An Album that Defines Each NWSL Team’s Vibe Heading Into the 2024 Season

As we prepare for a new NWSL season, we take a look at the vibes surrounding each club, through the lens of different music albums. 

The 2024 NWSL season is less than a month away, and it is shaping up to be a great one. Not only has the league grown with Bay FC and Utah Royals joining (or in Utah’s case, re-joining) the league, there has been a pretty significant amount of incoming talent from across the globe, on top of a stacked draft class.

With some huge storylines, this year is primed to be the best yet. Can Gotham’s superteam live up to the hype? Will the Spirit’s youth-filled roster rebuild work? How will the Reign move on from losing three legends of the game? And lastly, Angel City was the league’s hottest team in the second half of the season, can they keep the good times rolling?

Instead of the traditional “here’s what happened last year, here’s what to expect this year” type of preview, I want to do a vibe check of sorts, choosing an album that represents where each team and their fanbases are. A musical mood if you will.

Angel City FC: SOS, SZA

Out of all the albums on this list, this one might be the best fit. SZA’s SOS is on another level; from production and lyrical composition to her silky smooth voice.

Likewise, Angel City FC has reached a new level during the offseason (at least on paper). Rocky Rodriguez and Messiah Bright are perfect additions to how ACFC wants to play under Becki Tweed, and both should be in the starting lineup for the season opener.

Rookies Gisele Thompson, Casey Phair, and Felicia Knox also look to make immediate impacts, bolstering a roster that was one of the toughest matchups across the league in the second half of 2023.

Like with SOS, the Angel City fanbase can be described as smooth, emotional, and vibey. The album is also SZA’s first to earn a Grammy award — could ACFC haul in some silverware this season as well?

Bay FC: The Next Step, People Under the Stairs

This one was too easy. People Under the Stairs’ debut album is a classic, and with the way Bay FC has approached their roster, we might have the best expansion team yet. The fledgling club has put together a squad stacked with talent, style, and bite.

I love what they did focusing on the defense first and getting a local product with their first draft pick who will start day one. They got Scarlett Camberos from ACFC, who is primed for a big year, and then they got superstars Deyna Castenada and a transfer that could be one of the biggest in the sport for this year in Asisat Oshoala. As if that wasn’t enough, Bay FC most recently set a world record transfer fee for Rachel Kundanaji from Real Madrid. Getting one of those players would be a massive success, but all three is a dream.

People Under the Stairs have a unique sound — smooth yet in your face — and if you don’t listen to their lyrics the wordplay and imagery will fly over your head. Can Bay FC match that energy with their first season?

Chicago Red Stars: Bucket List Project, Saba

This one might come as a surprise to those that know the Chicago music scene and the mega stars to come out of the Windy City. But even the album name is perfect for where the Red Stars fanbase is at — getting a new owner was not just nice to have, but a necessity.

Lorne Donaldson isn’t a glitzy hire, but he is an amazing coach and had the full support of the Jamaican women’s national team at a time when they were quite publicly protesting their association. Sam Staab and Bunny Shaw are bucket list level signings for any club in the league, yet they’ve been overshadowed by some of the other big moves this offseason.

It may not come together immediately, or even this season, but Chicago is on the ups and this smooth upbeat hip-hop album that maybe not everyone knows fits where the club is at.

Gotham FC: Ungodly Hour, Chloe x Halle

I was tempted to choose Watch the Throne for this year’s edition of Gotham, but that felt too easy. Chloe x Halle’s Ungodly Hour is a front-to-back listen and the roster for Gotham is front-to-back-stacked. In particular, the closing track “ROYL” is an apt selection for where Gotham is at.

We’ve seen how assembling a cohort of big names doesn’t guarantee success with last year’s struggles of Kansas City Current, but the history these players have with the United States women’s national team gives this a different feeling to me. A repeat is completely in the realm of possibility for this club putting them in the royalty discussion, but they won’t be catching anyone by surprise this time around.

Houston Dash: Grey Area, Little Simz

Little Simz is one of my favorite artists right now. She’s unique and does it her way while still going hard and creating songs for the masses. Houston is building a roster that is similar — they have some certified ballers in Diana Ordonez and Maria Sanchez who they made the highest paid player in league, indicating a commitment to their style and how they want to play.

Adding Cece Kizer and Yuki Nagasoto give them solid veterans that can immediately contribute and fit in with a squad that isn’t afraid to get dirty. The Dash might not be everyone’s style (much like Little Simz), but if they can find their groove like Simz did on Grey Area they’ll have a great year that should include a postseason run.

Kansas City Current: Fever to Tell, Yeah Yeah Yeahs

Kansas City is in a pretty weird space. A brand new soccer-specific stadium built specifically for the club has many optimistic for the new season, but its front office continues to blindside players with trades, which can be a cause for concern for many fans.

The Current have a loaded roster, but new manager Vlatko Andonosvki and assistant Freya Coombe had less-than-stellar runs in their previous jobs at the helms of the USWNT and Angel City FC, respectively. For the record, I think Andonovski is a fine signing and can deal with the bright lights that come with Kansas City, but his end with the national team leaves a lot to be desired.

The Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ Fever to Tell fits the angst (and anger) from the fanbase. The album goes hard and is a head banger, but the emotions behind the lyrics aren’t always positive, something I think all KC fans can identify with.

