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Seattle Reign primer ahead of the 2024 NWSL season

Answering all your questions ahead of the 2024 NWSL season.

Last Updated
11 min read
Mike Russell / Sounder at Heart

It's finally here. Another NWSL season kicks off this weekend. After a year of record-breaking attendance, the league is poised to break even more records in 2024. The league has already set transfer records and seen several big-time players head to the United States.

Whether you are new to following the Reign and NWSL or have been following them for a while, there's been a lot of change this offseason. With Seattle Reign kicking off at home this Sunday against the Washington Spirit, here's everything (or almost everything!) you need to know ahead of the 2024 NWSL season.

Remind me: how did the Reign do in 2023?

The Reign finished fourth in a very tight league table and won their quarterfinal and semifinal matches to advance to the NWSL Championship for the first time since 2015. They fell 2-1 to NJ/NY Gotham FC in an entertaining final. Megan Rapinoe, in her final professional match, tore her Achilles in the third minute. It was devastating.

OL Reign lose to Gotham FC 2-1 in the NWSL Championship
OL Reign lose in their third attempt to win the NWSL Championship, as Megan Rapinoe closes her illustrious career with an Achilles injury four minutes into the match.

I see that we're calling them Seattle Reign again. Who owns this team right now? Did the sale finally go through?

Not quite. Until it's officially official, OL Groupe still owns the Reign after putting the team up for sale last April. Several sources have told Ride of the Valkyries that the sale is supposed to be complete before the season kicks off, but that's right around the corner. Fingers crossed that the news comes any day or second now.

All signs continue to point to the Seattle Sounders as the Reign's new operating owner, with private equity firm Carlyle Group also reportedly involved. While there will be some shared expenses and business operations, sources indicate the Reign will continue to have the freedom to make decisions independently.

Private equity firm part of Sounders’ purchase of Reign
Carlyle Group’s ownership stake is unclear, but Sounders would likely still be the group operating the team.

Despite the sale's delay, the club opted to drop "OL" from its name and return to being called Seattle Reign FC – a much cleaner and clearer name for local fans. The original crest returned as well, with a slightly updated color palette.

Seattle Reign FC unveil their 2024 kits
A navy blue kit called “Reflection” will be their primary, while a white “Summit” will be their secondary.

How many teams are in the league this year?

Thanks to the addition of two expansion clubs, the Utah Royals and Bay FC, the NWSL now has 14 teams. In 2024, the league will have a balanced schedule, which means each club will have 26 regular-season matches – one home and one away against every team in the league.

And how many teams make the playoffs?

For the first time, eight of the 14 teams in the league will make the playoffs. During the last three years, the top two teams in the league earned byes in the first round of the playoffs. This often meant that the top two teams had two weeks off between the regular season and a playoff match, as a FIFA international window fell in the middle of the playoffs. This step was eliminated in 2024. All eight teams that qualify for the postseason will play in quarterfinal matches.

What are the Reign's chances of getting into the playoffs?

Well, it's never safe to assume anything in the NWSL. Teams that were at the top of the league one year might fall to the bottom the next. This league is so tight. Just two points separated 3rd and 7th place last year!

The Reign are always a hard team to beat, however, so fans should never count them out. They've made it to the semifinals every year since 2018, and head coach Laura Harvey has a great tactical mind – meaning she will adjust in strategic ways if things aren't working at the start of the season.

Is the NWSL always that competitive?

Yes. On any given day, any team in the league can compete with another, no matter where they sit in the standings. There's been a lot of debate about which women's league is the "best in the world." The NWSL could be that league, but putting aside that argument, the NWSL is truly the most competitive league. That's not up for debate. There's a lot of parity, which makes every game a thriller.

What does the Reign roster look like this year?

Stay tuned to Sounder at Heart over the next few days, where we will further unpack the offseason and the Reign depth chart. In short, however, this is a roster that has some truly talented veterans – including Reign originals Jess Fishlock and Lauren Barnes – and a healthy mix of promising young players, some proven and others ready to show what they've got.

The Reign lost U.S. women's national team players Rose Lavelle and Emily Sonnett, who went to Gotham as free agents, and Megan Rapinoe, who also retired. However, the team brought in Ji So-yun, one of the most creative midfielders, along with several other players who will help the team be better in possession – something they struggled with at times in 2023.

