After an eventful and busy summer for women’s soccer, players have returned to their European clubs to get league play started for the 2021-22 season. Some leagues have expanded, while others have brought in extra stars, as they all seem to gain exposure each year. This is the second installment of a five-part series looking at some of the top leagues in Europe.
2020-21 Champion: Bayern Munich – 61 points (22 games)
2020-21 Golden Boot: Nicole Billa, Hoffenheim – 23 goals
How to watch: ATA Football (select matches), team websites
First match: Freiburg at Hoffenheim, 1:15 p.m. ET, Aug. 27
Final matchday: May 15, 2022
This has really been a two-team competition for the better half of a decade, but it’s still a shot in the dark to choose one over the other. I’m going to try anyway. Bayern Munich had very few holes in their squad last season and showed off their depth especially in league play, which allowed them to stay fresh despite going deep in two cup competitions as well. Not only do they return almost all of that talent from last year, Bayern also bolstered their defense with a couple of big signings. Japan captain Saki Kumagai comes over to Germany from Lyon, along with former Hoffenheim star Maximiliane Rall. Both players will immediately compete for minutes along the backline. The attack still includes a trio of youngsters who proved up to the task last season and will only get better with another year under their belts. Last season’s leading scorer, Lea Schuller, is joined up top by Klara Buhl, while Sydney Lohmann is set to build off her breakout season playing in the No. 10 role after racking up 15 goal contributions last year. The attack could get even more lethal as Sofia Jakobsson joins the group.
It has been a while since VfL Wolfsburg did not start the season in the favorite role, but this season may be a more uphill battle than the club is used to. They lost some key players from last year’s team, specifically in the midfield, but manager Tommy Stroot is hoping newcomers can fill the gaps. It starts with former Arsenal star Jill Roord, who hopes to link the play with an attacking line that will still include Svenja Huth. Roord should have more freedom than she has ever had before, playing in front of teenage star Lena Oberdorf, who has proven to be one of the best holding midfielders in the world. Wolfsburg suffered a big blow at the end of last season when Alexandra Popp had to undergo knee surgery, but the club is hoping she can return to lead the front line by the second half of the season. In the meantime, Wolfsburg may turn to Ewa Pajor, who led the league in goals per 90 minutes last season.
Players to Watch:
It may be more difficult to watch some of the stars outside of the top two clubs, but there is still plenty of other talent in Germany to keep up with this season. Austrian Nicole Billa got a contract extension with Hoffenheim after her Golden Boot season in 2020-21. Eintracht Frankfurt’s Laura Freigang was subject to transfer rumors all summer, but she is staying put and looking to build off her 17-goal season. Milena Nikolic is coming off one of the league’s the most efficient seasons in front of goal, leading Bayer Leverkusen to its best league finish ever, and is back to lead the club’s attack again this year.
Newcomers to Watch:
Once again, there are plenty of newcomers to look for on the top two clubs, and there are others who could make some noise in their first season. Tine De Caigny has starred in the Belgian league for the last few seasons but will take on a bigger challenge now as she joins Hoffenheim’s back line. American defender Vicky Bruce is making the move to SC Sand after spending the last two seasons in Denmark. Rieke Dieckmann is returning to Germany after a year in the Dutch league and should make an immediate impact in the midfield for Werder Bremen.