Spectators flock amid differing fortunes for elite

Several leagues such as England and Sweden enjoyed a brief hiatus as their respective national teams prepared for upcoming FIFA Women’s World Cup™ qualifiers, and while other new campaigns will commence in Europe over the coming weeks, there was still plenty to whet the appetite across the globe. Perhaps the highlight was a competition record crowd in Portland while across the other side of the United States, former national champions Western New York Flash revived their campaign with a stirring win. There was less good fortune for Japan heavyweights INAC Kobe Leonessa who saw their three-season run as Nadeshiko League queens further threatened following yet another defeat.

FIFA.com’s weekly review of women’s club action also takes in the new season kicking-off in Switzerland.

USA: Challengers jostle for position
While runaway leaders Seattle Reign confirmed their NWSL Shield win last week, the four-way battle for two remaining play-off berths remains intense. Kansas City are also now assured of their position thanks to a 1-1 draw against Seattle on Saturday. 2013 table-toppers Western New York Flash kept their slim hopes alive with a dramatic win over Boston Breakers by the odd goal in seven, thanks to Sonia Bermudez’s last-gasp strike. But the most impressive scenes were in Portland with the Thorns achieving a new competition attendance high as 19,123 crammed in for the visit of Houston Dash. The home side now have a firm grip on fourth as their two newest imports – Australia’s Steph Catley and Spain’s Veronica Boquete – combined for the latter to score the only goal of the game.
Top three: Seattle Reign (50 points), Kansas City (38), Washington Spirit (34)

Japan: Leaders feel the heat
The Nadeshiko League title is set for a thrilling finale to the opening stage of the league season after leaders Urawa Reds failed to win for the second successive week. The Saitama club could only manage a scoreless draw at JEF United, thus allowing their nearest challengers to close with two rounds remaining. Okayama Yunogo Belle needed a late winner from national team captain Aya Miyama to secure a tough 2-1 win over Elfen Saitama and close the gap on the front-runners. Meanwhile, surprise midtable strugglers INAC Kobe Leonessa saw their three-year championship reign further loosened thanks to a 2-1 loss against NTV Beleza in one of the traditional highlights of the league calendar. The Nadeshiko League operates under a new format this season with the top six teams to enter into the Championship Round, with numerous national team players set to return from Europe for the season’s ten-match finale.
Top three: Urawa Reds (34), Okayama Yunogo Belle (33), NTV Beleza (31)

Switzerland: New campaign opens
The new season in Switzerland began without its headline act with reigning queens FC Zurich not playing ahead of next weekend’s UEFA Women’s Champions League qualifying round. Zurich, instead, played out a 1-1 draw in a high-powered friendly against French champions Lyon. Basel took full toll of Zurich’s absence by recording a one-sided 6-0 win over Rapperswil-Jona with Nadine Scheidegger nabbing a brace. There were opening round wins also for Young Boys, Neunkirch and Luzern.