Players To Watch During The 2021 NWSL Challenge Cup

The 2021 NWSL Challenge Cup is approaching fast, with games starting on April 9th.

This year the 2021 NWSL Challenge Cup will be played in two divisions in each team’s home markets. The East division consists of the North Carolina Courage, Orlando Pride, Sky Blue FC, Racing Louisville FC, and Washington Spirit. The West will be the Chicago Red Stars, Kansas City, Houston Dash, Portland Thorns, and OL Reign.

This year teams will be without some of their international players for at least part of the Challenge Cup. That includes the USWNT members due to international friendlies in Sweden and France. With that, other players will have the opportunity to gain important minutes and have breakout seasons.

Here are five players that we think you should keep an eye on during the 2021 NWSL Challenge Cup and the regular season.


Bri Visalli – Houston Dash

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There was a bit of a consensus heading into the 2020 Expansion Draft that Racing Louisville was going to select Visalli. Well, the Dash lucked out and that didn’t happen.

Now going into her second season with the Dash, Visalli can build on an impressive first year. She was a big part of why the Dash found so much success in 2020.

The Pepperdine alum played in all eight games for Houston last season, starting all but one. She is probably not going to get on the scoresheet a lot but she’s a scrappy presence in the midfield. Visalli will be a consistent presence in a midfield that could look a bit different with key players away on national team duty.


Addisyn Merrick – Racing Louisville FC

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Merrick had a promising rookie season with the North Carolina Courage that she’ll look to continue to build upon. Last season, she started and played in all but one Challenge Cup game and started every match of the Fall Series. She was Racing Louisville’s first pick in the expansion draft and will be a big part in helping the new team find success in their inaugural season.


Cari Roccaro – North Carolina Courage

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The Courage has gone through a ton of offseason changes this year, more than any other team. Changes that include losing Samantha Mewis in the midfield, leaving some big shoes to fill.

Roccaro is an experienced player that will be a solution to some of the midfield problems. She’ll be a defensive-minded presence in the midfield and likely sit in front of the backline. The New York native played in all four Fall Series matches and had an impressive 78% passing success rate. She will be a calming and reliable presence on the field for North Carolina.


Simone Charley – Portland Thorns

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Charley had a good second season in 2020, starting seven of her 10 appearances for the Thorns. She tallied a goal in the 2020 NWSL Challenge Cup and The NWSL Fall Series.

With Christine Sinclair and Sophie Smith probably in their respective national team camps, Charley should see a good bit of time up top in the 2021 NWSL Challenge Cup. Look for her to create a bunch of chances in the attack and tally some more goals this season either as a starter or a super sub.


Samantha Staab – Washington Spirit

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The Washington Spirit has a great backline and the anchor of the defense is Sam Staab. She’s been a constant in the back for the Spirit since she was drafted in 2019. She’s played in every minute for Washington since she’s come into the league. During her professional career with the Spirit, she has an 84% passing success rate.

She’s a cool, calm, and collected presence that has become a key piece of the Washington Spirit. Paired with Paige Nielsen, the duo has quietly become one of the best center-back pairings in the league.

Photo by Bryan Byerly/ISI Photos/Getty Images



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