Saturday 05 September 2020, 06:11

Star-studded WSL takes centre stage

  • Never has the FA WSL drawn so much attention

  • Daly, Harder, Lavelle and Mewis are the marquee signings

  • Matches will be broadcast in the USA in a ground-breaking deal

The FA Women’s Super League feels like Malibu in megastardom circles – it’s suddenly the place to be for football’s Q-score queens.

Sam Kerr, who topped The Guardian's 100 Best Female Footballers in the World 2019, arrived last November. The girl she ousted from that throne, Pernille Harder, has just joined her at Chelsea for a world-record fee.

“I almost feel like I’ve been a fan of Chelsea for the past three years, and now I’m a part of it and I’m super excited about that," said the Dane after becoming team-mates to her partner, Magdalena Eriksson. "I think it’s such an exciting league. The games are good and there have been many new signings for this season. I think it will be a very interesting season.”

Rose Lavelle and Sam Mewis, both key cogs in the engine that powered USA to FIFA Women’s World Cup France 2019™ glory, have joined Manchester City, while Rachel Daly, the MVP at the recent NWSL Challenge Cup, has moved to West Ham United. Other NWSL imports include Steph Catley, Rachel Corsie, Claire Emslie, Jess Fishlock, Alanna Kennedy, Emily van Egmond and Shelina Zadorsky, while Damaris Egurrola, Jessie Fleming, Valerie Gauvin, Malin Gut, Melanie Leupolz, Noelle Maritz, Erin Nayler, Rebekah Stott and Lydia Williams have arrived from elsewhere.

And this is a championship that already housed several France 2019 runners-up including Jackie Groenen, Vivianne Miedema, Jill Roord and Danielle van de Donk, the majority of the England squad, and the likes of Erin Cuthbert, Eriksson, Kim Little, Maren Mjelde and Guro Reiten.

“Top players are flocking to England and I am not surprised,” Reiten wrote in The Guardian. “This has become the best league in the world.”

Such star power has got the broadcasters breaking ground. NBC Sports will screen 50 live games to a US audience, while the FA has launched The FA Player, which is exclusively for women’s football and enables fans from many parts of the world to see the action.

The title race

Women’s or men’s, in Europe or elsewhere, you will have to scroll back a long way through history to find a league title race with the three favourites, according to the bookmakers, having so little between them at the starting gate.

Reigning champions Chelsea, fresh from a 2-0 victory over Manchester City in the FA Community Shield, are the marginal frontrunners. Emma Hayes' side are solid all over and their Harder-Kerr attack represents a mouth-watering prospect.

But City’s midfield, already formidable, is now monstrous. “The midfield in particular made me really excited,” Lavelle told The Offside Rule. “I think it’s a really deep midfield with a lot of experience, with Jill Scott, Keira Walsh, Caroline Weir.”

And who can rule out Arsenal? Miedema is arguably the deadliest finisher on the planet, Van de Donk a master supplier, and they’ve added Catley, Gut, Maritz and Williams.

The rest

Manchester United had a great first season and refuse to be daunted by the challenge to closing the gap to the big three. Reading have made a real splash by contracting goalkeeper Nayler, midfielder Fishlock and forward Danielle Carter, who has netted six goals in four England internationals.

West Ham have brought in eight players, most notably Daly and Van Egmond, while Everton fans are relishing seeing Emslie and Gauvin, Scotland and France internationals respectively, link up in attack.

Kennedy and Zadorsky are sure to tighten up Tottenham’s backline, and how will Aston Villa, newly promoted, do under 28-year-old manager Gemma Davies?

The questions most intriguing the masses, however, are which of the marquee signings will prove the best business, and will Arsenal, Chelsea or Manchester City conquer?