From key players, to major summer transfers, what to expect from all 12 clubs, how to watch and ticket prices, here’s everything you need to know about the brand new WSL season.
The Title Contenders
Last Season: 1st (third WSL title)
Key Player: Vivianne Miedema
Manager: Joe Montemurro
Major Ins: Jill Roord (Bayern Munich), Manuela Zinsberger (Bayern Munich), Leonie Maier (Bayern Munich), Jennifer Beattie (Man City), Fran Stenson (Man City).
Major Outs: Sari van Veenendaal (Atletico Madrid), Dominique Bloodworth (Wolfsburg), Janni Arnth Fiorentina).
Arsenal go into the new season as favourites to defend the WSL title they won in style. The prolific Gunners were inspired by duo Vivianne Miedema and Danielle van de Donk, both of whom have signed new contracts since December, and welcome back Jordan Nobbs from a serious knee injury.
A handful of players have left, including released Best FIFA Goalkeeper nominee Sari van Veenendaal, but Jill Roord and Leonie Maier in particular look like top signings, both arriving from Bayern Munich alongside goalkeeper Manuela Zinsberger.
Last Season: 2nd
Key Player: Georgia Stanway
Manager: Nick Cushing
Major Ins: Ellen White (Birmingham), Matilde Fidalgo (Braga), Laura Coombs (Liverpool), Aoife Mannion (Birmingham), Lee Geum-min (Gyeongju), Tyler Toland (Sion Swifts).
Major Outs: Claire Emslie (Orlando Pride), Nikita Parris (Lyon), Abbie McManus (Man Utd), Melissa Lawley (Liverpool), Jennifer Beattie (Arsenal), Fran Stenson (Arsenal).
New defender Aoife Mannion could be a star of the future to replace Jennifer Beattie and Abbie McManus, but Arsenal, fitness permitting, currently look too strong for City to wrestle back the WSL title they last won in 2016.
Last Season: 3rd
Key Player: Ji So-yun
Manager: Emma Hayes
Major Ins: Guro Reiten (LSK Kvinner).
Major Outs: Hedvig Lindahl (Wolfsburg), Karen Carney (retired), Jade Bailey (Liverpool), Lizzie Durack (retired), Ali Riley (Bayern Munich).
Champions three times since 2015 (including the shortened 2017 season), Chelsea would have been much closer to the top last season but for a dreadful start to the campaign that saw the team win just one of their opening six games and fail to score in the other five.
Retired England legend Karen Carney will be missed, while other experienced players have left. Yet the majority of the squad remains, and while summer signings have been thin on the ground, Norway international Guro Reiten will add much attacking quality.
The Chasing Pack
Last Season: 1st (Women’s Championship, promoted)
Key Player: Katie Zelem
Manager: Casey Stoney
Major Ins: Jackie Groenen (FFC Frankfurt), Abbie McManus (Man City), Hayley Ladd (Birmingham), Jane Ross (West Ham), Mary Earps (Wolfsburg), Lotta Okvist (Hammarby).
Major Outs: Charlie Devlin (Charlton), Naomi Hartley (Sheffield Utd), Ebony Salmon (Bristol City), Alex Greenwood (Lyon), Aimee Palmer (Sheffield Utd – loan).
A lot of eyes will be on Manchester United in their debut WSL campaign after making light work of the Women’s Championship last season, taking 55 points from a possible 60 en route to winning the division and scoring a phenomenal 98 goals in 20 games.
United haven’t rested on their laurels and have recruited well this summer, including the arrival of Netherlands midfielder Jackie Groenen – voted 33rd best player in the world by The Guardian in December 2018. Club captain Alex Greenwood was a shock departure to Lyon.
Last Season: 8th
Key Player: Sophie Bradley-Auckland
Manager: Vicky Jepson
Major Ins: Becky Jane (Reading), Melissa Lawley (Man City), Jade Bailey (Chelsea).
Major Outs: Laura Coombs (Man City), Leandra Little (Sheffield Utd), Jasmine Matthews (Bristol City), Yana Daniels (Bristol City).
