The National Women's Soccer League is officially in the preseason and players are in the early days of training and conditioning. The build up to presesaon has included offseason trades, the NWSL Draft, and the first ever free agency period in the league. The 2023 NWSL regular season will begin March 25, and fans can watch all the action across CBS Sports platforms and Paramount+
All 12 clubs utilized the offsesaon to try and bulk up their rosters, so let's grade each team and their moves ahead of the regular season.
Angel City FC: C+
In between an eighth-place finish during their inaugural season and ambitions of becoming a franchise with a billion-dollar valuation, one would have expected the Los Angeles franchise to make big headlines in the first-ever free agency period. With only a handful of free agents remaining, the team recently signed forward Katie Johnson and has listed her as a midfielder on the preseason roster. The club's biggest win of the offseason came by way of a four-team mega trade ahead of the NWSL Draft for the No. 1 pick. They selected 18-year-old high school senior Alyssa Thompson. In 2022, the club made history during its inaugural season in several areas including multi-million dollars in partnerships, record amounts of season ticket holders and sold-out games. However, the team struggled to make an impact on the pitch, winning one game over the course of their final five weeks, and the front office has done little in the offseason to consider them contenders.
Chicago Red Stars: C+
A club that have seen two offseasons of player exodus, the Red Stars were losers of the free agency period with seven of their starting players being eligible free agents. The team was able to re-sign two players, fan-favorite Yuki Nagasato and longtime Red Stars' defender Arin Wright, but they bid farewell to all of their starting midfielders. Chicago had a strong draft, selecting top forward prospect Penelope Hocking and adding more young draftees to the preseason roster. In an effort to boost their depleted midfield, the club kicked off their preseason by signing Brazilian international Julia Bianchi and acquiring Cari Roccaro in a trade with Angel City FC. They had a slow offseason start but the late extra moves bump them up.
Houston Dash: B+
They made their first-ever postseason appearance in 2022 and utilized their offseason to ensure they make a deeper run. The franchise hired long-time NWSL assistant Sam Laity as head coach but not before making some important players re-signings. Canadian internationals Sophie Schmidt and Allysha Chapman return to the squad on new deals. They also appeared to have locked up a possible center back partner for Katie Lind (nee Naughton) with Ally Prisock back on a two-year deal. They get a big grade boost for their draft day trade with North Carolina Courage for forward Diana Ordonez, who broke the all-time rookie goal-scoring record with 12 goals in 2022. If she can avoid a sophomore slump and develop quick chemistry with Maria Sanchez and Ebony Salmon, the team will be back in the playoffs.
Kansas City Current: A+
The Current entered the offseason as NWSL Championship finalists and the runners-up made several standout moves to bulk up the roster. Getting involved in free agency, trades, and the draft, they targeted several players in all phases of the offseason. Undoubtedly winners of free agency after landing three starting caliber talents, including sought-after Brazilian international Debinha, the Current continued to make a splash leading up to preseason. The additions of Morgan Gautrat and Vanessa DiBernardo are immediate solutions to Sam Mewis' long-term injury and the team just signed their No. 2 draft pick, midfield prospect Michelle Cooper.
North Carolina Courage: C
They lost early in free agency after Debinha's farewell, but they did re-sign long-time midfielder Denise O'Sullivan to a new contract and welcomed defender Estelle Johnson to the team. The club also signed Danish forward Mille Gejl Jensen and completed a trade for USWNT defender Emily Fox in exchange for Abby Erceg and Carson Pickett. In a curious move, traded Ordonez, once believed to be a core piece to build around, with Courage head coach Sean Nahas in post-draft comments saying they wanted to honor a request of hers to be closer to home. While there is curiosity around a first-year player already requesting a trade, the franchise has added multiple first-round draftees to the roster in two consecutive offseasons now. How they develop will be something else entirely.
