Saturday saw the launch of a major new venture in the USA, as the National Women's Soccer League (NWSL) set out on its inaugural season. Following the WUSA and WPS experiments of the past, the NWSL represents the third attempt to establish a long-term, viable professional women's league in the US. It is a momentous development for the likes of FIFA World Player of the Year Abby Wambach and her fellow North American stars. Over in Germany, Frankfurt suffered a setback in the race for Bundesliga honours, the high-profile Damallsvenskan season got underway in Sweden, and Olympique Lyon and VfL Wolfsburg closed in on places in the UEFA Women's Champions League final. FIFA.com reviews the latest developments in the women's game at club level.
USA: Draws galore on historic day
Saturday marked the dawn of a new era in North American women's football, as eight teams spanning the entire USA, from Seattle and Portland in the west to Washington, New Jersey and Boston in the east, contested the first round of matches in a new, unified national league.
The first tentative steps towards the inaugural title were taken by Sky Blue FC, as the team from New Jersey ended up the solitary winners on the day. The side captained by Christie Rampone defeated Western New York Flash, as an own goal proved enough to separate the sides and propel Sky Blue to the top of the embryonic standings. The first goal in NWSL history was scored by Mexico's Renae Cuellar for Kansas City in their meeting with Portland Thorns, but after the break Canadian superstar Christine Sinclair, one half of Portland's formidable strike pairing along with Alex Morgan, levelled the scores from the spot. 1-1 proved a popular result on the NWSL's opening day, as the games between Chicago Red Stars and Seattle Reign, and between Boston Breakers and Washington Spirit, also ended with the same score.
Top three: Sky Blue FC (3 points), Seattle Reign, Washington Spirit (both 1)
Germany: Setback for Frankfurt
In the German Bundesliga, FFC Frankfurt suffered a major setback in their quest for a top-two finish. On Matchday 18, the team from Hesse fell 3-1 away to Freiburg and surrendered second spot to Turbine Potsdam. Turbine comfortably beat Jena 6-0 to advance their claim on a UEFA Women's Champions League qualifying spot. Antonia Goransson, Yuki Ogimi and Ada Hegerberg hit the target for Potsdam, who also benefited from the visitors’ generosity in scoring three own goals, from Jofie Stubing and a brace at the wrong end from the unlucky Carolin Schiewe, a Potsdam youth product and former first-team regular. Down at the bottom, Sindelfingen moved off the foot of the table thanks to a 3-1 victory over Bad Neuenahr, with Gutersloh now in last place after a 2-0 defeat to Bayern Munich.
Top three: Wolfsburg (41), Turbine Potsdam (34), FFC Frankfurt (34)
Champions League: Wolfsburg and Lyon in pole position
VfL Wolfsburg look set for the Bundesliga title, and are now within 90 minutes of a place in the Champions League final after a 2-0 victory away to Arsenal in the semi-final first leg. The Wolverines start next Sunday's return in front of their home crowd as favourites following goals from Conny Pohlers and Martina Muller at Meadow Park in Boreham Wood.
If the Bundesliga leaders progress, their final opponents could well be Olympique Lyon, who comfortably overcame fellow French side Juvisy FCF 3-0 in the other semi-final first leg. Lotta Schelin scored a brace and Wendie Renard added the third as the holders closed in on a fourth consecutive Champions League final appearance.
Sweden: New season underway
On the same weekend as the NWSL launch in the US, the new Damallsvenskan season got underway in Sweden. Vittsjo and Orebro were fastest off the blocks: Vittsjo comfortably overcame Sunnana 5-1 away from home, with Orebro beating Mallackens 4-0. In the third game of the weekend, Kristianstads and Pitea drew 1-1. Malmo, Linkoping and champions Tyreso enter the fray on Tuesday.
Top three: Vittsjo, Orebro (both 3), Kristianstad (1)