 6, just a week before the season kicks off. The 23-year-old Zambian forward scored 41 goals in 52 games for her previous club, Shanghai Shengli,  and will immediately boost the Pride’s attack. Banda’s $740,000, four-year contract makes her the second-highest-paid female footballer in the world.

A Comeback: Mallory Swanson re-signed with the Chicago Red Stars this offseason after they hired new head coach Lorne Donaldson. Swanson has been hard at work in her return to the pitch after suffering a devastating knee injury during last April’s USWNT match against the Republic of Ireland.

How to Watch 📺

Every Friday — Matches on Prime Video

Every Saturday — Double-header on ION network

More regular season matches will air on The CBS Television Network and stream live on Paramount+, with additional matches airing on CBS Sports Network.

ESPN will air selected matches across ABC, ESPN, ESPN2, and ESPN Deportes.

Remaining matches will be available on NWSL+, the league’s first-ever direct-to-consumer streaming platform. NWSL+ is free to all fans across the U.S. and available to download on all iOS/Android devices. Get it here!

Mark your calendars 📆

March 15 — NWSL Challenge Cup (Gotham FC vs. San Diego Wave)

March 16 — Regular Season Kick-Off

July 15 - August 18 — Olympic Break 

November 9 — NWSL Quarterfinals 

November 16 — NWSL Semifinals

November 23 — NWSL Championship