After an exciting summer of the World Cup, the FA Women’s Super League returns this weekend with what is expected to be its biggest season yet.
Arsenal go into the season as defending champions, finishing seven points clear of second-placed Manchester City who will be hoping for a more successful challenge this year. The pair are likely to be joined by Chelsea and Birmingham City in the race for the title.
The new season also sees Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur represented in the women’s top-flight, having both been promoted from the FA Women’s Championship.
As part of the desire to grow the women’s game, some fixtures across the season, including two on the opening weekend, will be hosted by Premier League grounds – including the first Manchester derby of the season. Bristol City’s Ashton Gate will also be used.
But for those unable to get to the games, the FA have launched a new free streaming service called FA Player which will allow fans to watch every FAWSL game live as well as providing highlights, previews and features.
So, whether you’re getting into women’s domestic football for the first time after enjoying the world cup, or if you’re a hardcore fan, here’s everything you may need to know about the 12 FAWSL teams for the 2019/20 season.
Manager: Joe Montemurro
Stadium: Meadow Park, Borehamwood
Last season: WSL champions
Opening fixture: Home vs West Ham United (Sunday 8 September)
Arsenal were a simply wonderful side to watch last season, and were well deserving of their WSL triumph. Joe Montemurro’s team won 18 of their 20 games, losing just twice, but will have a tougher task of retaining their title with rivals improving over the summer.
One to watch: Vivianne Miedema
Part of the reason for Arsenal’s success last season was the devastating form of striker Vivianne Miedema. The 23-year-old finished as WSL top scorer, with 21 goals in 20 games for Arsenal, none of which came from the penalty spot.
And she continued scoring in the summer with the Netherlands, becoming the nation’s all-time record scorer before her 23rd birthday. A simply ridiculous record and Miedema will be looking for more goals this season to fire Arsenal to further success.
RECORD: Vivianne Miedema has now scored 60 goals for the Netherlands Women's team, overtaking Manon Melis as the country's all-time leading scorer.
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) June 15, 2019
Manager: Marta Tejedor
Stadium: SportNation.bet Stadium, Solihull
Last season: 4th in WSL
Opening fixture: Home vs Everton (Sunday 8 September)
For those who do not follow women’s football as much, it may come as some surprise that Birmingham City will be considered title challengers – albeit outsiders. But the Midlands side caused problems in the WSL last season with a stern defence, conceding 17 goals – only Chelsea (14) and Arsenal (13) let in fewer.
One to watch: Lucy Staniforth
There had been some fears that Birmingham City would lose Lucy Staniforth this summer, but the Blues managed to keep hold of their midfielder. The England international had a good first season in the Midlands and will be key in Birmingham’s quest to upset the WSL big three.
Brighton & Hove Albion
Manager: Hope Powell
Stadium: The People’s Pension Stadium, Crawley
Last season: 9th in WSL
Opening fixture: Away vs Bristol City at Ashton Gate (Saturday 7 September)
Brighton are about to embark on their second season in the WSL after struggling in their debut campaign. The Seagulls will be one of the favourites to be relegation this year but Hope Powell will be looking to use all of her experience to steer Brighton clear of the drop.
One to watch: Maya Le Tissier
No relation to Southampton legend Matt, Maya Le Tissier made her professional debut for Brighton as a 16-year-old last year and will be hoping for increased game time this season. The defender is a regular for England’s U17s side and her development throughout the campaign could help Brighton through a tough season.
Manager: Tanya Oxtoby
Stadium: Stoke Gifford Stadium, Bristol
Last season: 6th in WSL
Opening fixture: Home vs Brighton at Ashton Gate (Saturday 7 September)
Bristol City endured an inconsistent season last year, despite finishing sixth, and will be hoping for better form this time around. The Vixens have had a busy summer bolstering their squad and will once again be looking to cause problems for the big sides.
One to watch: Olivia Chance
One of Bristol City’s new signings this summer comes in the form of Olivia Chance, a midfielder who presented New Zealand at the World Cup in the summer. There, Chance did struggle having only just returned from an ACL injury, but she did play 11 passes into the final third during the group stage, showing glimpses of what she can do. Expect Chance to be much better for Bristol City this season.
Manager: Emma Hayes
Stadium: Kingsmeadow, Kingston
Last season: 3rd in WSL
Opening fixture: Home vs Tottenham Hotspur at Stamford Bridge (Sunday 8 September)
Despite finishing third last season, Chelsea were largely disappointed with their domestic campaign, failing to retain the title. So, Emma Hayes and her side will be determined to right the wrongs and will potentially be aided by their lack of Champions League football.
One to watch: Guro Reiten
Chelsea do have a lot of stars already at the club, but summer signing Guro Reiten will be an interesting addition this season. The 25-year-old Norwegian international finished top scorer in Norway’s top flight for the past three seasons and has already found her goalscoring boots in pre-season for Chelsea. Reiten’s presence in Chelsea’s attack, capable of playing anywhere across the front three, will be a big boost for Hayes.
Manager: Willie Kirk
Stadium: Haig Avenue, Southport
Last season: 10th in WSL
Opening fixture: Away vs Birmingham City (Sunday 8 September)
Everton were fortunate not to be relegated last season, after Yeovil’s demise was confirmed via a points deduction. But, in response, the Toffees have had a busy summer and a full pre-season under Willie Kirk, setting the club up to fight.
