By Celia Balf
On Saturday, the NWSL will begin its sixth season with a rematch of last year’s championship. The reigning champs, Portland Thorns FC, visit the North Carolina Courage at 3:30 p.m. ET on Lifetime at Sahlen’s Stadium at WakeMed Soccer Park in Cary, North Carolina.
It is a jam-packed opening weekend with the Game of the Week up first — followed by Orlando Pride hosting the newest NWSL team, Utah Royals FC at 7:30 p.m. ET (go90). To close out Saturday, the Washington Spirit travel to Seattle Reign FC for a 10 p.m. ET kickoff on go90.
Opening weekend continues on Sunday with the Houston Dash welcoming the Chicago Red Stars to BBVA Compass Stadium at 5 p.m. ET (go90).
To get you ready for the weekend, here is everything you could possibly need or want to make sure you’re fully suited for this 2018 NWSL season.Full schedule | Game of the Week on Lifetime schedule
Ways to Watch
The NWSL Game of the Week on Lifetime can be watched live on the Lifetime cable network, on mylifetime.com, and the Lifetime iOS and Android apps. You will need to sign in with your TV provider credentials.
For viewers located outside of the United States, all games will be streamed live on NWSLSoccer.com and the NWSL app. Live stream links can be found on the NWSL schedule page: NWSLSoccer.com/schedule or the Games section of the app shortly before kickoff.
Apps to download:
Follow us on social
Make sure you follow the National Women’s Soccer League on all our social media platforms before the season starts:
The NWSL is also now on GIPHY for all your gif needs. We’ll be bringing you new gifs all season long.
As always, keep an eye on the #NWSL hashtag, and on game-days, we’ll keep using game-specific hashtags with team tricodes. For instance, our first game this year between the Courage and Thorns FC will be tagged as #NCvPOR.
We also want you to tag us! We’ll be highlighting our favorite fan photos from across the league this year.
The Chicago Red Stars finished the 2017 NWSL season in fourth place, and this year Rory Dames’ squad is well equipped with depth in all areas of the field to contest for a NWSL championship. The Red Stars acquired 2017 NWSL Golden Boot winner and MVP Sam Kerr and will look to the forward to turn on the green light once she returns from 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup qualifying with Australia.
Coach: Rory Dames
Stadium: Toyota Park
The Houston Dash are another team that has made several changes in the offseason. With a new head coach in Vera Pauw and a number of new players on on offense, the Dash will also be looking to shake things up in 2018.
Head coach: Vera Pauw
Home stadium: BBVA Compass Stadium
The North Carolina Courage won the NWSL Shield in 2017, and dominated the standings with a league-tying 16 wins. The Courage bring back a core of familiar faces this year and welcome 2015 NWSL MVP and Golden Boot winner Crystal Dunn.
Head coach: Paul Riley
Home stadium: Sahlen’s Stadium at WakeMed Soccer Park
Last season the Orlando Pride made it to the NWSL playoffs for the first time in club history, and after falling to the Thorns in the semifinals, the Pride return to 2018 hungrier than ever. The Pride return their dynamic duo of forwards, Alex Morgan and Marta.
Head coach: Tom Sermanni
Home stadium: Orlando City Stadium
The reigning 2017 NWSL champions will chase after their third NWSL title this year. Mark Parsons welcomes back 14 players from last season, including 2017 NWSL Goalkeeper of the Year Adrianna Franch and 2017 NWSL championship MVP Lindsey Horan. The Thorns open up their 2018 campaign on the road against the North Carolina Courage on Saturday.
Coach: Mark Parsons
Stadium: Providence Park
The Reign have finished the last two NWSL seasons in fifth place. Now, with a core of returners — plus key additions in midfielder Allie Long and forward Jodie Taylor, to name a few, new head coach Vlatko Andonovski is ready to take his new team to the next level.
Head coach: Vlatko Andonovski
Home stadium: UW Medicine Pitch at Memorial Stadium
Sky Blue FC roll into 2018 with an almost entirely new roster. The New Jersey side finished in sixth place last season and with the additions of midfielder Carli Lloyd, 2018 NWSL College Draft second overall pick Savannah McCaskill, along with a fresh crop of young players, Reddy’s team will look to climb to the top this year.
Coach: Denise Reddy
Stadium: Yurcak Field
Utah Royals FC make their NWSL debut this season. The new team has had a busy offseason, but will stride into 2018 in royal fashion led by two-time NWSL Coach of the Year Laura Harvey.
Head coach: Laura Harvey
Home stadium: Rio Tinto Stadium
The Washington Spirit will turn to several young faces in 2018 to get their team back to the playoffs, after missing last year’s for the first time since 2013. The team returns USWNT forward Mallory Pugh, and picked up other key players in Ashley Hatch and Taylor Smith.
Head coach: Jim Gabarra
Home stadium: Maureen Hendricks Field at the Maryland SoccerPlex
GM and Media Surveys
Who will win the NWSL Championship this year? Most Valuable Player? Golden Boot? During the preseason, NWSL Media worked with all of the nine teams’ general managers and NWSL media members to answer some of these questions before the start of the season.
Amy Rodriguez is feeling like royalty in Utah.
— NWSL (@NWSL) March 22, 2018
Games to Watch
By Jacqueline Purdy1. North Carolina Courage vs. Portland Thorns FC
Saturday, March 24 | 3:30 p.m. ET | Lifetime
Sahlen’s Stadium at WakeMed Soccer Park
— Lifetime (@lifetimetv) March 21, 2018
A rematch of the title game is always fun and this one should not disappoint. The Courage won the NWSL Shield, but the Thorns won the NWSL Championship in October. The physical match will likely still be fresh on the minds of many players on the pitch.
They split the regular season series in 2017 before Portland won the final — but the rivalry goes back even longer between the teams. Many of the same Courage players were also on the field for the Western New York Flash’s 2016 semifinal upset of the Thorns in Portland.
The Thorns have never lost a season opener (4-0-1).
Meg Linehan and Jacqueline Purdy contributed to this preview.