NJ/NY Gotham FC: A
They added a new head coach in Juan Carlos Amoros and several new players in the offseason. The club rang in the first-ever free agency period by welcoming U.S. women's national team defender Kelley O'Hara, but not before adding goalkeeper Abby Smith and defender Kristen Edmonds. The club also re-signed Ifeoma Onumonu and Mandy Freeman out of free agency and extended Taylor Smith. They engaged in several draft-related trades and yielded in return Yazmeen Ryan and USWNT forward Lynn Williams. They also managed to select a future prospect with the No. 4 overall pick Jenna Nighswonger.
OL Reign: B-
Not typically one to build through the draft, head coach Laura Harvey engaged in trades throughout the offseason instead and draft to boost the roster ahead of the regular season. Forward Elyse Bennett and USWNT defender Emily Sonnett are now part of the 2022 NWSL Shield-winning side. With most of last season's roster returning, the franchise also retained long-time Reign players Lauren Barnes and Megan Rapinoe in free agency.
Orlando Pride: B
The Florida club was considered heavy suitors in the free agency to land Debinha but lost out to Kansas City Current. The franchise did re-sign Brazil women's national team legend Marta out of the free agency market and signed her compatriot Adriana. Extending Jordyn Listro and Erika Tymrak will help in their thin midfield, but Orlando's biggest wins likely came from the draft. They selected Emily Madril No. 3 overall with the Florida State player considered the top-ranked defender among the incoming draft class.
Portland Thorns FC: B
Another franchise navigating a sale for new majority owners, the club had few adjustments to make after winning the 2022 NWSL Championship. They made a comfortable hire and promoted former assistant coach Mike Norris to head manager after Rhian Wilkinson's resignation post-investigation and there may be little change to routine or playing style because of it. They also retained long-time Thorns FC captain and Canadian international Christine Sinclair during free agency. New contracts to Costa Rican international Rocky Rodriguez and Sam Coffey after her breakout rookie season have them looking even stronger for the future. The group already looked primed for another playoff run before the draft but still exited the event with two first-round draft selections in Reyna Reyes and Izzy D'Aquila.
Racing Louisville FC: C+
Since head coach Kim Bjorkegren's arrival, the team have cast a wide net to build out the roster This offseason, they added even more international players to their team. They signed Brazilian international Ary Borges to start their offseason and added Nigerian international Uchenna Kanu in a recent transfer with Tigres Femenil. The move sent draft pick Riley Parker on loan to the Mexican side but they have plenty of attacking options for the upcoming season. The club gave new contracts to Jaelin Howell and Katie Lund, and they also acquired Paige Monaghan from Gotham FC, and Abby Erceg and Carson Pickett in exchange for USWNT defender Emily Fox. But how Bjorkegren plans to weld all these pieces together is still an unanswered question.
San Diego Wave FC: B
The California side went on a historic run to the NWSL semifinals during their inaugural season and head coach Casey Stoney wasted little time ensuring they got major upgrades. They signed Danielle Colaprico in free agency along with Rachel Hill and Megan Doughtry Howard. While targeting positional needs, the club still re-signed members of the 2022 inaugural roster with new deals for Makenzy Doniak, Kaleigh Riehll and Madison Pogarch. They also added another midfield prospect in Sierra Enge (13th overall) and another goalkeeper with Lauren Brzykcy.
Washington Spirit: D
After lifting the 2021 NWSL Championship trophy just two seasons ago, it doesn't feel appropriate to call this a rebuilding year for the Spirit, but they have gone through enough staff and player turnover for 2023 to be a bit of a retooling year. The franchise hired Mark Parsons to lead them into a new era after terminating Kris Ward due to overly aggressive behavior and harassment through negative racial stereotyping towards a player in violation of league policy. A team with USWNT players Ashley Hatch, Andi Sullivan, Trinity Rodman, and Ashley Sanchez, the roster was slim before preseason. Parsons utilized the draft to add more players by trading USWNT defender Emily Sonnett for more picks. In a World Cup year where key players will be missing for long stretches, that might open a window of opportunity for new players.