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USWNT star Alex Morgan hoping chemistry, comfort help San Diego Wave take next step in second NWSL season

The National Women’s Soccer League preseason is in full swing and all 12 clubs are preparing for the upcoming regular season, which you can watch on Paramount+. Many of last year’s playoff contenders had busy offseasons to improve their championship odds for this season and San Diego Wave FC is in a unique position to make another deep playoff run after a historic inaugural season for the club in 2022, led by Alex Morgan

San Diego’s introduction to the league in 2022 began as a traditional expansion side, one that typically includes a new ownership group, a new market city, and an expansion draft for building out a roster. Their arrival differed from past expansion franchises that launched their way into the league as modified expansion clubs — with attached rosters of players who no longer had a club — due to previous franchises that folded and then were absorbed by ownership groups in new markets. 

Many of the players who were part of the inaugural roster are back together for another season, including Morgan, the 2022 NWSL golden boot winner. Morgan was acquired by San Diego in a trade with Orlando Pride ahead of the Wave’s first season, and her 15 goals were a career-high in NWSL for the 31-year-old striker. As the Wave gathers for preseason, Morgan believes year two for the club will lead to even more success thanks to improved chemistry and familiarity. 

“Last year, it was a lot of learning the way things went. Getting to know [head coach] Casey [Stoney] and the organization, everyone kind of feeling each other out. Also, they were hiring just two weeks before coming into preseason. So, this preseason, now we’re coming in having a good base of fitness, our offseason packets, and everything super well organized,” Morgan told CBS Sports on Attacking Third. 

“So, this preseason, now we’re coming in with having a good base of fitness and like we had all our, like, offseason packets and everything and it was super well organized So coming in now it’s like you can bypass all of that. Like we already know exactly how Casey operates, we had a great season last year, and we have pretty much the same core players, adding a couple of important pieces as well. So I think now just we’re going to be able to accelerate a lot quicker.”

The league announced a 2023 scheduling framework before the end of 2022, where they revealed the start of the regular season and a date for the final, and the Challenge Cup will begin sometime in April. But even with the familiarity from last year, scheduling is of importance for a team like San Diego that may be without several players for the World Cup this summer, including Morgan. She, like many, are eager to see what the schedule is going to look like in anticipation for what will surely be an exciting campaign. 

“I know the schedule hasn’t come out yet, which everyone’s like wondering where the heck the schedule is. So am I,” she joked. 

“But I am really hopeful that, you know, in the summer when the World Cup is going on, there is somewhat of a break from the regular season, and that’s when Challenge Cup really takes over. Because for me personally, I don’t want to miss a lot of games with San Diego. I also don’t think that fans should have to choose between watching an NWSL game and a World Cup game. And I think obviously, rosters are going to be depleted during the summer, and so I don’t know what’s gonna go on, but I really hope that that’s the case.”

Balancing play for both club and country has at times been burdensome for international players, but while the league has yet to announce the official schedule, unlike last season, teams are preparing for a full season with a Challenge Cup tournament that will run concurrently with the regular season. Morgan feels that the shift for the cup competition from preseason into the regular season schedule will aid teams and players in balancing international duty.

“For a preseason tournament, I [felt] like it’s moving really fast to have these games week in and week out with all the travel. So, I feel like it was putting players in a position where you’re more vulnerable to injury,” Morgan said.

“Last year, the Challenge Cup gave us a good opportunity to kind of get our feet wet and just like get used to playing together and just typical expansion team growing pains. So, now not really having a Challenge Cup [in the preseason], then having a full like six to seven weeks of preseason is just going to be great for us, especially with national team players and internationals going for the FIFA window. It’ll be good to get back in with the team and have like a full month at least.”

The 2023 NWSL regular season is slated to kick off with 12 teams on March 25. You can watch the NWSL on Paramount+ all season long. 

Key NWSL dates

  • Jan. 23-Feb. 6: Preseason camps

  • March 25: 2023 NWSL Regular Season begins

  • April: 2023 UKG NWSL Challenge Cup begins

  • Sept. 6: Challenge Cup semifinals

  • Sept. 9: Challenge Cup Final

  • Oct. 22: NWSL quarterfinals

  • Nov. 4: NWSL semifinals

  • Nov. 11: NWSL Championship

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