Twice WSL champions in 2013 and 2014, Liverpool will be expecting to bounce back from a poor 2018/19 campaign that began in turmoil. That means top five instead of bottom five is the aim for the Reds in manager Vicky Jepson’s first full season in charge.
The summer business looks smart and considered, with Becky Jane, Melissa Lawley and Jade Bailey all arriving from fellow WSL clubs and strengthening different parts of the team. The loss of former Arsenal and Chelsea midfielder Laura Coombs to Manchester City was a blow.
Last Season: 5th
Key Player: Fara Williams
Manager: Kelly Chambers
Major Ins: Kristine Bjordal Leine (Roa IL), Angharad James (Everton), Maxime Bennink (PEC Zwolle), Amalie Eikeland (IL Sandviken).
Major Outs: Kirsty Pearce (retired), Becky Jane (Liverpool), Gemma Davison (Tottenham).
Reading are established part of the WSL setup these days and last season’s fifth place finish was reflective of the impressive rise of the club that produced current Chelsea star Fran Kirby. But with Manchester United and Liverpool jostling for positions, improvement will be tough.
Having lost three key players, including retired captain Kirsty Pearce, the Royals have largely turned to foreign imports for their summer recruitment. New face Amalie Eikeland was part Norway’s squad for this summer’s World Cup.
Last Season: 6th
Key Player: Sophie Baggaley
Manager: Tanya Oxtoby
Major Ins: Meaghan Sargeant (Birmingham), Charlie Wellings (Birmingham), Jasmine Matthews (Liverpool), Yana Daniels (Liverpool), Ebony Salmon (Man Utd), Vita van der Linden (Ajax), Olivia Chance (Everton).
Major Outs: Julie Biesmans (PSV Eindhoven), Lucy Graham (Everton), Danique Kerkdijk (Brighton), Juliette Kemppi (London City Lionesses), Ali Johnson (Sheffield Utd), Rosella Ayane (Tottenham), Heather Payne (FSU), Poppy Wilson (London City Lionesses).
The only thing that could prevent Bristol City from repeating last season’s solid sixth place WSL finish is increased competition in the middle of the table. That is because the Vixens generally look in good shape ahead of the new 2019/20 campaign after some smart signings.
Meaghan Sargeant and Charlie Wellings have both come from Birmingham, directly weakening a team that finished above them last time out. Teenager Ebony Salmon will be looking for first team opportunities after joining from Manchester United.
West Ham United
Last Season: 7th
Key Player: Alisha Lehmann
Manager: Matt Beard
Major Ins: Laura Vetterlein (Sand), Martha Thomas (Le Havre), Jacynta Galabadaarachchi (Perth Glory), Kenza Dali (Dijon), Katharina Baunach (Wolfsburg), Courtney Brosnan (Le Havre), Cecilie Kvamme (IL Sandviken).
Major Outs: Lucienne Reinhardt (retired), Claire Rafferty (retired), Rosie Kmita (London Bees), Brianna Visalli (Birmingham), Becky Spencer (Tottenham), Ria Percival (Tottenham), Jane Ross (Man Utd), Vyan Sampson (London City Lionesses – loan).
The 2018/19 campaign was a very good one for West Ham after comfortably surviving in their first ever WSL season and reaching the FA Cup final at Wembley. There has been plenty of change for the Hammers this summer geared towards consolidating and improving.
Working towards that aim, turnover has been relatively high, with seven new signings and eight players departing. Fans joked that they had landed one of the biggest names (literally) in football when highly rated Australian teenager starlet Jacynta Galabadaarachchi arrived.
Last Season: 4th
Key Player: Lucy Staniforth
Manager: Marta Tejedor
Major Ins: Claudia Walker (Everton), Abbi Grant (Anderlecht), Brianna Visalli (West Ham), Rebecca Holloway (Nashville Rhythm), Lucy Whipp – FW (St John’s University), Adrienne Jordan (Atalanta).
Major Outs: Ellen White (Man City), Meaghan Sargeant (Bristol City), Charlie Wellings (Bristol City), Hayley Ladd (Man Utd), Lucy Quinn (Tottenham), Aoife Mannion (Man City), Marisa Ewers (Aston Villa), Emma Follis (Aston Villa).
