Around the World in Women's Soccer: Chinese Women's Super League
Around the World in Women's Soccer is a series that explores women's soccer in other countries. Each country will get two stories: The first will explore the country's national team, while the second will explore the country's domestic league.
China was one of the first countries to seriously invest in women's soccer. Their national team has been competitive on the international stage since the first Women's World Cup in 1991, which China hosted in the city of Guangdong. But did you know that the country's investment also included a domestic league?
The Chinese Women's Super League, originally called the Chinese Women's Football Premier League, began in 1997. The strength of the league has ebbed and flowed over the years, reaching a low point in the early 2010s that corresponded to the period where the Chinese national team missed their first Olympic tournament and Women's World Cup. But things got better, for both the national team and the domestic league. In 2015, the Chinese Football Association relaunched the domestic league as the Women's Super League and relaunched the affiliated second-division. The second-division, called the Chinese Women's Football League, has a relegation/promotion relationship with the Super League.
After the relaunch, the Women's Super League attracted major corporate sponsors and investments that allowed them to grow. The league was able to attract major international talent like Cristiane (Brazil), Asisat Oshoala (Nigeria), and Isabell Herlovsen (Norway). To this day, the league continues to bring in new players, particularly from African countries such as Zambia, Malawi, and Nigeria. Francisca Ordega, who NWSL fans will remember from her time with the Washington Spirit, joined Shanghai's club in 2019.
In addition to attracting international talent, all of the players on the national team play in the Super League. The clubs that tend to attract the most national team talent include Jiangsu, Wuhan, and Shanghai. Wang Shuang, a superstar striker who made history when she joined Paris Saint-Germain's squad in 2018 and is often considered the face of women's soccer in China, joined Wuhan this offseason. Wang Shanshan, another veteran striker for the national team, also joined Wuhan this past year. Peng Shimeng, nicknamed "The Great Wall of China" after her stellar goalkeeping performance at the 2019 Women's World Cup in France, plays for Jiangsu.
As a city, Shanghai has historically had a lot of success in the league, although the clubs have changed over the years. Shanghai Shengli could bring home a title in 2020, which would make them the first team from Shanghai to win the league since 2015. Their top goal-scorer is Barbra Banda of Zambia; as of October 2nd, she leads the league with 17 goals in the 2020 season.
Despite the difficulties presented by COVID-19, the Chinese Women's Super League is playing this year. The 2020 season is being played entirely in Kunming, in the Yunnan Province, and features ten teams competing for the title. The competition is being played in round-robin style. The first round of games showed all teams playing against each other; the second round of games will see the top-four compete against each other for the title, while the bottom-six will compete against each other for the No. 5- No. 10 spots. The teams that made it to the top-four competition are Shanghai, Wuhan, Jiangsu, and Beijing. As of October 2nd, Shanghai sits at the No. 1 spot in the table.
The Chinese Women's Super League continues to grow each year, and with the improvement of leagues across Asia, more opportunities are presenting themselves for clubs in China. For example, in 2019 the Asian Football Confederation organized the first AFC Women's Club Championship. Jiangsu Suning, who won the Super League title in 2019, went head-to-head with the winners of leagues in Japan, South Korea, and Australia. Jiangsu came in second, behind Nippon TV Beleza of Japan. The 2020 competition is scheduled for November.
If you want to follow along with the Chinese Women's Super League, you can find them on Twitter at @CHNWNT. There you can find info about the national team, the Women's Super League, and the Women's Football League (second-division) as well as streams of the games. The 2020 competition will wrap up on October 10th.