Thursday, April 18, 2024

NWSL Power Rankings: Wave surge to the top spot after Challenge Cup victory, Gotham drop after loss

Where did clubs land after opening weekend?


The 2024 NWSL regular season celebrated opening weekend with 23 goals scored over 10 games. San Diego Wave FC defeated NJ/NY Gotham FC in the Challenge Cup for the first trophy of the year. The two sides will start their regular season campaign in week two, while the remaining 12 clubs began their regular season on Saturday. 

With all 14 clubs finally in action, including the latest expansion sides Bay FC and Utah Royals FC taking their first steps forward in a long season let’s take stock. We’ve kept track of all the league moves and ranked clubs in our preseason NWSL Power Rankings, and we sized them all up ahead of opening weekend

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Let’s take a look at where teams stand ahead of week 2 in our power rankings:

2024 NWSL Power Rankings 

Rank Team Change Analysis


San Diego Wave FC


They will finally get a chance to defend their shield in week two and their recent Challenge Cup win could be an indicator of things to come. Alex Morgan, Jaedyn Shaw, Naomi Girma, and Abby Dahlkemper are in solid form and won their second trophy in a week after taking home the W Gold Cup with the national team, and free agent Savannah McCaskill showed she was a key pick-up. They will be tough to handle in the regular season. 


North Carolina Courage


Midfielder Ashley Sanchez is fitting right in with the Courage as she covered tons of ground while the team racked up the goal-scoring (five for themselves and an own-goal as well) to kick off their season. It might be too early to determine which clubs had the best signings, but Dani Weatherholt and Bianca St. Georges may be the most underrated after their opening week performances.


NJ/NY Gotham FC 


The east coast side earned more yellow cards than goals in their Challenge Cup loss, but now that preseason, the Women’s Cup, the Concacaf W Gold Cup, and the Challenge Cup are behind them, head coach Juan Carlos Amoros and the squad can finally tackle the regular season. Maybe even super teams need time to adapt.


Seattle Reign FC


The club re-branded back to their original name and crest, but don’t tell head coach Laura Harvey the team is in a rebuild. They’re still Harvey’s Reign, and acquiring So-Yun Ji has shown it’s about players who can fit the system. An abundance of crosses whipped in, an equal amount of massive shots, all to obtain narrow one-goal wins? That’s the Reign tactics we’ve all come to know and love.


Orlando Pride 


The squad showed they could claw back a 45-minute second-half performance to scrape out a result. If Morgan Gautrat and Luana continue to develop chemistry over the season, they’ll be key in ball progression. 


Portland Thorns FC


Some odd choices in player positioning out of opening weekend by head coach Mike Norris, but when you have exceptional individual pieces sometimes then can just find a way. That’s not necessarily a recipe for long-term success, but Sophia Smith and Janine Beckie sure are good players to have on a roster to try and change fortunes when things are looking grim. 


Racing Louisville FC

Blowing a lead against Orlando was an early lesson for a squad full of potential and new head coach Bev Yanez in managing leads in a game. An opening day point is still a point, but feels different when you squander the lead and momentum built in the first half. Lots of excitement around first-year players Elexa Bahr and Reilyn Turner who combined for the first goal of the season. 


Chicago Red Stars 


The Red Stars welcomed Mallory Swanson back to the pitch and she was everywhere. They punched some defensive demons in the face on opening weekend thanks to some collective efforts and outstanding form by goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher while ruining Utah’s home debut.


Kansas City Current


The Current put on a party in their new NWSL purpose-built stadium and scored five goals by five different players. They also conceded four goals to the Thorns, so there are always things to work on. 


Angel City FC 


Sometimes the best efforts aren’t rewarded. Plenty of attacking chances for Angel City in their home opener which can be considered a silver lining along despite the loss to Bay FC, with a strong individual performance by 17-year-old rookie Kennedy Fuller.


Bay FC 


Head coach Albertin Montoya mentioned all offseason that Bay FC would be a dynamic attacking side, and Asisat Oshoala scored a brilliant, historic, first  goal, but massive saves by goalkeeper Lysianne Proulx helped secure the victory.


Washington Spirit


Another squad with more cards than goals, and even shot attempts, in their first game. Tough day on the road with only two shot attempts. They’ll welcome attacker Trinity Rodman back from her Decision Day 2023 red card suspension. 


Utah Royals FC 


They eclipsed Chicago in shots, possession, and passes, but were unable to go anywhere with the ball when they had it. Facing a lights-out Alyssa Naeher doesn’t help, but the expansion franchise might just need time to get acclimated to their strengths and turn opportunities into goals. 


Houston Dash


Head coach Fran Alonso wasn’t the only new manager to have a loss on opening weekend, but it was by far the roughest performance. The three-back was ambitious at best and a disaster at worst with five goals conceded. Not a great sign for a club that was looking for a coach to figure out how to best use the talents of the roster. Thankfully it’s only going to be week two.

Want more coverage of women’s soccer? Listen below and make sure to watch Attacking Third on Golazo Network Monday and Friday for all your USWNT, NWSL and WSL women’s soccer coverage.

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