On Saturday afternoon, the Portland Thorns face off against the NC Courage down in Orlando for the NWSL Championship. We’re pumped for it and think you should be too. Here are the five most intriguing storylines heading into it:
- The Revenge Factor. Last year, the Thorns were the top team during the NWSL regular season and earning the NWSL Shield. While the NC Courage are new in name and location this season, they were previously the Western New York Flash. They upset the Thorns during last year’s playoffs and ending up winning the NWSL Championship. They’re the top two teams in the league this season and we’re excited to see who comes out on top.
- The USWNT Star Power. The two teams have a combined eight members of the U.S. Women’s National Team on their rosters. With an equal split of four and four, USWNT fans are eagerly going to be tuning in to watch to see who lifts the trophy. Rivals now, but soon to be teammates again when they embark on Women’s World Cup Qualification in 2018 ahead of the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup.
- Tobin Heath’s Return. One of those USWNT players is Thorns midfielder Tobin Heath. The 2016 U.S. Soccer Female Player of the Year missed most of this season with an injured back, but has recently returned to limited action.
- International Star Power. The Thorns have two of the biggest names in international women’s soccer on their roster in Amadine Henry and Christine Sinclair. Henry, the Silver Ball Award winner during the 2015 Women’s World Cup is heading back to her native France after this NWSL Championship, ahead of her country hosting the 2019 Women’s World Cup. Sinclair is the second-leading women’s international goal scorer of all-time after Abby Wambach, with 168 goals for Canada.
- The Health of Women’s Soccer in the U.S. This NWSL season was historic. It marks the fifth season for the league, which makes it the longest-lasting women’s professional soccer league in U.S. history. Soccer fans in Portland just don’t show up to Timbers matches, they support the Thorns too. Home matches at Providence Park averaged nearly 18,000 fans, with a high attendance over 21,000. The NWSL Championship will be broadcast on Lifetime, as the television network wraps up its first season as a broadcaster and investor in the league. With two more seasons locked in and some of the biggest stars playing in NWSL, we’re excited to see awareness and viewership build for broadcasts.