A new dawn
The top of the domestic women’s game in England has been restructured, with changes taking effect from the start of 2018-19.
The FA Women’s Super League is the top tier while tier two will be known as The FA Women’s Championship. Both leagues contain 11 clubs.
Tiers three and four have maintained a regional structure with promotion and relegation applicable across all tiers of the pyramid.
The restructure is central to The FA’s ‘Gameplan for Growth’ strategy which outlined the approach to transform the future of the women’s game via three core goals: to double participation, double the fanbase and for England teams to achieve consistent success on the world stage.
West Ham United are the only new team in The FA Women’s Super League, with Hope Powell’s Brighton & Hove Albion moving up to the top tier for the first time.
Meanwhile, six new clubs will be welcomed into The FA Women’s Championship for the 2018-19 campaign; Charlton Athletic, Crystal Palace, Leicester City, Lewes, Manchester United and Sheffield United.
And here’s the lowdown on the new kids in town:
West Ham United
With Matt Beard (above) at the helm, Gilly Flaherty and Claire Rafferty at the back, Tessel Middag in midfield and Jane Ross up front, the Hammers boast trophy-winning pedigree in every department.
Beard guided Liverpool to back-to-back FA WSL titles, in 2013 and 2014, before enjoying a spell in America with Boston Breakers. He also led Chelsea to the FA Women’s Cup Final in 2012.
West Ham have brought in a number of new players from home and abroad and if Beard can get them to gel together early they will be a match for anyone.
The Addicks have a rich history in the women’s game and will be champing at the bit to be back in the big time.
Charlton reached The FA Women’s Cup Final four times between 2003 and 2007, winning the competition in 2005 by beating Everton 1-0 in the Final.
The south London club have won The FA Women’s Premier League Cup three times, the most recent being in 2015 when they defeated Sheffield on penalties in the Final.
Charlton achieved their place in the Championship after winning The FA Women’s Premier League Championship Play-Off in May.
A late addition to the FA Women’s Championship, Crystal Palace have wasted no time bringing in players with WSL experience.
Ex-Watford forward Anneka Nuttall has been joined by former Millwall captain Ashlee Hincks, while centre back Hannah Mackenzie has joined from Tottenham Hotspur.
Palace Ladies chairman Richard Spokes said: “We have been working hard on all aspects of the club, as part of our natural development and believe that we are ready for the next level.”
The Foxes finished second, behind Blackburn, in last season’s FA Women’s Premier League National Division.
They lost just four games out of 22 and scored a joint-high 68 goals along the way.
Jonathan Morgan’s side reached the fifth round of the SSE Women’s FA Cup but were knocked out by Durham.
Over the years, Leicester have produced a number of players who have gone on to earn international recognition at youth level, most notably Remi Allen, the current Reading midfielder who helped England win the U19 Euros in 2009.
Lewes FC hit the headlines in July 2017 by becoming the first professional or semi-professional club to pay its women’s team the same as its men’s team, as part of its Equality FC campaign.
And women’s boss John Donoghue has been on a recruitment drive to ensure his side stay competitive against some of the most famous clubs in the country.
England youth-teamer Skye Bacon joined from neighbours Brighton while explosive talents Dani Lane and Tash Wells resigned for the 2018-19 season.
Manchester United relaunched their women’s team to much fanfare – and by appointing former England captain Casey Stoney as manager, the Red Devils have made their intentions clear; they mean business.
United unveiled their whole squad on Friday 13 July and it featured a few stellar names.
Lionesses left-back Alex Greenwood was named captain after being released by Liverpool. Goalkeepers Siobhan Chamberlain and Emily Ramsey and defenders Martha Harris and Amy Turner followed Greenwood down the M6, while United graduate Katie Zelem returned home after a successful spell in Italy with Juventus.
Stoney will be assisted by former Bristol City boss Willie Kirk.
Carla Ward has taken over the reins at Sheffield United and has wasted no time in bolstering her squad ahead of the new season.
Goalkeeper Fran Kitching arrived from Chelsea while Sam Tierney and Beth Merrick joined from Doncaster Rovers Belles and Aston Villa respectively.
Ward has also brought in Nicola Hobbs, Nicola Hemp and her former Sheffield FC team-mate Ellie Gilliatt.
United's development programme has produced a number of internationals, including Millie Bright, Ellie Roebuck, Jess Sigsworth and Beth England.