While England are searching for a new manager for only the second time since 1998, the Women’s Super League is also about to embark upon a new era with the start of its first winter season.With a new calendar, new teams and new signings, the 2017-18 WSL campaign gets under way on Friday as Everton host Merseyside rivals Liverpool in the curtain raiser.Some of the stars of Euro 2017 will be expected to shine once more, but who will be competing for the title, what’s changed this season and how can you follow the action?
Good bye summer, hello winterAfter six years of summer football and 2017’s one-off transitional Spring Series, the WSL has switched to the more traditional winter season, aligning with the lower tiers of the English women’s football pyramid as well as rival leagues in Europe and the men’s divisions.With 10 sides in WSL 1 and 10 teams in WSL 2, the competition is larger than ever before.That follows the promotion of Tottenham Hotspur Ladies to WSL 2, after they won the Women’s Premier League – the third tier – title in May.WSL 1
Teams will also compete in the WSL Continental Tyres Cup – the League Cup – which is just for WSL sides, and the Women’s FA Cup.The two top sides in WSL 1 at the end of the season will qualify for the 2018-19 Women’s Champions League.Manchester City won their first WSL title in 2016, while Chelsea – winners of the double in 2015 – were victorious in the recent transitional Spring Series.Everton are back in the top tier for the first time since their relegation in 2014, having being successful in their bid to replace the now-defunct Notts County Ladies, who folded in April.WSL 2In the second tier, newly promoted Tottenham will be making their debut in the WSL, after they won the 2016-17 WPL title via a play-off.They became the third side to win promotion to the WSL format, following Sheffield FC and Brighton, who are now coached by former England boss Hope Powell.Each club in both tiers will have to re-apply for their licence for 2018-19 before the end of the season, and BBC Sport understands the FA is considering turning the WSL into a one-tier, strictly full-time league for next term, possibly rebranding the second tier.WSL ‘needs full-time top tier’ – Brown-Finnis
The main title challengersSince 2015, the same three clubs have shared the top three positions in WSL 1 – Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester City – and, with the biggest budgets and squads that include some of the best players in Europe, the trio will be expected to do so once more.Chelsea pipped FA Cup winners City to the Spring Series title in 2017, in a league where each side played each other just once, while Arsenal were unbeaten during the competition.The Gunners are the most decorated women’s club in England, but have not been crowned champions since 2012.How to follow the actionFive matches will be streamed on the BBC Sport website and app at 12:30 BST on Sundays before 12 November this season, starting this week with Chelsea Ladies v Bristol City WomenBBC Radio 5 live sports extra will cover four additional matches, starting with Everton Ladies v Liverpool Ladies on FridayThe BBC Sport website and app will have videos with the best of the weekend’s action on MondaysThe Women’s Football Show is on every Sunday matchday, starting this week following MOTD2You can now set up line-up, goal and result notifications for all WSL1 teams via the BBC Sport appWho arrived during the transfer window?
Arguably the most significant capture of the summer was Arsenal’s signing of Netherlands striker Vivianne Miedema.The Gunners also added Sweden right-back Jessica Samuelsson, while re-signing Germany defender Josephine Henning.Chelsea welcomed Norway’s Maria Thorisdottir and Sweden’s Magdalena Eriksson this summer, while Liverpool – fourth in the Spring Series – added the Blues’ Bethany England on a season-long loan.Melanie Reay’s Sunderland re-signed keeper Rachael Laws, while Nick Cushing’s Manchester City recruited Bristol City and Scotland winger Claire Emslie, plus Germany’s Pauline Bremer in exchange for Lyon-bound Lucy Bronze.Elsewhere, Kelly Chambers’ Reading captured England’s most capped player Fara Williams from Arsenal, while Everton signed the Spring Series’ top scorer in WSL 2, Courtney Sweetman-Kirk, from Doncaster Rovers Belles.Yeovil Town added to their ranks with several senior Wales internationals, while Wales centre-back Hayley Ladd made the switch to Birmingham City from Bristol City – who brought in Belgium defender Lorca van de Putte.
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Toffees ‘back where they belong’In returning to the top tier this summer, Everton made the transition to full-time football during pre-season, giving all players fully professional deals for the first time in their history.According to former England and Everton defender Lindsay Johnson, the 2014 FA Cup finalists are “back where they deserve to be” among the elite clubs.Netherlands midfielder Marthe Munsterman, a summer signing from FC Twente, told BBC Sport: “It is a big club and everyone knows it. When Everton wants you it is hard to say no.”For the past two years I trained at an amateur training set-up, so this is a big step forward.”England youth international defender Gabby George, named as the club’s first professional player, added: “Finally becoming a full-time club and doing something I love on a daily basis is very exciting.”At a club as big as Everton, to be named as the club’s first professional player was a major deal for me.”Now we have got a lot of new faces in and we can go and compete and see where the season takes us.”‘There’s one league in WSL 1, not three’
In the Spring Series, newly promoted Yeovil Town and Bristol City picked up only points from 16 games between them, as the bigger clubs thrived.But Everton boss Andy Spence believes the top flight will be very competitive this season.Speaking after being named WSL head coach of the Spring Series at the FA’s Women’s Football Awards, Spence told BBC Sport: “We’re a confident side, with medals round our necks and the girls have tasted the feeling of winning.”There are not ‘three leagues’. The last time I looked, it is a league of 10 and we want to finish as close as we can to the top of that league of 10.”Three leagues is nonsense. There’s one league of 10 and let’s see how close we can get on.”Opening weekend fixturesFriday, 22 September – 19:45 BST:Everton v Liverpool, Select Security StadiumSunday, 24 September – 12:30 BST:Chelsea v Bristol City, KingsmeadowSunday, 24 September – 14:00 BST:Arsenal v Birmingham City, Boreham Wood FCReading v Sunderland, Adams ParkYeovil Town v Manchester City, Huish Park
Source: BBC Black Country