Outside the Box Scores: How will the Courage follow up their historic 2018 season?
The North Carolina Courage open their season at home vs. the Chicago Red Stars on April 13
The Courage set an NWSL record for wins in a season with 17 in 2018. (Photo credit: Andy Mead/isiphotos.com)
The Courage set an NWSL record for wins in a season with 17 in 2018. (Photo credit: Andy Mead/isiphotos.com)

One of the key questions this year is how will the North Carolina Courage follow up the best season in NWSL history.

A refresher on the 2018 North Carolina Courage:

  • 17-1-6 record
  • 2.375 points per game
  • 8-0-4 on the road
  • Most wins: 17
  • Most points: 57
  • Fewest losses: 1
  • Most goals scored: 53
  • Fewest goals allowed: 17
  • Lowest goals against average: .71
  • Largest goal differential: +36

So, what can we expect from the Courage in 2019? We won’t know until the season begins, but for now we can look at how the four other best regular seasons in NWSL history followed up the next year. For the most part, teams have followed up with strong seasons, and in the case of the Courage, done better.

Best regular seasons in NWSL history:

  1. 2018 North Carolina Courage: 2.375 points per game
  2. 2014 Seattle Reign FC: 2.25 points per game
  3. 2015 Seattle Reign FC: 2.15 points per game
  4. 2016 Portland Thorns FC: 2.05 points per game
  5. 2017 North Carolina Courage: 2.04 points per game

2014 Seattle Reign FC | 16-2-6 | 2.25 points per game

Following season:  13-3-4 | 2.15 points per game

In 2014, Reign FC started the season 13-0-3, still the longest unbeaten streak in NWSL history.  They followed up the then-best season in NWSL history in 2015 with another top-five season.

However, things were not as good in 2016 for the Reign. They finished just 8-6-6 and in fifth place, out of the playoffs for the first time since 2013.

Neither 2014 nor 2015 was able to result in postseason glory though, as the Reign lost to FC Kansas City in the final both years.

The 29 wins in two seasons is the second-best in NWSL history over a two season span.

2016 Portland Thorns FC | 12-3-5 | 2.05 points per game

Following season: 14-5-5 | 1.96 points per game

Portland Thorns FC have been a model of consistency over the past few seasons. In 2016, they turned in the now fourth-best regular season in NWSL history and won the NWSL Shield. To follow that, they went 14-5-5 in 2017 and finished second. The 14 wins in 2017 is the fourth most in NWSL history, but the longer season put them just slightly out of the top five teams in league history with 1.96 points per game. They also went 10-1-1 at home, the best all-time home regular season record.

And, after losing in extra time in the 2016 semifinals, the Thorns won it all in 2017, topping the Courage 1-0 in the NWSL Championship.

2017 North Carolina Courage | 16-7-1 | 2.04 points per game

Following season: 17-1-6 | 2.375 points per game

The Courage had a chance in 2017 to set the record for wins in a season, but lost on the final day of the regular season to the Orlando Pride to drop to 16-7-1. So, they simply set the record the next season by going 17-1-6. It did take until the final game of the regular season again, though, but this time the Courage routed the Houston Dash 5-0. Their 33 wins is the best in NWSL history over a two season span.

Not only did they get the wins record (17) in 2018, they also set the record for most goals (53), fewest losses (1), goal differential (+36), and fewest goals allowed (17).

The Courage also turned postseason disappointment in 2017 to triumph in 2018 with a 3-0 win over the Thorns in the NWSL Championship.

 

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