Catching up on Seattle Reign’s offseason roster changes
Eight players out, eight players in.

How many players are on the Reign roster? And is the roster all set?

NWSL teams can have a maximum of 26 players on their roster, and the league allows seven roster spots to be occupied by international players as of this year. Seattle Reign currently has 28 signed players, but two of them – Jimena López and Luany – are on loan until July. Both players do not count against the roster cap until their loan spells end.

The Reign still has one international spot open. That number jumps to three as long as López and Luany remain on loan.

Here's the current roster:

  • Goalkeepers: Claudia Dickey, Laurel Ivory, Maia Pérez
  • Defenders: Lauren Barnes, Ryanne Brown, Alana Cook, Shae Holmes, Sofia Huerta, Julia Lester, Jimena López (LOAN), Phoebe McClernon, Lily Woodham (INT)
  • Midfielders: Olivia Athens, Jess Fishlock, Angharad James (INT), Luany (LOAN), Maddie Mercado, Sam Meza, Quinn, Ji So-Yun (INT), Nikki Stanton, Olivia Van der Jagt
  • Forwards: Emeri Adames (U-18), Bethany Balcer, Jordyn Huitema (INT), Tziarra King, Veronica Latsko, McKenzie Weinert

Any thoughts on how they might use that open international spot?

Good question. The roster appears set for the start of the season. However, Reign general manager Lesle Gallimore has hinted at a potential summer signing. This wouldn't be too surprising, as most leagues around the world wrap up in May. By waiting until the summer, the Reign could theoretically bring in another player who is out of contract and avoid paying a transfer fee.

If I had to guess, I'd say that the Reign might be looking for another goal-scoring threat – if they do indeed move forward with a summer signing. They'd need to figure out how to balance their roster, however, as they'd be over the roster max unless a player gets a season-ending injury, is traded, or goes out on loan.

Speaking of international roster spots, does the NWSL play during FIFA international windows?

This year, no! The league hasn't scheduled any matches during FIFA windows. While no regular season matches will be played, the league will hold a separate tournament during the Olympics, with specifics still to be announced.

While the NWSL won't schedule regular season matches during international windows, that doesn't mean players won't get rested if they have grueling travel and matches during these FIFA breaks. As many as eight players could be called into their national teams during these windows.

On the topic of NWSL tournaments, wasn't there a separate Challenge Cup? Is that returning?

You're correct. The Challenge Cup began in 2020 as a bubble tournament during the pandemic and morphed into a preseason tournament in 2021 and 2022 and then an in-season tournament in 2023. It was kind of odd, as it meant some teams played each other four or five times across all competitions. The tournament will not continue in 2024 and instead has been replaced with a single match between the previous year's NWSL Champion and NWSL Shield winner. Gotham will play the San Diego Wave this Friday, March 15, for the Challenge Cup trophy.

Tell me more about the Reign. What formation does the team play?

Head coach Laura Harvey has most recently played a 4-2-3-1 formation, which she's stuck to pretty firmly for the last two years. However, with access to only a small set of matches this preseason, it looks like Harvey might be exploring a more flexible formation that allows the team to be better in possession.

In the two preseason matches that we could watch, the team experimented with a 3-5-2 formation and a 4-4-2 box formation. Both options give the team more midfield numbers, which could result in more meaningful possession and late runs into the box. With all the Reign's depth in the midfield, this approach should get the best out of the team – but it might require some early tinkering before the team finds its rhythm.

Regardless of the formation, you will likely see a defensive midfielder drop deeper when the team is in possession. This helps the Reign build out of the back and protect the backline while allowing the fullbacks to push higher. And you want a right back like Sofia Huerta high up the field, as she's arguably the best crosser in the league.

What is the Reign's style of play?

Under Harvey, the Reign have been extremely difficult to break down. They are organized defensively and like to press teams higher up the field – although Harvey mixes up the pressing triggers based on the opponent. Expect all the forwards to put in the work on the defensive side and the Reign's central attacking midfielder to also be a big part of the Reign press.

While the Reign struggled at times in possession last year, this is a squad that wants the ball. They want to build out of the back and keep the ball – looking for holes in the defense and opportunities to switch the field. The team averaged 48% possession in 2023; this will increase this year if things go according to plan.

