Your National Women’s Soccer League starter kit

This weekend the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) kicked off its second annual Challenge Cup. Now, as much as I’d like to believe otherwise, I recognize that the NWSL is not the most well-known professional sports league in the U.S.

However, never fear. As your resident NWSL expert, I’m here to give you a crash course on all things NWSL. Then, you’ll be ready to jump into the craziness of Challenge Cup viewing and well on your way to becoming an NWSL stan.

Who plays in the NWSL?

The NWSL is home to American soccer stars such as Megan Rapinoe, Alex Morgan and Carli Lloyd. However, the NWSL is also a hub for international soccer talent, with players such as Brazilian national team stars Marta Vieira da Silva and Debinha Miri  playing in Orlando and North Carolina, respectively, and Canadian Christine Sinclair, the world’s leading international goal scorer (in the men’s or women’s game), playing for the Portland Thorns.

What are the teams?

The NWSL currently has 10 teams, with two expansion teams on the way: Seattle’s OL Reign (Key Player: Allie Long), the Portland Thorns (Key Players: Crystal Dunn, Christine Sinclair, Becky Sauerbrunn, Rocky Rodriguez … let’s be honest, they’re stacked), the Houston Dash (Key Players: Kristie Mewis and Rachel Daly), Kansas City (Key Player: Amy Rodriguez), the Chicago Red Stars (Key Player: Casey Krueger), Racing Louisville (Key Player: Yuki Nagasato), NJ/NY Gotham FC (Key Player: Midge Purce), the Washington Spirit (Key Players: Kelli O’Hara and Emily Sonnett), the North Carolina Courage (Key Player: Debinha) and the Orlando Pride (Key Player: Ali Krieger).

Who should you root for?

Minnesota may not have a team, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t become part of the NWSL fanbase. If you want a team close by, Chicago or Kansas City are going to be your best bets. If you’re interested in supporting the team with the most power couples, you should definitely go with the Orlando Pride. If you want a team with a strong rivalry, you could pick Seattle’s OL Reign or the Portland Thorns, but not both, because that would cause a stir. The North Carolina Courage is the team that everyone loves to hate, so if you choose to support them, just know that you won’t have many allies.

Which color NWSL hoodie should you get?

Definitely the purple. Unless you choose the Dash as your team, then get the orange.

What is NWSL After Dark?

NWSL After Dark describes the crazy energy some NWSL games have after the sun goes down. A perfect example of this was the game on April 9 between the Portland Thorns and Kansas City which ended with three red cards and one coach being sent off.

Where can you stay up to date?

You can always follow the NWSL and team accounts on Twitter and Instagram, but if you want to get the inside scoop, you’ll want to follow these woso (slang for women’s soccer) journalists on Twitter: Meg Linehan (@itsmeglinehan), Sandra Herrera (@SandHerrera_) and Steph Yang (@thrace).

I could spend all day talking about the NWSL, but I’ll leave it here for now. If you have more questions or just need a soccer-watching buddy, feel free to reach out and enjoy your Challenge Cup viewing!