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W-League 2019-20 Season Preview: New signings, key players, ones to watch

Watch the NWSL Championship game on ESPN Player. Start your 7-day free trial now at espnplayer.com.

It's back. The wait for the start of a new W-League season always seems interminably long, however with the Women's World Cup conveniently positioned during the break this year, the opportunity to see women's football on our screens has been plentiful.

- U.S. viewers can stream W-League games live on ESPN+

While the Matildas' exit from the tournament in France felt premature, the announcements that funding for both W-League players and national team players would receive a significant boost has ensured that the momentum behind the women's game is at an all-time high.

Sam Kerr and Lisa De Vanna will not grace the Australian top flight this summer, electing to continue to pursue opportunities overseas, however, fear not. As well as the bulk of the national team squad, a decent crop of talented youngsters are in play and the fight for international players has been intense -- all of which just might see this season end up as the most closely contested in W-League history.

Here's a snapshot of what you need to know ahead of Thursday night's season opener.

JUMP TO: Adelaide United | Brisbane Roar | Canberra United | Melbourne City | Melbourne Victory | Newcastle Jets | Perth Glory | Sydney FC | Western Sydney Wanderers

W-League
The 2019-20 season is shaping up to be one of the closest campaigns in W-League history.

Adelaide United

Last season: 6th

The Lady Reds are yet to make a finals series in 11 seasons of the W-League, and while they came close last campaign, they fell short in the final four rounds and slid to sixth. Ivan Karlovic knows that has to change and has responded to the challenge by winning the race to sign one of the most exciting young talents on the scene in Mary Fowler along with her sister Ciara. Adelaide have put a lot of energy over the years into developing local young talent and now is the time to prove they can deliver.

Key additions: Mallory Weber (Utah Royals), Julia Ashley (Linkopings), Mary Fowler (Bankstown City), Ciara Fowler (Bankstown City)

Key losses: Emma Checker (Melbourne City), Veronica Latsko (Sydney FC)

At a glance: In a relatively young playing group, 25-year-old American Mallory Weber will be a valuable asset in an attack that boasts the exuberance of teenage prodigy Fowler. Shoring up the defence with 22 year-old Julia Ashley was also wise as the departure of reliable captain Emma Checker left a big hole in the Reds back-line. Adelaide were difficult to break down in the last edition but this time round they will need to be more ruthless in front of goal and put their "must win" games in the bag every time if they are to reach their maiden finals series.

Player to watch: Mary Fowler. The 16-year-old had a red hot AFC Under-19 Championships campaign and is familiar with plenty of the Adelaide squad through her Young Matildas experience. While the focus will be intense, this could be a huge season for Fowler.

Elise Kellond-Knight
Elise Kellond-Knight has returned to Brisbane Roar after one season with Melbourne City.

Brisbane Roar

Last season: 2nd

With the exit of Mel Andreatta in the offseason, the Roar have had to adjust to life under stewardship of a new boss in Jake Goodship, who was brought on board just a couple of months ago. After coming so very close last season, the Roar are hungry for success and a return to the lofty heights they enjoyed in the early stages of the W-League's existence.

Key additions: Elise Kellond-Knight (Melbourne City), Tameka Yallop (Melbourne City) Rylee Baisden (Moreton Bay United)

Key losses: Yuki Nagasato

At a glance: This side boasts a solid spine as well as plenty of genuine stars and young guns, with two-time golden boot winner Allira Toby set to enjoy the service that Tameka Yallop, Hayley Raso, Katrina Gorry and Elise Kellond-Knight provide, while defensive stalwart Clare Polkinghorne not only shores up the backline as ever, but provides invaluable insight in a new assistant coach role.

Players to watch: Elise Kellond-Knight and Rylee Baisden. KK's ability to marshall the midfield will once more be crucial as Brisbane enter the season with a new hand on the tiller. Baisden joins from Queensland NPLW side Moreton Bay United where her prolific record last season totalled 33 goals from 24 outings.

Karly Roestbakken
Karly Roestbakken will key for Canberra United as they look to push for a finals berth.

Canberra United

Last season: 8th

Heather Garriock is a fierce competitor -- always was as a player and she has taken that mentality into her coaching role. Finishing 8th last season had a sting to it and Garriock will be driving this team to resume their previous standing as a side to be reckoned with.

