The hype is real for the Women's Super League this season, following a monumental transfer window that saw some of the world's truly great players touch down in England for the very first time.
With everyone clamouring for minutes ahead of next summer's Olympics – and the NWSL calendar disrupted by coronavirus – the majority of these new signings have
come from the US, with names like Alex Morgan, Tobin Heath and Rose Lavelle all joining English club sides. We've also seen leading Lionesses like Lucy Bronze and Alex Greenwood return to the WSL.
Signings like this mean that the women's game in this country is going through a very real level up. And while the headline names might take the plaudits, the next generation of talent will benefit from balling out with, or against, the most talented set of female players our domestic league has ever seen.
With the WSL season in full swing, we've profiled 12 of the brightest young talents playing in the league right now.
1. Jill Roord
Position: Attacking Midfield
The Dutch international signed with The Gunners back in 2019 after they’d won the WSL for a third time. Roord made her debut for the club with a 6-0 win over North London rivals Spurs, marking her debut with a hat-trick, which was nothing surprising from the quick-footed midfielder who made her senior Oranje debut at the tender age of 18.
Having scored back-to-back hat-tricks against Reading and West Ham (so far) this season, Roord is already looking like a strong contender for this year’s WSL Golden Boot, a trophy that would look quite nice on the mantelpiece alongside her 2017 European Championship winner’s medal…not forgetting her 2019 World Cup Runners Up medal, too. Roord’s pace and clinical finishing make her a huge threat in front of goal. Paired with fellow Dutch teammates Vivianne Miedema and Danielle van de Donk, we are set to witness some serious dangerous link-up play this season.
2. Asmita Ale
Club: Aston Villa
Ale joined Villa at the age of eight and is a product of the club’s youth system. The talented defender made her senior debut at 16 in the 2017/2018 Championship season and signed her first professional contract with the club less than a year later. Ale has already made 30 appearances for the Villans at Senior level and is a regular starter in the England Lionesses Under-19 set-up.
Her versatility means she is capable of playing in any position along the backline, and her maturity on the pitch is evident with her composure on the ball. She’ll be looking to help her newly promoted team stay up this season, no easy feat in such a competitive league.
3. Hannah Hampton
Club: Birmingham City
Hampton didn’t start her footballing career stopping goals, she started it scoring them. Growing up, the Birmingham City keeper played as a striker and was even scouted by Villareal CF academy to play as one while her family were living in Spain at the time. When she returned to the UK back in 2010, she made the transition from goal-scorer to goal-stopper after joining Stoke City’s Centre of Excellence.
In 2016 Hampton joined Birmingham City and made her first senior appearance in a League Cup group game against footballing veterans Doncaster Rovers Belles. After a string of first-team appearances, Hampton signed her first professional contract with the club in 2018 having just turned 17. Her impressive form last season and her recent performances in the WSL caught the eye of Lionesses’ Manager Phill Neville, earning her a second call-up to the senior squad last month, having previously been called up in March.
4. Maya Le Tissier
Club: Brighton & Hove Albion
Despite being born in Guernsey and sharing the name of the island’s greatest ever player, she isn’t related to the former Southampton and England forward Matt Le Tissier. Now that’s out of the way…
Starting out at St Martin’s in Guernsey’s junior leagues, Le Tissier has played for Guernsey and England in recent years, captaining the Lionesses at both U-15 and U-17 levels. The 2019 Channel Islands Rising Star award winner, made her senior debut for the Seagulls in a 5-1 win over Crystal Palace back in December 2018, only months after joining the club’s development squad.
The defender has helped Hope Powell’s Brighton keep two consecutive clean-sheets since the start of the WSL campaign, including an impressive 0-0 away draw against women’s footballing giants Manchester City. Le Tissier’s cool head and quick decision making can help to strengthen Brighton’s backline this season, and with upcoming fixtures against West Ham, Arsenal and Everton, it’s prime time for the teenager to show the rest of the League what she’s capable of.
5. Abi Harrison
Club: Bristol City
Harrison made her debut for Celtic at the age of 14, making her the youngest player to play in the Scottish Women’s Premier League. She won the division’s Golden Boot in both 2017 and 2018, scoring 40 goals in total across both campaigns.
Winning the SWPL Cup with Hiberinian three times but never winning the League wasn’t enough to keep Harrison playing in her beloved Scotland, so she made the move down South to make her mark on the WSL.
Harrison signed for Bristol City in early 2019, only to suffer from an anterior cruciate ligament injury months later ruling her out for the rest of the season. Despite a string of challenging fixtures to start the season off, Harrison’s strength and silky skills will cause problems for every defence in the division.
6. Niamh Charles
Chelsea Manager Emma Hayes showed immense faith in Charles when she offered her a three-year deal with the Blues back in June. Their first signing of the summer, Charles joined the current WSL Champions from Liverpool where she made 59 senior appearances for the Reds, scoring 11 goals including 2 against Chelsea.
Fielded as a wide player, the 21-year-old has represented England at both the U-17 and U-20 World Cups, even helping her team to win bronze at U-20 level. Voted ‘Rising Star’ at the North-West Football Awards back in 2018, Charles will gain invaluable experience playing alongside footballing superstars like Sam Kerr and most recently voted UEFA Women’s Player of the Year Pernille Harder.