Which Reign player is most likely to have a breakout season?

So many. Truly. After losing Rapinoe, Lavelle, and Sonnett – along with Brazilian midfielder Angelina – young players are going to be asked to step up in significant ways. Here are two players that fans should keep their eye on:

  • Olivia Van der Jagt: If you've been following the Reign for the last two years, you've probably seen how much of an impact Van der Jagt has already made in the midfield. This year, however, she looks poised to take on a larger role and serve as a connector and leader in the midfield. Van der Jagt, whose nickname is Olo, is one of the best midfielders in the air and covers a lot of ground. She often plays simple balls in possession, which means she helps the team keep the ball, but she can also be a creator and take more risks. Olo can play as a holding midfielder or in the box-to-box midfield role. I think she's ready to add a few more goals and assists to her name.
  • Sam Meza: The Reign's first 2024 NWSL Draft pick could turn out to be the steal of the draft. A UNC graduate, Meza showed in the preseason that she has the tenacity, energy, and vision to be a midfielder contributor this year. Draft picks don't always get a ton of minutes, but you'll be impressed the first time you see Meza step into a match. Her close-down speed, tackles, and ability on the ball are all impressive. She has the potential to be a real star in this league.
Seattle Reign sign Sam Meza for 2024 season
The rookie midfielder has impressed during the preseason.

With that said, any of the young players have a chance to break out in 2023. Canadian forward Jordyn Huitema is still just 22 years old, Ryanne Brown showed last season that she's ready to hang in the NWSL and contribute at fullback, last year's starting goalkeeper Claudia Dickey is just 24, Olivia Athens is an attacking player with great vision, and 2024 draft pick Maddie Mercado is another midfielder for the future. Just to name a few!

Wow, I'm excited! How can I watch matches?

The 2024 NWSL season marks the beginning of the league’s four-year domestic media rights agreement with CBS Sports, ESPN, Prime Video, and Scripps Sports/ION. Here are a few notes about this new deal and what it means for Reign matches.

  • Prime Video: Friday night matches will air on Prime Video. Five of the Reign's matches will stream on Prime Video for U.S. fans.
  • ION: Saturday night doubleheaders air at 4:30 and 7 PM PT on ION, which is available over the air in 123 million homes and can also be found on several apps, including YouTube TV, tubi, pluto, and Roku. Three Reign matches will air on ION.
  • CBS: Several NWSL games will air on CBS and stream on Paramount+. The Reign will have one match on CBS and another on CBS Sports Network.
  • ESPN: ESPN also has an NWSL package, with a few matches airing on ABC. Matches on ESPN and ESPN2 will also stream on ESPN+ in English and Spanish. Three Reign matches will air on ESPN2 and ESPN Deportes.   
  • NWSL+: Half of all Reign games (13) will stream on NWSL+, the league’s new direct-to-consumer streaming platform. NWSL+ is free and is available on all iOS/Android devices and streaming distributors Apple TV, Fire TV, and Roku.
  • International: Fans outside the U.S. can watch all matches on NWSL+

I know. It's a lot to take in. The short version is that you can catch a lot of Reign games for free: half of Reign's games will be on the NWSL+ app, another three will be free via ION, and one match will air on big CBS.

The schedule on the Reign website, which can also be downloaded, notes the streaming or TV platform for each of the team's matches. We'll be sure to note the platform in our match previews as well. You can also catch all Reign matches at Rough & Tumble Pub in Ballard.

Anything else I need to know?

This team is a joy to watch, and it's even more fun to watch them in person! You can get a better understanding of the team's pressing, movement, and attacking style when you catch them live. So, if you can get yourself to Lumen Field – Reign FC's home alongside the Seattle Sounders – you really should.

The atmosphere is a blast, and matches are very family-friendly. The only standing section is behind the south goal, which is the general admission (GA) Supporters Section (and even there you can find places to sit if you need or want).

The Reign start the season this Sunday, March 17, at home against the Washington Spirit. The match kicks off at 3 PM PT and will stream on NWSL+. Tickets are still available for as low as $15.

The Reign also launched a new ticketing program, Players with Purpose. If you buy tickets on the Reign website, $5 from each purchase will go toward a local nonprofit selected by the player.