Key additions: Katie Stengel (Utah Royals), Simone Charley (Portland Thorns) Leena Khamis (Western Sydney Wanderers), Patricia Charalambous (Perth Glory)

Key losses: Ellie Carpenter (Melbourne City), Rachel Corsie, Maria Jose Rojas

At a glance: Canberra always keeps an eye on their homegrown stars and, while that talent is prolific in the capital, it needs balance and so Katie Stengel is a wonderful addition to this side. Elise Thorsnes is in her second stint in Canberra and netted six goals in nine outings last time she wore green and hopefully with Royals teammate Stengel in the side they can both find goal-scoring form.

Player to watch: Karly Roestbakken. Called into the Matildas squad at the 11th hour to cover Laura Alleway's injury, the youngster did not look out of place in that elite company. Still at the start of her career, the Young Matildas captain will continue to improve in leaps and bounds.

Claire Emslie
Scotland star Claire Emslie will spearhead Melbourne City's quest for a fourth title.

Melbourne City

Last season: 5th

As ever, the City roster is packed with so much talent you wonder how Rado Vidosic will be able to choose a starting XI. Along with Sydney FC, the two sides in the paler Blue hue boast a large number of Matildas on their team sheet and will be expected to seriously challenge for a fourth title.

City missed the top four for the first time last season which is perhaps the wakeup call they needed to halt a slide into complacency. Expect a ruthless return to the City sides of season's past.

Key additions: Emily van Egmond (Newcastle Jets), Ellie Carpenter (Canberra United), Claire Emslie (Orlando Pride), Emma Checker (Adelaide United)

Key losses: Elise Kellond-Knight (Brisbane Roar), Tameka Yallop (Brisbane Roar), Jasmyne Spencer

At a glance: Signing Emily van Egmond was a huge boost for City. An accomplished midfield general, Van Egmond is also good for a couple of goals. With a substantial sprinkling of Matildas on the books, the defensive talents of captain Steph Catley will be enhanced by the additions of Ellie Carpenter and Checker in front of Lydia Williams in goal. With that back-line, life starts to look extremely difficult for their opposition.

Player to watch: Claire Emslie is set for her first stint in the W-League after three seasons in England's Women's Super League and also with Orlando Pride. She scored Scotland's first World Cup goal so is certainly not fazed by the big moments.

Jeff Hopkins and Natasha Dowie
Jeff Hopkins and Natasha Dowie will be looking for a Grand Final win to go along with last season's premiership.

Melbourne Victory

Last season: Premiers

It had been a few years between Victory milestones, so last year's premiership would have been duly celebrated. However, bowing out in the semifinals will still rankle and experienced W-League campaigner Jeff Hopkins will be keen to see his side go one better this season.

Key additions: Jenna McCormick (AFLW), Darian Jenkins (Reign FC), Haley Hanson (Houston Dash), Rosie Sutton, Annalie Longo (Canterbury United Pride), Emily Menges (Portland Thorns)

Key losses: Emily Gielnik (Bayern Munich), Christine Nairn (Houston Dash), Dani Weatherholt (Orlando Pride), Annabel Martin (Newcastle Jets)

At a glance: While Emily Gielnik's move to Europe deprives the Victory of their height advantage and Julie Dolan medallist Christine Nairn's absence will be felt in the midfield, the addition of Jenna McCormick from the AFLW (and previously Canberra United), Darian Jenkins and Haley Hanson will boost this side. There is no reason they can't be challenging for a playoff spot come season's end.

Player to watch: Natasha Dowie. In her fifth stint in navy blue and with a style of play reminiscent of her uncle, Northern Ireland international Iain Dowie, there surely, can no longer be a side in the W-League who doesn't know what they are facing when Dowie steps onto the pitch.

Gema Simon
Gema Simon has been tasked with guiding an inexperienced Newcastle Jets side through the 2019-20 W-League season.

Newcastle Jets

Last season: 7th

The Jets have been there or thereabouts in previous seasons, though it feels like a long time ago now and this upcoming season looks particularly tricky. The exit of Van Egmond leaves them bereft of a wealth of experience in the midfield, however Hannah Brewer's return will be valuable in mentoring the young players that come through the emerging Jets program.

Key additions: Nicki Flannery (Canberra United), Annabel Martin (Melbourne Victory), Lauren Allan (New Lambton)

Key losses: Emily van Egmond (Melbourne City), Taylor Smith (Reign FC), Katie Stengel (Canberra United)

At a glance: The big loss is Van Egmond, both physically and spiritually as a favourite daughter in the Hunter region. However, Lauren Allan has been prolific in the local leagues and Nicki Flannery and Annabel Martin have proved themselves good operators in the past for their previous clubs. Should Larissa Crummer show the form that won her kudos at Sydney FC and Melbourne City in previous seasons, it could make all the difference for a side determined to thrive on home-grown talent.