One to watch: Simone Magill
Last season’s player of the year for Everton, Simone Magill only managed two goals in 16 starts for the Toffees but will be looking to improve on that this season. The 24-year-old opened her account for the new campaign with Northern Ireland, netting in their 2-2 draw with Wales, and now turns her focus to the WSL and the task of keeping Everton away from the bottom of the table.
Manager: Vicky Jepson
Stadium: Prenton Park
Last season: 8th in WSL
Opening fixture: Home vs Reading (Sunday 8 September)
Liverpool endured a tough season last year, with manager Neil Redfearn leaving just one game into the campaign. But the Reds have just had their first full pre-season under Vicky Jepson’s charge – a joint tour with the men’s team – and will be looking to push up the table.
One to watch: Sophie Bradley-Auckland
Liverpool had the joint-second worst defensive record in the WSL last season, conceded 28 goals, but the performances of Sophie Bradley-Auckland provided a silver lining. The 29-year-old captain will be at the heart of Jepson’s defence for the upcoming campaign having signed a new contract in the summer.
Manager: Nick Cushing
Stadium: Academy Stadium, Manchester
Last season: 2nd in WSL
Opening fixture: Home vs Manchester United at Etihad Stadium (Saturday 7 September)
Going into the final weekend of the WSL season, Manchester City remained unbeaten, but too many draws (five) had cost them a chance at the title and the treble having won the FA Cup and Continental League Cup. This year, Nick Cushing will be looking to right the wrongs with a star-filled squad with talent across all positions.
One to watch: Georgia Stanway
The absence of Nikita Parris will be a big one, but Georgia Stanway will do her best to ensure her compatriot is not missed too much. The 20-year-old was Man City’s second-highest WSL scorer last season behind Parris, scoring 11 goals in 19 appearances, and she will be expected to provide sufficient support to Ellen White throughout the campaign.
Stanway has already shown herself to be set for a big season after promising performances for England in their recent friendlies, including scoring a rocket against Norway.
Stop it Georgia Stanway 🚀🚀🚀 pic.twitter.com/nbdrjCkjcC
— BBC Sport (@BBCSport) September 4, 2019
Manager: Casey Stoney
Stadium: Leigh Sports Village, Greater Manchester
Last season: 1st in Women’s Championship
Opening fixture: Away vs Manchester City at Etihad Stadium (Saturday 7 September)
In just their second season in back existence, Manchester United are in the top flight of English women’s football. The Red Devils sailed through the Championship with ease but their team is about to be tested by the country’s best sides.
One to watch: Jackie Groenen
A new arrival to help Manchester United in the WSL is Netherlands superstar Jackie Groenen, who signed from FFC Frankfurt, becoming the Red Devils’ first overseas signing. The 24-year-old has previous WSL experience with Chelsea and arrives off a stellar World Cup, helping the Netherlands reach the final, winning 15 tackles, made 241 passes, 13 interceptions and created five chances.
Manager: Kelly Chambers
Stadium: Adams Park, Wycombe
Last season: 5th in WSL
Opening fixture: Away vs Liverpool (Sunday 8 September)
Reading may have finished fifth in the WSL last season but were a staggering 13 points behind fourth-placed Birmingham City. This year, the Royals will be aiming to at least reduce that gap, while potentially taking a scalp or two along the way.
One to watch: Fara Williams
Reading do have a squad full of impressive players, but none stand out more than Fara Williams, the seemingly ageless midfielder. England’s most-capped player, the 35-year-old was key for Reading last season with 11 goals from 20 appearances – only three players in the WSL managed more.
Manager: Karen Hills
Stadium: The Hive, Barnet
Last season: 2nd in Women’s Championship
Opening fixture: Away vs Chelsea at Stamford Bridge (Sunday 8 September)
The second newly-promoted side, Tottenham Hotspur have been busy this summer, adding WSL quality to their squad. Spurs were pulled apart in pre-season by rivals Arsenal, in a 6-0 rout, but once competitive action returns, Karen Hills will hope to have her side ready.
One to watch: Gemma Davison
One of the big names to arrive at Spurs this summer full of WSL experience is Gemma Davison. The former Chelsea, Arsenal and Liverpool winger boasts four WSL winners’ medals and provides pace and skill on the flanks which can cause problems for even the best defender.
West Ham United
Manager: Matt Beard
Stadium: Rush Green Stadium, Romford
Last season: 7th in WSL
Opening fixture: Away vs Arsenal (Sunday 8 September)
West Ham were stable in their first WSL campaign, finishing seventh while also reaching the FA Cup final. But the big test for the Hammers this season will be to push themselves up the table while also contending with the newly-arrived tests of United and Spurs.
One to watch: Jacynta Galabadaarachchi
A summer arrival, 18-year-old Jacynta Galabadaarachchi has already been dubbed one of the best young players by West Ham manager Matt Beard. Despite featuring sporadically for Melbourne City and Perth Glory, the Australian forward is expected to be one for the future and could enjoy a breakthrough season at West Ham.