New NWSL franchises face off in debut
A new rivalry, ideal spring soccer weather, top-notch talent, celebrity fans…all that and more was on display during Saturday’s Challenge Cup match between Angel City and San Diego Wave. Professional women’s soccer is back in California and the excitement surrounding these expansion teams was palpable.
Saturday’s match was more than just about watching quality soccer in the sunshine.
It was a homecoming match for fan favorites Christen Press and Alex Morgan, giving them the chance to play in front of their friends and family. It was a moment of growth for the NWSL as the league expands and provides more opportunities for more players. It was the debut of a majority female-owned franchise led by Natalie Portman who joined the Angel City fans for this historic moment. It was everything good about professional women’s soccer and the direction it’s headed.
Of course, with players like Press and Morgan at the helm of their respective teams, the soccer itself was excellent as well.
As a preseason match between two newly formed teams who are still getting to know each other and find their groove, there were plenty of kinks to work out, but the potential for success and the caliber of players on both sides was apparent.
The match ended in a 1-1 draw that saw both teams notching their first franchise goals. It’s a tournament with prize money on the line so a tie is never ideal, but both teams exited the field with smiles on their faces and adoring fans hailing them down for autographs.
We’ve only seen a glimpse of what these teams and this rivalry will become, but it’s a thrilling start and a promising sign for the league as it attempts to grow into a sustainable league with talented players, respected coaches and healthy work environments that will attract the best of the best from around the world.
Saturday’s energy was electric, and it’s only the beginning.