And although she might struggle initially to find her place in the Starting XI, Charles has already shown her impact as a sub, scoring within three minutes of coming onto the pitch in Chelsea’s recent 9-0 thrashing of Bristol City.
7. Lucy Graham
Graham is one of the many talented Scottish players in the WSL who has been making a name for themselves in recent years. Scoring twice in Everton’s opening League game this season – a 4-0 victory over Bristol City – the Scottish International can cause a whole host of problems for her opposition due to her quick finishing.
Having taken over as Everton manager in 2018, Willie Kirk’s side have gone from strength to strength, with Graham being at the centre of it all. The captain scored the winning goal in front of 23,500 fans at Anfield last season, and helped the club double their points total by February (before the season was called off due COVID19).
Graham will walk out with her teammates next month at Wembley in the FA Cup final against Manchester City, a first for Everton since 2014. So far this season, Graham has helped the Toffees win their first two WSL fixtures.
8. Chloe Kelly
Club: Manchester City
Kelly joined Manchester City on a free-transfer in July this year, turning down an offer from Everton after three years with the club. Scoring nine times in 12 appearances last season for the Toffees, making her the club’s highest goal-scorer in 2019/2020, the forward’s rapid pace and highly accurate striking ability have made Kelly one of the most exciting home-grown talents in the League.
The ex-Arsenal player credits her skills to playing cage football with her five older brothers in West London. The youngest of seven, Kelly has always been determined to be the best player on the pitch. Despite City signing World Cup winners Rose Lavelle and Sam Mewis this season, Kelly hasn’t struggled for game-time, in fact, her threat down the wing has only intensified with the support of such world-class talent.
9. Lauren James
Club: Manchester United
Position: Attacking Midfield
If you go to James’ profile page on Manchester United’s website, it says: ‘The youngest player in the squad, who is eager to make a name for herself.’ And that is exactly what James has done since signing with Casey Stoney’s United back in 2018. James played a pivotal role in United’s promotion to the WSL in 2019, scoring a total of 14 goals in 18 appearances for the Red Devils during their brief time in the FA Women’s Championship. Across all competitions that season, James made 46 appearances for the club and bagged an incredible 26 goals in the process.
The day before she turned 18, she scored the club’s first ever goal in the WSL with a 2-0 win over Liverpool. The ex-Arsenal player is the sister of Chelsea’s Reece James, and like Chole Kelly, credits her skill and resilience on the pitch to playing with her brother when growing up.
James’ ball control and technique is one of the best in the League. Her skills attracted the attention of footballing royalty Lyon last season, who apparently tried to sign the talented teenager. It was reported earlier this year, James is one of the highest-paid players in the WSL after signing a three-year deal with the club, and with stats like hers we can understand why.
10. Kiera Skeels
Skeels signed her first professional contract with Reading this summer ahead of the 2020/2021 season. Having trained with the first-team the whole of last season – all while captaining the Academy side – Skeels is a prime example of Reading’s determination to develop and showcase their talent at youth level.
The 19-year-old started out with the club’s U10s side before a short spell with Southampton. Her time playing with boys’ teams during her development set-up, helped to improve her physicality on the pitch, evident in her gameplay today. Before settling on her current position across the backline, Skeels also played as a wide attacker and midfielder. During Reading’s Continental Cup match against Crystal Palace last season, Skeels bagged an assist in their 6-0 victory, credit to her experience upfield.
For a club that has been middle of the table for the last few years, and are now pushing to break into the top three, Skeels’ talent and tenacity can only improve the team’s chances of doing so.
11. Rianna Dean
Club: Tottenham Hotspur
Dean has been Spurs’ top goal-scorer two seasons on the bounce now. Prior to her move to North London, she played at Millwall Lionesses where she also finished top goal-scorer during their 2017 campaign. In a nutshell, she likes scoring goals.
With an impressive 14 goals in 19 appearances before Spurs’ promotion to the WSL, Dean continued to perform in the club’s maiden campaign last season, netting ten goals in 17 appearances. It seems Dean is made for the bigger stages in football, and with new teammate US superstar and two-time World Cup winner Alex Morgan having recently joined Spurs, the whole world will be watching how she performs this season. We’re backing her to add a few goals to her ever-impressive tally.
12. Maz Pacheco
Club: West Ham United
Pacheo made the move to West Ham this summer after two years with WSL side Reading. Before her move to Reading in 2018, Pacheo helped Doncaster Rovers Belles lift the Women’s Super League Two title. The ambitious, attacking full-back was signed by West Ham Manager Matt Beard who gave Pacheo her senior debut for ex-club Liverpool back in 2015. At the time she was only 16.
Determined to succeed off the pitch just as much as she is on it, two weeks before signing her contract with West Ham she graduated from the University of Sheffield with a law degree. Pacheo turned down a scholarship to Harvard to pursue her footballing career on home-soil, and is committed to helping the Hammers improve their lack of clean-sheets so far this season.