Birmingham impressed a lot of people last season by keeping pace with Chelsea to finish fourth, even winning more games than the 2017/18 champions. But is has been a tough few months since then and a lot of good players have left the Blues ahead of this campaign.
The biggest name is Ellen White, but Meaghan Sargeant, Charlie Wellings and Hayley Ladd will be noticeable losses. Centre-back Aoife Mannion was in last season’s PFA WSL Team of the Year but is now at Manchester City. Meanwhile, coach Marta Tejedor gets her first full season.
The Relegation Battlers
Last Season: 2nd (Women’s Championship, promoted)
Key Player: Gemma Davison
Manager: Karen Hills
Major Ins: Becky Spencer (West Ham), Ria Percival (West Ham), Siri Worm (Everton), Chloe Peplow (Brighton), Rosella Ayane (Bristol City), Gemma Davison (Reading), Lucy Quinn (Birmingham), Hannah Godfrey (Pensacola FC), Kit Graham (Charlton).
Major Outs: Bianca Baptiste (Crystal Palace), Emma Beckett (Watford), Emma Gibbon (Crystal Palace), Renee Hector (Charlton), Wendy Martin (retired), Anne Meiwald (released), Grace Staunton (released), Maya Vio (retired), Ryah Vyse (Watford), Sarah Wiltshire (Yeovil Town).
A lot has changed over the summer for Tottenham since securing promotion to the WSL and making the switch from part-time to fully professional status. That has meant plenty of turnover in terms of cutting loose a lot of players, many of whom have stayed at a lower level.
To build a new squad, Spurs have almost exclusively brought in players from other WSL clubs, while Kit Graham was a star of the Championship with Charlton. But there is an urgent need for the nine new faces to gel in order to compete.
Last Season: 10th
Key Player: Gabrielle George
Manager: Willie Kirk
Major Ins: Kika van Es (Ajax), Tinja-Riikka Korpela (Valerenga), Maeva Clemaron (Fleury 91), Lucy Graham (Bristol City), Molly Pike (Chelsea), Esme Morgan (Man City – loan).
Major Outs: Olivia Chance (Bristol City), Becky Flaherty (Sheffield Utd), Dominique Bruinenberg (PEC Zwolle), Emma Brownlie (released), Claudia Walker (Birmingham), Georgia Evans (Charlton), Angharad James (Reading), Siri Worm (Tottenham).
Everton are still yet to finish higher than second from bottom since returning to the top flight in 2017. Yeovil’s administration ultimately gave the Toffees a comfortable cushion to avoid relegation, but they were still way behind the rest of the WSL after winning just three games.
This season does have potential after a little bit of transfer turnover. Everton have looked abroad for targets, as well as landing young talents from Chelsea and Manchester City. Lucy Graham could prove to be a great signing after finishing last season as Bristol City’s top scorer.
Brighton & Hove Albion
Last Season: 9th
Key Player: Aileen Whelan
Manager: Hope Powell
Major Ins: Danique Kerkdijk (Bristol City), Matilde Skovsen (VSK Aarhus), Megan Walsh (Yeovil), Lea Le Garrec (Guingamp).
Major Outs: Lucy Gillett (Crystal Palace), Sophie Perry (released), Chloe Peplow (Tottenham), Marie Hourihan (Braga).
Brighton survived their first ever WSL season in 2018/19, but the Seagulls struggled to get results and might have been in danger of relegation had it not been for Yeovil’s demise. A much more competitive league in 2019/20 suggests it will be an even more difficult season.
In former England boss Hope Powell, Brighton do have a tremendously experienced manager and the team showed itself capable of competing after a good February which saw Powell win WSL Manager of the Month and goalkeeper Sophie Harris get WSL Player of the Month.
Where & How Can I Watch the WSL?
BT Sport and BBC will broadcast 30 live games between them this season, while the newly launched FA Player platform gives free access to every WSL game live, as well as selected Women’s Championship fixtures – that’s 150 free live games in total, plus additional content.
Tickets are also very affordable, with most of the league offering an adult season ticket from between £30 and £60. Even the most expensive at Arsenal is just £70.
Source : 90min