5 Things To Look Out for on NWSL Opening Weekend

The 2024 NWSL season is finally here. We break down everything we’ll have our eyes peeled for come opening weekend. 

It was a wild NWSL offseason. In the four months since the 2023 title match, we’ve seen an expansion draft, new splash signings, and major roster revamps, all of which had us anxious for the action on the pitch to return.

Two new clubs, a fresh (and lucrative) TV deal, and litany of new stars both joining and emerging in the league position the NWSL to have a massive 2024. As we make necessary preparations for the new season — including planning out our opening day ‘fits and locking in some three-leg parlays (where betting is legal of course) —  let’s dive into what we’re most looking forward to on opening weekend.

Debuts: New Teams and Players

Let’s start with the obvious — the two new teams joining the NWSL ranks.

First there’s the Utah Royals, who are making a return to the league after ceasing operations in 2020. With a redesigned logo and renewed outlook, Utah’s first major announcement from a personnel perspective came in the form of head coach Amy Rodriguez, who played with the club from 2018-20.

amy rodriguez

Rodriguez is an American soccer legend, but this is her first head coaching role, and her only prior coaching experience came as an assistant at the collegiate level with USC.

There will surely be a learning curve for Rodriguez in her first year, but her fiery demeanor and leadership ability are two intangibles that will surely come in handy. Making a quick jump from player to manager is no easy feat, but if there’s anyone built to do it, it’s A-Rod.

From a player perspective, Utah picked up a few interesting pieces, including Ify Onumono, Paige Monaghan, and Imani Dorsey. Dorsey, who is coming off a year-long mental health leave, could prove to be a sleeper addition, and with a fresh start she could be in for a major comeback. The Royals also scored Ally Sentnor with the No. 1 overall pick in the draft, who looks to make an immediate impact with the club.

Expectations won’t be sky-high for the Royals, but they should be competitive in their first year back in the league, and they’ll welcome the Chicago Red Stars for their home opener at what should be a sold-out America First Field.


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Joining Utah at the new kids table is Bay FC, who had a bit of a flashier offseason. The club made a massive splash when building its roster, signing stars Asisat Oshoala, Deyna Castellanos, and Racheal Kundananji, the latter of whom became the most expensive transfer in women’s football history.

The star trio joins a talent-filled roster that also includes Scarlett Camberos, Caprice Dydasco, and NWSL Draft No. 2 overall pick Savannah King.

Bay FC is built to win now, and while there might be a period of adjustment for the new squad, look for this team to be an immediate contender a la San Diego Wave in 2022. Even better, the club opens up on the road at Angel City FC, which could spark a new and exciting derby for the league.

In addition to the new clubs, there will be a bevy of fresh faces coming to the league in 2024. In addition to Bay FC’s three-headed monster of Castellanos, Oshoala, and Kundananji, other new players to watch for include Angel City FC’s Gisele Thompson and Casey Phair — both U-18 signees — Seattle Reign’s Ji-So Yun, a South Korean and Chelsea legend, and Barbra Banda, who is joining Orlando Pride for the second-highest transfer fee in women’s football history behind her fellow Zambian international Kundananji.


nwsl kits 2024

Of course, we had to mention the kits. While we were a bit underwhelmed at the designs of Nike’s otherwise impressive jersey rollout last week, we have yet to see the full uniforms in action on the pitch. It must be said that there is a massive difference in seeing photos of a kit online and in person, and many minds (mine included) have changed upon seeing a new kit up close and personal.

There is also a flip side to that coin, in which the jerseys are actually worse in person than they were in the Nike photoshoots. It’s a long shot, but could certainly be a disappointing possibility come Saturday and Sunday.

Big Crowds

angel city fc

NWSL attendance numbers have been on the rise over the past few years, including a reported 26% average attendance increase from 2022 to 2023. Six teams averaged over 10,000 fans in 2023, up from just two the prior year.

With Utah, who before its hiatus was regularly near the top of the league attendance table, returning to the mix, in addition to the general rise in popularity of the league and its teams, we should expect the numbers to continue to trend upward in 2024.

Some particularly big crowds should be in attendance for Angel City vs. Bay FC, Utah Royals vs. Chicago Red Stars, and Seattle Reign vs. Washington Spirit. In addition, we’ll see the grand opening of Kansas City Current’s CPKC Stadium, the first-ever privately financed home grounds built exclusively for a women’s soccer team. Expect a sellout for that one, too.

New TV Deal


Another new feature in the 2024 NWSL season will be the league’s shiny new TV deal. Replacing the NWSL’s exclusive partnership with CBS will be a joint-deal with ESPN, Prime Video, Scripps Sports, and CBS Sports. In addition, the league is rolling out NWSL+, its own free streaming service that will air over 70 live matches throughout the season as well as highlights from every game.

The four-year, $240 million dollar deal is a major step up from the previous one, which was three years and $4.5 million. The CBS/Paramount+ deal wasn’t perfect, but it was convenient to have everything in one place, and it’ll be interesting to see how the execution of the new format across four networks will play out.

We’ll hopefully get better camera and microphone quality across the board, which were probably the two biggest complaints when it came to NWSL broadcasts over the past few seasons.

Gotham’s Superteam

gotham fc

Gotham FC’s free agency spree was perhaps the biggest story of the NWSL offseason. General manager Yael Averbuch got in her Danny Ocean bag to bring together an unreal assembly of talent to bolster an already strong roster that had just won the NWSL Championship.

United States women’s national team vets Crystal Dunn, Rose Lavelle, Emily Sonnett, and Tierna Davidson will join the reigning champs in 2024, and if Gotham already didn’t have a target on its back, it certainly will now.

We’ve seen newly formed superteams struggle out of the gate in the past, and how the team responds to any adversity will be telling. The sheer amount of experience, talent, and continuity from last year’s run is enough to be optimistic for the club’s outlook both in 2024 and beyond, but if there’s one thing we’ve learned about the NWSL, it’s that parity across the league has been extremely tight, and chaos is around every single corner.

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