It’s official. The NWSL schedule is here! Preseason starts March 11, regular season kicks off April 13, and the Thorns are ready to go with a roster full of talent and a city of supporters.
“There’s no place like Portland for soccer, especially women’s soccer,” said Thorns FC midfielder Angie Kerr. “The support we get is amazing.”
Kerr played for the University of Portland alongside Thorns FC forward Christine Sinclair. Together, they took the Pilots to win the NCAA Championship in 2005. Although a championship is still the ultimate goal, seeing the new NWSL succeed is a top priority.
“A major goal is to make this league more sustainable,” said Kerr. “Also, to grow the game of soccer for women especially.”
The NWSL is the third time that a women’s league has started up and attempted to grow a national fan base. The former Women’s Professional Soccer (WPS) league began in 2009, only to fold before the 2012 season due to a lack of resources.
University of Portland head women’s soccer coach Garrett Smith believes that the way this league is set up for smaller crowds will make a big impact on its ability to succeed.
“It is financially and fiscally responsible,” he said. “Where hundreds and millions of dollars were spent in the first leagues, this is a completely different approach. It’s actually an approach that Clive Charles talked about in a room full of people when they first started talking about the first women’s league which was, ‘Plan your stadiums and plan your crowd sizes around three to five thousand people because that’s realistic.'”
Sinclair also wants to see the league succeed for future players and to inspire youth.
“I want to be part of something that is around for years to come and where young girls – whether it’s in the U.S. or Canada or Mexico, all over – can dream of playing professionally,” she said in a press release for the Thorns FC.
University of Portland junior soccer player Ellen Parker is already dreaming of playing in the new league. She plans to enter the NWSL after she graduates next fall.
“I got season tickets for [the Thorns] for Christmas, so I’m really excited about that,” she said.
The Thorns season kicks off on April 13 against FC Kansas City, but most don’t count the away game as the beginning. A rivalry with Seattle is already rumbling (the team includes former UP player Megan Rapinoe and goalkeeper star Hope Solo) and the Thorns face the Seattle Reign at their home opener on April 21 at 2 p.m.
“I think it will be fun to have that Seattle rivalry,” said Kerr. “Also to go back to Boston and New Jersey. It will be fun to go back.”
Boston and New Jersey both fielded teams in the former WPS, which Kerr and many other current NWSL players also participated in. Kerr looks forward to returning to these cities and revisiting the fans and players.
The Thorns FC will play 22 games, including 11 at home at JELD-WEN Field between April and August. As a partner team with the Portland Timbers, the teams will play three weekend back-to-back games: June 15-16, July 13-14, and August 3-4. Thorns season tickets start at $9 a game and are still available. Single game tickets have not gone on sale, but are expected to begin at the end of February or early March. To see who will be playing alongside Sinclair and Kerr, check out the full team roster.