During the 2019 season, record attendances and record-breaking moments marked a stellar year for the league. Here’s 10 of those moments to remember:
Sam Kerr Breaks Her Own Record For Most Goals In A Season En Route To League MVP
For another season, it was Sam Kerr’s world, and we were merely living in it. The league’s all-time leading goalscorer bested her previous record by netting 18 goals for the Chicago Red Stars in 2019, averaging a goal every 102.7 minutes and netting at least one goal against each opponent in the NWSL. It was Kerr’s second MVP award, after receiving the same honor in 2017 while playing for Sky Blue FC.
Courage Win Third Consecutive Shield, Second Consecutive League Title
Paul Riley’s North Carolina Courage showed their commitment to the “No Finish Line” mentality in 2019, storming to a third consecutive NWSL Shield with a +31 goal differential and a five-point advantage in the table over the Red Stars. After three extra-time goals in the semifinal, the Courage handedly beat Chicago 4-0 to cruise to their second consecutive league title.
Portland Thorns Set Single-Game Attendance Record In Win Over Courage
Newly renovated Providence Park, long a major hub for the women’s game, hosted many memorable moments in 2019, but few were as grand as a record-shattering crowd that took in the Thorns 2-1 victory over the Courage in August. A record 25,218 fans watched a second-half comeback from the Thorns off a pair of Courage own goals.
Sydney Leroux, Toni Pressley Return To The Field For The Orlando Pride
The Pride had not one, but two displays of courage in the final month of the 2019 season. First, Sydney Leroux returned to the field three months after the birth of her second child, Roux. She was substituted on in the second half of Orlando’s visit to Red Bull Arena.
Then the final day of the season was marked with another triumphant return for an Orlando player. Toni Pressley, who the league rallied around during her fight with breast cancer, was substituted in the 72nd minute against Reign FC to raucous applause from the home supporters, as well as Pressley’s opponents on the field. Pressley had undergone surgery for her condition only three months prior to her comeback to the field in Orlando.
Kristen Hamilton nets record four goals against Dash in July
In a World Cup year, opportunities for other players to take the mantle arose and Kristen Hamilton did nothing short of sparkle for the Courage. She made the most of her playing time, including netting four goals in a game against the Houston Dash on July 5.
Sky Blue FC Features At Red Bull Arena Twice
One of the biggest recipients an increase in league interest during the course of the season was Sky Blue FC. The club moved two matches in 2019 to nearby Red Bull Arena with their debut at the venue coming on August 18 against Reign FC, which drew a team record attendance of 9,415. The club subsequently moved their home finale against the Orlando Pride there as well.
Houston Dash Visits Tigres Feminil In October
The Houston Dash took advantage of the October international break to visit two-time Liga MX Femenil Champions Tigres Feminil for an international friendly. The Dash took an early lead, but Tigres scored two late goals to secure the victory.
World Cup Heroes Welcomed Back Home To Respective Clubs
Coast to coast, major celebrations were in order as players who reached each stage of the 2019 Women’s World Cup in France came back to their respective club teams. Portland welcomed a staggering nine players back from the tournament, while a sellout crowd at SeatGeek Stadium attended the “Welcome Back” game between the Red Stars and Courage, which saw twelve national team stars (eight from the World-Cup winning United States) honored postgame.
Reign FC Fight Through Injuries To Earn Playoff Berth
Perennial playoff contenders Reign FC were dealt a significant amount of blows to their hopes early this season, with first team names such as Jess Fishlock, Megan Rapinoe, Taylor Smith, and Michelle Betos missing large portions of the 2019 campaign due to injury. However, recently named United States women’s national team manager Vlatko Andonovski and his squad showed no signs of quitting. The resiliency of the squad as well as the emergence of 2019 Rookie of the Year Bethany Balcer and Goalkeeper of the Year nominee Casey Murphy pushed the eventual NWSL Champion Courage to extra time in the semifinal stage before falling short of reaching the NWSL Championship game.
Louisville Announced As 2021 Expansion Franchise
To put a bow on a fantastic year for the league, it was announced in late October that the NWSL would be expanding to Louisville, Kentucky, for the 2021 season. The team is owned by Louisville City FC of the USL and will play their matches at the club’s new soccer-specific stadium that will be able to hold up to 14,000 fans.