North Carolina Courage: Wonder Years, 9th Wonder

Not too long ago, the courage were the team in the NWSL — multiple championships and a stacked roster made them the envy of the league. It’s been a tough ride for the fanbase since however, and the lows have been really low. With reigning league MVP Kerolin coming off a torn ACL, and losing USWNT staple Emily Fox, there was a lot of needs for the club to fill. With the additions of Ashley Sanchez and German international Flecitas Rauch, could the Courage return to their wondrous past? I think they’ll be a force to reckon with this season, but only time will tell.

Orlando Pride: Forever, Popcaan

Marta is forever, that much is clear. Losing Messiah Bright was tough, but adding Brazilian national teamers Angelina and Luana will keep the vibes high and keep the team fun. In addition, Simone Charley is silky smooth and was never given a proper chance at Angel City even before her Achilles injury last season.

Popcaan’s Forever is a fun listen and you can’t help but nod your head and sway throughout the album. In a league where nearly half the teams make the playoffs, you don’t have to be elite to make a run at the title. If Orlando can create their own identity like Popcaan did on this album, a deep run is very much so possible in 2024.

Portland Thorns: Freetown Sound, Blood Orange

Portland is in an interesting spot. They’ve lost Crystal Dunn and Rocky Rodriguez, two players pretty much any team in the league would not only want but would start for them.

But count out a team with Sophia Smith, Christine Sinclair (regardless of age), and Sam Coffey out at your own risk. There is a lot of veteran talent here that know how it wants to play. The Thorns won’t be as flashy as some other teams, but they know who they are.

The former is also my favorite part about listening to Blood Orange — there is a complete vision on who he is as an artist and he does it his own way. Freetown Sound is smooth and in his own words, “for the under appreciated,” which Portland could easily be with how few moves they’ve made despite regularly contending for titles.

Racing Louisville: Devotion, Tirzah

Racing Louisville has a midfield that can push to be one of the best in league with Jaelin Howell, Savannah DeMelo, and Ary Borges, but the results just haven’t come for the club. A front office that isn’t viewed very favorably and a new head coach don’t necessarily create uncertainty, but we just don’t know what to expect all the time.

Tirzah’s Devotion is an album that at first listen can feel minimalistic in its sound, but on repeat listens you can hear and feel her talent. With the right production she shines (most of these songs are recorded in one take), and Racing feels like they are in the same spot. With the correct tactics and preparation, the squad is there for a playoff run, but it’s nuanced and one of those “less is more” situations. Adding Taylor Flint (formely Kornieck) into that midfield is scary and again, if they find their groove it’ll be as simple as letting the good players play soccer. A minimalist approach might be exactly what this team needs.

San Diego Wave: Pagan, Palmistry

Palmistry’s album Pagan really flew under the radar in my opinion, and despite having won the NWSL Shield last year, I think the Wave’s roster building has flown under the radar as well.

They’ve lost Flint, but have such a solid core with a pair of amazing teenagers in Jaedyn Shaw and Melanie Barcenas, along with veteran experience in the likes of Amirah Ali, Naomi Girma, Kailen Sheridan, and of course, Alex Morgan.

Like the Wave, Pagan is a smooth a mix of genres; primarily dub and R&B that represents a diverse squad capable of playing multiple styles. It also has a melancholy feel that represents a fanbase that just had to watch two teams play for a championship in their home stadium despite being the No. 1 seed in the playoffs.

Seattle Reign: An Awesome Wave, Alt J

I know, I know it’s sacrilege to not choose a Seattle performer here with the city’s musical history. But hear me out: In a year that the club had to move on from Megan Rapinoe, Emily Sonnett, and Rose Lavelle on top of a new (slightly old) rebrand, manager Laura Harvey is the key. With that in mind, a British act for a British manager makes sense.

An Awesome Wave is a fantastic album with a unique soundscape, and its genre can be hard to pin down. The Reign are going to have to find a new identity as a team, and that will require some experimenting — but this squad is simply too talented for it to not work. Adding Ji So-Yun, who is coming off an incredibly decorated career with Chelsea, into a squad that is still one of the best in the league is going to be fun to watch, which is the perfect word comparison to An Awesome Wave.

Utah Royals: Sunlit Youth, Local Natives

The Royals’ approach to roster building has been an emphasis on youth and upside. Couple that with a first time coach, and the lineups and style we see at the beginning of the season could be very different from what we see at the end.

Sunlit Youth is a little all over the place sound wise, and Local Natives’ willingness to experiment perfectly captures how this club could be. Amy Rodriguez has been at the top of the sport, winning a World Cup in 2015, so she knows what it takes. However, this is her first head coaching gig, and it will surely require some experimenting.

Washington Spirit: Friends That Break Your Heart, James Blake

The separation of Trinity Rodman and Ashley Sanchez is heartbreaking for WoSo fans in general, not just fans of the club. Add to that losing Sam Staab, an iron woman and absolute rock in the back, on the same day, and it’s even more devastating.

After winning the 2021 NWSL Cup, the Spirit were able to maintain a majority of its uber-talented roster, but they could never reach the heights from the championship season. The club finished in second-to-last the following year, and missed out on the playoffs in 2023 due to an end-of-season collapse. Re-tooling the roster makes sense, and they’ve done it with some talented-but-young players with arguably the hottest coach in the world coming in later this season.

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