Tuesday, April 23, 2024

NWSL picks: USWNT’s Jaedyn Shaw favorite for MVP while Gotham FC to have serious competition for championship

Here’s who is winning it all, taking home the top honors and more

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An exciting new NWSL season is upon us, and there is no better way to ring in the occasion than by making predictions in a league that’s increasingly hard to predict.

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The uber-competitive nature of the 2023 season, in which just 13 points separated first and last place at the end of the regular season, teases that dramatic things might once again be in store for 2024. The prospect of two new teams – Utah Royals and Bay FC – as well as new players all around the league and a lot of player movement mean the entertainment factor might be one of the few things 2024 has in common.

As a result, the picks from experts across the CBS Sports team are across the board. What’s clear is that reigning champions NJ/NY Gotham FC and last year’s shield winners the San Diego Wave have put themselves in a position to compete and will likely have some individuals stand out, while talented Zambian striker Barbra Banda is among those expected to light up the league when she begins play with the Orlando Pride.

Here’s a look at the CBS Sports team’s outlook on the 2024 NWSL season.

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Editorial picks for NWSL

Rookie of the Year

Sandra Herrera: Leilanni Nesbeth, Chicago Red Stars — After nearly a decade of top-caliber talent in the midfield, Chicago’s middle third has undergone massive overtune the last two offseasons. She’s a two-time NCAA National Champion (2021, 2023) with FSU and has international experience with Bermuda. Nesbeth is a clear building block for Chicago’s new foundation.

Pardeep Cattry: Savy King, Bay FC – The expansion team is expected to have a strong defensive resolve and can call upon several talented league veterans like Caprice Dydasco and Emily Menges to lead the way. No. 2 draft pick Savy King could slot right in, though, and has the potential to begin her professional career on a high with a strong rookie season.

Chuck Booth: Croix Bethune, Washington Spirit: Coming into the season the Spirit needed midfield help in a big way and they got it in the form of the University of Georgia midfielder. With five assists in her single season at UGA, she has shown creativity that can mesh well with a talented Washington Spirit attack.

Coach of the Year

Herrera: Bev Yanez, Racing Louisville FC — A former NWSL player, Yanez is the new manager of Lousiville after three seasons as an NWSL assistant. Her promotion to Lousiville head coach already has player bought in. After three consecutive ninth-place finishes, Yanez may finally provide the leadership needed to finally get the squad contending. 

Cattry: Casey Stoney, San Diego Wave — The Wave had a standout 2023 by winning the shield and coming one game short of making it to the championship, and there’s no reason to suggest they will slow down. They are one of the teams to beat this season and if Stoney finds a way to improve upon their 2023 showing, NWSL Coach of the Year honors – among others – will easily find their way in sunny San Diego.

Booth: Sean Nahas, NC Courage — After finishing third in the table last season, expectations are high for the Courage but Nehas has a roster that can help them reach those expectations. I have the Courage rising to second in the league which could be just enough to take home the award


Herrera: Jaedyn Shaw San Diego Wave — There’s simply no denying the 19-year-old’s ability to change games. She’s coming off a successful Concacaf W Gold Cup where she won player of the tournament and is poised to have big year with San Diego.

Cattry: Jaedyn Shaw, San Diego Wave — Shaw has barely put a foot wrong to start her professional career, and she seems up for the task each time she’s handed more professional responsibilities. Expect her to emerge as the Wave’s star this season and earn the plaudits to go along with it.

Booth: Jaedyn Shaw, San Diego Wave  — Look, there’s a reason why we’re unanimous in this award pick. At only 19, Shaw is such a talented player who will be one of the biggest threats to score or set up goals for the Wave leading to MVP honors.

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NWSL champions

Herrera: North Carolina Courage — Head coach Sean Nahas and his staff have provided the blue print for team tactics and players bought in for a quarterfinal appearance in 2023. Built with an emphasis on possession, they’ll have a chance to build off that with the addition of Ashley Sánchez

Cattry: San Diego Wave — Stoney and company have done a smart job building this club from the ground up, and there’s no reason to suggest a dip is coming in year three of NWSL play. The core that won the shield remains intact and with Savannah McCaskill coming in from Angel City over the offseason, they might have even more firepower up top this season. It feels like a championship is bound to come for the Wave as long as they maintain this look, so maybe 2024’s their year.

Booth: NJ/NY Gotham FC — The super team does super things. It will take time for Gotham to find their feet as positional battles are figured out but the good thing about winning the league is that it’s not about how you start but how you finish. Showcasing their depth in a knockout tournament late in the season is exactly the forum that Gotham’s stars can thrive in. 

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