The National Women's Soccer League will begin its regular season on March 25 and teams are in the final stages of preseason preparations. The postseason will start in October with the NWSL Championship final slated for November 11. Fans can watch NWSL matches across CBS Sports platforms and Paramount+ all season long.
The season will include the 2023 NWSL Challenge Cup and is scheduled to run concurrently with the regular season. The pivot from a preseason schedule to a season-long tournament allowed for a match-week framework in light of the Women's World Cup year this summer. Several players in the league will be off on international duty this summer, opening the door for depth players to get more game minutes.
As the regular season approaches, Portland Thorns FC are reigning NWSL champions, OL Reign are current shield winners, and North Carolina Courage are Challenge Cup title holders. With every season there is room for new titles and champions along with individual accolades.
As the regular season rapidly approaches, let's take a look at the opening weekend schedule and have some fun with early awards predictions:
Opening weekend schedule
All times Eastern
Saturday, March 25
North Carolina Courage vs. Kansas City Current, 2 p.m. on Paramount+
San Diego Wave vs. Chicago Red Stars, 11 p.m. on CBS Sports Network
Sunday, March 26
Washington Spirit vs. OL Reign, 5 p.m. on Paramount+
Portland Thorns vs. Orlando Pride, 6 p.m. on Paramount+
Houston Dash vs. Racing Louisville, 7 p.m. on Paramount+
Angel City vs. NJ/NY Gotham FC, 9 p.m. on Paramount+
Coach of the Year
Last season's winner: Casey Stoney, San Diego Wave FC
Contenders: Laura Harvey, OL Reign; Sam Laity, Houston Dash; Stoney
Stoney was last year's winner after the team went on a historic run to the semifinals in its inaugural season. After a busy offseason, she's in a solid position to build another case for coach of the year but it won't be without some competition. Laura Harvey is a three-time shield winner with the Reign and has much of her squad returning for another shot at the NWSL championship.
Harvey's coaching tree has also expanded in 2023 with Scott Parkinson returning to co-coach the Reign after a brief head coaching stint with NJ/NY Gotham FC. However, long-time Reign assistant Sam Laity has finally gotten his shot at a head coaching position with Houston Dash and could be a dark horse for coach of the year.
Predicted winner: Stoney
Rookies of the Year
Last season's winner: Naomi Girma, San Diego Wave FC
Contenders: Alyssa Thompson, Angel City FC; Emily Madril, Orlando Pride; Michelle Cooper, Kansas City Current; Penelope Hocking, Chicago Red Stars
Thompson made headlines as the youngest player drafted when Angel City FC selected her No. 1 overall. The high school senior recently scored her first goal with the team during an exhibition game against Liga MX Femenil side Club America. During the NWSL Draft, both Thompson and Cooper went No. 1 and No. 2 respectively, each has earned contracts with Angel City and Kansas City and are early candidates for Rookie of the Year.
Madril was drafted No. 3 to Orlando Pride and the defender might see extended playing time on a backline that has been desperate for defensive upgrades. Chicago Red Stars' Hocking was drafted No. 7 overall and could be a long-shot candidate if she gets time on the pitch this season.
Predicted winner: Madril
Defender of the Year
Last season's winner: Naomi Girma, San Diego Wave FC
Contenders: Katie Lind, Houston Dash; Carson Pickett, Racing Louisville FC; Kelli Hubly, Portland Thorns FC; Casey Krueger, Chicago Red Stars; Girma, San Diego Wave FC
The 2023 FIFA Women's World Cup may see the departures of many starting-caliber defenders in the league. Girma earned the accolade in 2022 during her rookie season and might have a second run at the award even in a World Cup year with the schedule meant to limit player absences during the summer window. Krueger could be a dark horse contender as she makes her return back from maternity leave and is also rated by U.S. Women's National Team head coach Vlatko Andonovski.
Pickett recently signed a three-year deal with Racing Louisville FC after being traded from North Carolina Courage and was a finalist for the 2022 award alongside Girma. Katie Lind (nee Naughton) and Kelli Hubly reached iron woman honors in 2022 though neither center back was a finalist for the 2022 award. Look for that to change in a World Cup year.
Predicted winner: Pickett
Goalkeeper of the Year
Last season's winner: Kailen Sheridan, San Diego Wave FC
Contenders: Adrianna Franch, Kansas City Current; Phallon Tullis-Joyce, OL Reign; Aubrey Kingsbury, Washington Spirit
Both Franch and Tullis-Joyce were 2022 candidates and are in strong positions to be contenders for the award once more with familiar defensive pieces returning to their respective squads. Look for Kingsbury to have a bounce-back year with the Washington Spirit after fewer call-ups to the U.S. national team.
Predicted winner: Tullis-Joyce
Last season's winner: Alex Morgan, San Diego Wave FC
Contenders: Sophia Smith, Portland Thorns FC; Mallory Swanson, Chicago Red Stars; Diana Ordonez, Houston Dash; Lynn Williams, NY/NY Gotham FC, Ashley Hatch, Washington Spirit
Morgan earned her first-ever NWSL golden boot last year with Smith just behind her. Swanson is currently on a hot streak with the national team and if it translates to club performances, the Red Stars will benefit from it. Ordonez set a rookie record for most goals scored in 2022 and if she avoids a sophomore slump, the hometown kid might just win the award with Houston Dash. In a year of comebacks, look for Williams to make a case for the World Cup on a new team with Gotham FC.
Predicted winner: Ordonez
Last season's winner: Sophia Smith, Portland Thorns FC
Contenders Swanson, Chicago Red Stars; Smith, Portland Thorns FC; Midge Purce, NJ/NY Gotham FC,
Gone are the days when the golden boot winner was simply an automatic lock for the MVP. In 2022, Smith had a complete season with the Thorns, ending with dual MVP awards for the season and the NWSL Championship final. She was sidelined from the national team early in the year with a foot injury but is back and preparing for year four with Portland.
Swanson is coming off two MVP finalist seasons with Chicago Red Stars, and if she can manage the load of a club season with a World Cup, she could clinch a third nomination. After missing out on the Tokyo Olympic games, Purce had a breakout season with Gotham FC to earn a 2021 MVP finalist nomination. She recently signed a new multi-year deal with Gotham FC and may return as an MVP finalist in 2023 as her minutes get more limited with the national team.
Predicted winner: Purce