July 18, 2024

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Top NWSL soccer stars: Alex Morgan, Megan Rapinoe, Trinity Rodman and the best players for 2022 season

6 min read
Top NWSL soccer stars: Alex Morgan, Megan Rapinoe, Trinity Rodman and the best players for 2022 season

The 2022 NWSL season is one of the most highly anticipated campaigns in the league’s young history. As it recovers from a rocky offseason, the NWSL pushes forward with a combo of international superstars and up-and-coming young talents, many of whom are looking to break into the new-look U.S. women’s national team.

A collection of all-time U.S. greats like Alex Morgan and Megan Rapinoe are here for the 2022 season, some back from stints abroad.

Meanwhile, young talents like Trinity Rodman and Sophia Smith are already making their mark on the domestic game.

So, with that in mind, here are the top 10 superstars to follow in the league this season, with both on-field contributions and off-field recognition considered.

MORE: USMNT roster for final World Cup qualifiers

Top 10 NWSL stars for 2022 season

10. Jess Fishlock (OL Reign)

It would be criminal to leave the reigning NWSL MVP off the list, and while Jess Fishlock isn’t exactly a household name, she should be.

A highly decorated Welsh international with 119 caps and 31 goals, Fishlock won the league’s top individual honor at 34 years old after scoring five goals and assisting four others. The 2021 season was her first full season back from a torn ACL as she served admirably as the Reign’s midfield engine.

With Seattle/OL Reign since the club’s 2013 beginnings, Fishlock will make a great coach, already serving as a Melbourne City player-coach while on loan there from 2015-2018. For now, she can’t stop, won’t stop bossing the middle of the field.

9. Crystal Dunn (Portland Thorns)

With 123 international caps and 24 goals, Crystal Dunn is a well-known figure in soccer circles. A versatile player who can play along the back line at fullback or higher up on the field as a winger, she’s been a star since joining the league in 2014 as the first overall selection in the NWSL draft.

It’s unclear when Dunn, soon-to-be a new mom, will be back on the field. Her pregnancy meant she skipped the SheBelieves Cup for the USWNT, but she’s still continuing to train with the Thorns well into her third trimester. Due in May, she should return sometime after and will be a well-known presence in the league once back on the field.

8. Sam Mewis (KC Current)

At 29 years old, Sam Mewis continues to gain notoriety and popularity across he U.S. soccer scene. A three-time NWSL champion and owner of 83 international caps for the USWNT, Mewis is a force in the middle of the field.

Unfortunately, her specific skill set can sometimes leave coaches unsure how to deploy her properly, which can hinder both her playing time and ability to influence a match. But when given a solid midfield partner to serve as a pivot, Mewis can be a persistent midfield threat and she’s not afraid to fire from distance. Most notably, she has cutting-edge vision from deep and the ability to deliver venomous through-balls.

While the season could be a tough one for the Current — as was last year’s expansion season — Mewis stands out as one of the few bright spots amidst a rebuild.

7. Rose Lavelle (OL Reign)

Just 26 years old, Rose Lavelle continues to rise in prominence among U.S. soccer fans. Already on 69 international caps and 18 goals, Lavelle has been a steady presence in the USWNT scene for years now, but she’s one of many recent acquisitions for the Reign.

Lavelle spent two seasons with the Washington Spirit before a stint in Manchester, but she’s back on home soil in the United States with one of the most star-studded rosters in the league. Protected by the club in the 2022 expansion draft, Lavelle signed a two-year contract extension in January, ensuring she’ll stick around through the 2023 season.

Playing alongside Jess Fishlock, Lavelle will formulate what is expected to be a push for an NWSL title. And if you want a peek at her personality, here’s all you need to know: This has been her pinned tweet since 2016.

6. Marta (Orlando Pride)

Already cemented as a legend of the game, Marta retired from international play with Brazil after 171 caps and 115 goals. A six-time FIFA World Player of the Year winner and 2007 World Cup Golden Boot winner, Marta is one of the game’s most recognizable players.

She’s still pressing on at the club level, however, and at 36 years old will lead the line in Florida. The season will depend on how the young talent integrates into the squad, but alongside Sydney Leroux, the 36-year-old Marta should continue to be a steady presence.

5. Mallory Pugh (Chicago Red Stars)

Sometimes international team success doesn’t always translate directly to the club level. That’s not the case for Mallory Pugh. The Red Stars forward bagged four goals and four assists in 23 matches, earning 2021 NWSL Best XI Second Team honors.

Pugh has been a well-known player since her youth days, when she was recruited heavily by UCLA and committed to play at the Pac-12 powerhouse before backing out and signing for an NWSL side. Now, on 70 international caps and 21 goals for the USWNT at just 23 years old, Pugh’s star continues to rise on the world stage.

4. Christen Press (Angel City FC)

One of the all-time greats in USWNT history, Christen Press faces her next big challenge as the crown jewel of Angel City’s first-ever squad.

With 155 international caps and 64 goals, the 33-year-old Press is an established star, but she isn’t done quite yet. She’ll have to share time on the international stage with the slew of incoming young talent, but at Angel City, she’s the clear leader.

Press has plenty of NWSL experience to fall back on, spending previous time with both the Chicago Red Stars and the Utah Royals (now the KC Current). She should compete for the league’s top scorer title provided she can stay healthy.

3. Trinity Rodman (Washington Spirit)

One of the most promising young talents in the game, Trinity Rodman spurned the college scene and recently signed the biggest contract in NWSL history at just 19 years old.

MORE: Rodman makes USWNT debut in SheBelieves Cup

That turned out to be a great move for the Washington Spirit, as Rodman burst onto the NWSL scene as the 2021 Rookie of the Year, and the only rookie on the NWSL Best XI First Team. She made her USWNT debut in the SheBelieves Cup in February 2022, only increasing her profile.

Oh, and it doesn’t hurt to be the daughter of a famous athlete, with her dad Dennis Rodman a well-known figure in the NBA world.

2. Alex Morgan (San Diego Wave)

While Christen Press is the centerpiece of the inaugural Angel City FC roster, Alex Morgan is that for the expansion San Diego Wave. “I could talk about Alex all day,” said teammate and fellow U.S. international Abby Dahlkemper. “She’s the best, we’re lucky to have her.”

With 190 international caps and 115 goals, Morgan isn’t just a household name, she’s one of the best strikers in the history of the game. She appeared on the cover of FIFA 16, won an ESPY Award for Best Female Athlete in 2019, is a two-time finalist for the FIFA World Player of the Year, and holds countless other individual honors.

She’s also recognized for the leadership role she’s assumed during the recent crises that the NWSL and its players have been forced to grapple with.

After a number of years with the Orlando Pride (and stints abroad in between), Morgan is back on the west coast for the upcoming season. It will be a season of firsts as the Wave gets set to play their inaugural season, and Morgan will be critical to help steady the expansion club ship.

1. Megan Rapinoe (OL Reign)

Along with Morgan, Megan Rapinoe is one of the most recognizable names and faces in women’s soccer. With the OL Reign since the club’s inception in 2013, Rapinoe is 36 years old and still going strong.

MORE: USWNT wins settlement in lawsuit against US Soccer

Rapinoe has 187 caps for the USWNT and 62 international goals to go along with it, and has been one of the leaders for the players in the recent labor negotiations. Furthermore, she has been a champion for women’s rights and LGBT rights, using her profile to push for change on multiple fronts.

The California native will be a key figure on the international level with the USA to help usher in the next level of talent, but on the club level she’s focused on pushing for a first NWSL title in her illustrious career.

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