They didn’t need to change much from last season when they looked like a title contender most of the way, and that cohesiveness should help them. Christen Press as the focal point of the attack should buoy them – she was excellent last year, and fewer national team disruptions should help. She will have the support of a strong midfield featuring players like Vanessa DiBernardo and Danielle Colaprico, and she should have a good partner up top in Stephanie McCaffrey. Add in Chicago's strong back line, anchored by Julie Johnston, Arin Gilliland and Casey Short, and they have all the right pieces to win the regular season.
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NWSL Champion: Portland Thorns
Some injuries going to into the season could make it slow start for the Thorns and they figure to be harder hit by losing players for the Euros than other teams – but their overall quality is probably the best in the league. They have a midfield that can dominate games through Amandine Henry, Lindsey Horan and Allie Long, and their attack is creative and dynamic thanks to the presence of Tobin Heath and Christine Sinclair. Mark Parsons has built a team brimming with chemistry and they should coast into the playoffs. After last year's upset in the semifinal, they should be better prepared to contend for the title when they get in.
Wooden Spoon: Washington Spirit
After three years of finishing at the bottom of the table, it looks like the Boston Breakers will take 2017 off. While the Breakers do lack solid veteran pieces on the back line and are at risk of another year struggling, the Spirit look like the prime candidate for last place. A team that played in the final last year, Washington has been gutted in the offseason. Ali Krieger, Christine Nairn, Megan Oyster and Diana Matheson were traded away. Crystal Dunn and Estefania Banini signed overseas. The players that have come in don't make up for the losses and the Spirit figure to lack both quality and depth. Morale coming into the season seems low and if they start losing early, it's easy to see it snowball.
Most Valuable Player: Tobin Heath
It's not difficult to imagine Heath as the league's most influential player because that's what we saw from her with the U.S. national team last year, when she was named Female Player of the Year. She was excellent for club as well, but the Olympics and USWNT duties cut into her season, which shouldn't be a problem this year. She is arguably the most creative and technical winger is the world right now, and she's perfected the balancing act of trying to make something out of nothing and picking her moments wisely. Being around a good Portland Thorns team will only help. No wide player can create space and pull apart back lines like Heath can, and she led the league in assists last year for a reason.
We wouldn't mind seeing Marta contend for this award, but the lingering question is how the Brazilian will fit in with the Orlando Pride.
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Golden Boot: Christen Press
She's a deadly striker who shows a lot of composure in front of goal and is a true finisher. She's just a natural goal-scorer, through and through, and as mentioned already, she is going to be surrounded by good pieces that will enable her to reach double-digit goals. Jill Ellis has resisted playing Press in a striker role for the USWNT, mainly using her on the wing, and Press might be keen to prove how good she can be in front of goal.
Lynn Williams of the North Carolina Courage should be able to make it a race through. She's been playing well and the Courage, formerly the reigning champ Western New York Flash, look like a good team again this year.
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Rookie of the Year: Rose Lavelle
It's going to be tough for Lavelle with the Breakers because she isn't surrounded with the pieces that are going to make it easy for her. But if she can be as influential as she has been in her recent debuts for the USWNT, she has the ability to stand out in a big way. Lavelle is a player cut from a similar cloth as Tobin Heath – while her individual skill is impressive and her flair makes her fun to watch, it's her vision and ability to combine with players that makes her so impressive.
Ashley Hatch, who was drafted behind Lavelle in this offseason's college draft, should also be a standout for the North Carolina Courage, though.