The NWSL Media Association released their preseason survey of the league’s front office on a variety of questions that included who they thought would win the golden boot, NWSL championship, MVP and more.
Team Award predictions
For who will win the NWSL Championship, 37.5% of voters said that they believed that the North Carolina Courage would win the title. The team won the shield and made it to the finals in 2017 but lost 1-0 to the Portland Thorns. The Chicago Red Stars, which acquired 2017 NWSL Golden Boot winner and MVP Sam Kerr in the offseason, came in second with 25%. Also receiving votes were the Utah Royals, Orlando Pride and Portland.
The predictions for which teams would make the playoffs is similar to the ones that made it last year except for one. Both North Carolina and Portland received 78%, the Washington Spirit received 67% of votes and both Chicago and Orlando received 44%. For most improved team, Washington was chosen to have the best bounce-back season with 75% of the vote while the Houston Dash received 12.5% along with Utah.
Best Coach: The voters chose Laura Harvey of the Utah Royals with 33% to be the one to receive the best coach. New Seattle Reign coach Vlatko Andonovski and Red Stars coach Rory Dames are among the other that received votes. The only coaches that didn’t receive votes are Jim Gabarra of the Spirit and Vera Pauw of the Dash.
Most Valuable Player: Orlando forward and five-time FIFA women’s player of the year Marta received 37.5% of votes as the frontrunner for MVP. Julie Ertz, Lindsey Horan, and last season’s MVP Sam Kerr received votes along with English-international Jodie Taylor who will be with the Reign in 2018.
Golden Boot: Since the league’s inception, the winner of the golden boot has gone on to win MVP, but this year the league’s office is predicting a change. Kerr received the most votes, 37.5%, to repeat her golden boot award from last season. Christen Press received 25% of votes, but it is unclear if and where she will play if it isn’t Houston. Marta, Alex Morgan and Taylor also received votes.
Rookie of the Year: Surprising no one, number one overall pick Andi Sullivan received 67% of the votes to be the best rookie in 2018. Savannah McCaskill, who was drafted by the Boston Breakers and was picked up by Sky Blue in the dispertion draft, was the second rookie to receive votes, earning 33%.
Goalkeeper of the Year: Chicago Red Stars goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher received 75% of the vote and 2017 winner and Portland Thorns goalkeeper Adrianna Franch received 25% of the vote.
Defender of the Year: Becky Sauerbrunn of the Utah Royals received a majority of the votes with 67%. Others that received votes are Lauren Barnes, Emily Menges and Taylor Smith who was traded to the Spirit in the offseason.
The rest of the questions aren't necessarily end-of-the-year awards, but were answered by the front office and revealed how players are viewed around the league.
Best Midfielder: Jess Fishlock, 37.5%, Sam Mewis and Julie Ertz, 25%, Lindsey Horan, 12.5%
Best Forward: Sam Kerr, 75%, Alex Morgan and Christen Press, 12.5%
Toughest player: McCall Zerboni, 56%, Julie Ertz, 22%
Best leader: Becky Sauerbrunn, 33%, Julie Ertz and Marta, 22%
Best international player: Sam Kerr and Marta, 37.5%, Jess FIshlock, 25%
Underrated player: Eight-way tie at 12.5%, Jess Fishlock, Shea Groom, Sarah Killion, Brittany Kolmel, Emily Menges, Raquel Rodriguez, Taylor Smith, McCall Zerboni
Most impactful substitute: Katie Johnson, 43%, Ashley Hatch, 29%
Active international that should return: Kim Little, 50%
If starting a team, which player would you sign first: Julie Ertz and Marta, 25%
Which active player will become head coach: Becky Sauerbrunn, 37.5%, Ali Krieger, 12.5%
Which player to take game-winning penalty in NWSL Championship: Marta and Megan Rapinoe, 25%