Player to watch: Gema Simon. A veteran of this Newcastle side, Simon needs to call on all her experience and step up to the plate this season and guide this team along what could be rocky ride through to March 2020.

Sarah Carroll
Sarah Carroll, 24, is one of Perth Glory's most experienced players.

Perth Glory

Last season: Fourth

No Kerr, No worries? It's not quite the mantra coming out of Perth and there's no denying the superstar striker's decision to remain overseas is a huge loss. With plenty of local talent, Kerr's absence provides an opportunity for others to step up and perhaps make a mark as the new star of Western Australia.

Key additions: Celia Jimenez Delgado (Reign FC)

Key losses: Sam Kerr, Rachel Hill (Orlando Pride), Nikki Stanton (Chicago Red Stars)

At a glance: Kim Carroll and Sarah Carroll (a commentator's nightmare!) add much needed W-League experience to this side along with Shannon May, Caitlin Doeglas and Morgan Aquino. With no big-name signings on the cards, it will potentially be a season of back to basics for the West Australian contingent. Local starlet Leticia McKenna has the experience of selection in the Young Matildas to build on this season. With the challenging travel component that comes with every Perth based team, Bobby Despotovski's side need to make sure they capitalise on the points available in the home fixtures.

Player to watch: Morgan Aquino. After a stellar season on home soil, Aquino was rewarded with selection in the Young Matildas side. As the custodian of the Perth goal there is a big responsibility on her shoulders in season 12.

Chloe Logarzo
Chloe Logarzo returns to the W-League after a stellar season with Washington Spirit in the NWSL.

Sydney FC

Last season: Champions (3rd in regular season)

The Sky Blue side of Sydney was the first W-League club to announce their full squad as they prepare for a tilt at an unprecedented 4th title.

Long before their rivals had started rounding up the troops, Sydney FC unveiled their star studded roster which looks to be putting their faith in the bulk of those same players that lifted the trophy last season.

Key additions: Veronica Latsko (Adelaide United)

Key losses: Lisa De Vanna (Fiorentina), Amy Harrison (Western Sydney Wanderers), Savannah McCaskill (Chicago Red Stars), Danielle Colaprico (Chicago Red Stars)

At a glance: The loss of De Vanna, who has chosen to remain at Fiorentina in Italy, and the move of Amy Harrison to their crosstown rivals cannot be underestimated, yet luring Veronica Latsko from Adelaide where she was runner up in the golden boot race is a huge filip. When your starting 11 also includes Caitlin Foord, Chloe Logarzo and fellow Matilda Alanna Kennedy, it's clear no one will be taking the defending champions lightly.

Player to watch: Chloe Logarzo. A positive performance in France will see Logarzo return to the W-League with even greater confidence. Strong on the ball and with a terrier-like approach to one-on-one situations, she is in the prime of her career as she focuses not just on W-League glory, but a spot in the Olympics in 2020.

Lynn Williams
Western Sydney Wanderers have landed a coup in signing U.S. forward Lynn Williams for the upcoming W-League season.

Western Sydney Wanderers

Last season: 9th

There is only one direction for the Wanderers women to go. After a bottom place finish in the previous edition of the league, it's clear that a serious rethink was required. With a new coaching regime installed, and an aggressive signing spree there is now a real spring in the step of the Red and Black camp and perhaps finally a cracking derby in store.

Key additions: Kristen Hamilton (North Carolina Courage), Denise O'Sullivan (North Carolina Courage), Lynn Williams (North Carolina Courage), Amy Harrison (Sydney FC), Sam Staab (Washington Spirit)

Key losses: Elizabeth Addo, Maruschka Waldus, Lo'eau Labonta (Utah Royals), Sydney Miramontez (Utah Royals)

At a glance: A young and keen duo are in the dugout with newly installed head coach Dean Heffernan and assistant Michael Beauchamp holding the reins. The addition of an international contingent with plenty of experience should see a much more clinical display in the final third. Amy Harrison is a valuable signing in the midfield though having conceded 30 goals last season it's hoped they will also plug the leaky defence.

Player to watch: Lynn Williams. Two-footed and dangerous inside the box, Williams arrives Down Under off the back of an NWSL season which saw her finish runner-up to Kerr in the golden boot standings. With her Courage teammates alongside her, the competition will be eyeing this attack with unprecedented trepidation.

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