America’s Guide to the Westfield W-League

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David Gallop doesn’t always get to deliver good news, but at this season’s Westfield W-League launch he gleefully informed us that our league will, for the first time, be broadcast live in the United States of America on ESPN 3.

So for all of you fans of the National Women’s Soccer League from Portland, Oregon and Maine we here at The Football Sack have put together a little American’s guide to the Westfield W-League 2016/17 season.

The Format

Each team plays 12 games across 14 weeks with the top four teams progressing to the finals series at seasons end. The finals series is straight knockout with the first placed team hosting the fourth and the second hosting the third. The winner of those two games play off for the championship in a system exactly like the NWSL playoffs.

The Contenders

Melbourne City come into this season as red hot favourites. The defending champions are owned by the same group that owns Manchester City in England and New York City and are yet to lose a game since their inception. Canberra United are also poised for a title push despite losing Matilda’s ‘keeper Lydia Williams, compensating for her loss by bulking up their already strong attacking options. Last season’s runners up Sydney FC have never missed a W-League finals series and will be there or thereabouts again having been buoyed by the signing of Matilda Caitlin Foord. Likewise, Brisbane Roar have been extremely consistent over the eight seasons of the W-League and will rely on their strong local connection to make the finals once again especially with Western Sydney, on the back of some strong international signings, set to be breathing down their necks.

The Pretenders

The Newcastle Jets firm as the best of the rest as they don’t look to have improved on the side that finished just outside the top four last season whilst it will be tough to see Perth coping with the loss of the previously mentioned Foord. The Melbourne Victory look to have built on the squad that finished bottom last season but not by enough to resurrect their fortunes whilst Adelaide have lost a big chunk of the players that made them a bit of surprise packet last season.

Familiar Faces (Internationals)

Where do we start? There are 23 current NWSL players that are set to appear in the W-League this season with every club, bar Sydney FC at the time of writing, set to host at least one although Kendall Fletcher (Western Sydney), Erika Tymrak (Melbourne City) and Christine Nairn (Melbourne Victory) are the only players who have international appearances for the United States. NWSL fans will see plenty of other familiar names though with Seattle duo Lauren Barnes and Jess Fishlock set to lace-up the boots for Melbourne City and a trio of Orlando Pride players in Maddy Evans (Brisbane Roar), Jasmyn Spencer (Canberra United) and Monica (Adelaide United) set to take part. This is not to mention the seven Chicago players splattered across the league.

Familiar Faces (Aussies)

Sydney FC duo Kyah Simon and Caitlin Foord have all had solid stints in the NWSL with Boston and Sky Blue respectively whilst their teammate Alanna Kennedy is coming off the back of a championship winning season at Western New York. Many will recognise Steph Catley and Lydia Williams of Melbourne City as they have racked up appearances at Portland, Orlando, Western New York and Houston between them. Perth Glory’s Sam Kerr will bring back some nightmares for a few people having chalked up 29 goals in the NWSL including 11 in 17 games for Sky Blue. Those in Portland may also recognise a distinctive ribbon in the hair of Canberra United’s Hayley Raso having spent the most recent season at the Thorns.

Who to Watch

Brisbane Roar’s Angie Beard and Ellie Carpenter of Western Sydney were two of last season’s breakout players and look set to continue in that vein. Teenagers Alex Chidiac and Princess Ibini of Adelaide and Sydney FC respectively will also be looking to continue showing signs of their great promise which delivered Chidiac an international appearance last year.

What to Expect

Fun. It’s not perfect, but it’s pretty good. It can be a bit hot as it’s not uncommon to see afternoon matches kick off in 35-40 degree heat (85-100 Fahrenheit) but it’s a league dominated by youth and enhanced by some world class talent. There will be some referee bungles, although nothing you haven’t seen before, and our commentators won’t be caught doing McDonalds ads half way through games. Embrace it, delve into it and you’ll see our little corner of the earth can produce some rather good women’s football.

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