Women's soccer in England returns with optimism

FILE - in this file photo dated Sunday, March 8, 2020, England midfielder Georgia Stanway in action against Japan, during a SheBelieves Cup soccer match in Harrison, USA. Stanway says were pushing to try to make it the best league in the world" as the curtain-raising Community Shield pits defending champion Chelsea against Manchester City on Saturday Aug. 29, 2020, at Wembley Stadium. (AP Photo/Steve Luciano, FILE)
FILE - in this file photo dated Sunday, March 8, 2020, England midfielder Georgia Stanway in action against Japan, during a SheBelieves Cup soccer match in Harrison, USA. Stanway says were pushing to try to make it the best league in the world" as the curtain-raising Community Shield pits defending champion Chelsea against Manchester City on Saturday Aug. 29, 2020, at Wembley Stadium. (AP Photo/Steve Luciano, FILE) (Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

After a pandemic-induced end to last season, women's soccer in England seems reborn with the arrival of World Cup-winning Americans, a slew of Australians and robust enthusiasm about the league's potential.

Women's teams could only watch as the Premier League restarted and finished its season following a coronavirus stoppage. Their six-month wait is nearly over, and optimism abounds in the Women’s Super League.

“We’re pushing to try and make it the best league in the world,” Manchester City forward Georgia Stanway said.

Defending champion Chelsea takes on Man City — the team it leapfrogged for the 2019-20 title when standings were determined on a points-per-game ratio — in the new season’s curtain raiser: the Community Shield scheduled for Saturday at an empty Wembley Stadium.

It’s the first women’s Community Shield match since 2008 and is part of a doubleheader with the men, which features Liverpool against Arsenal. The Football Association, which runs the WSL, says the twin bill is designed to boost visibility of the women’s game.

The 12-team WSL begins its 2020-21 season the first weekend of September.

Man City made a splash with the signings of United States midfielders Rose Lavelle and Sam Mewis.

“They’re unbelievably experienced players, both club and internationally,” Stanway said of her new teammates. “They’ve won World Cup medals, Olympic medals. It’s so good to see how competitive the league is getting. It’s exciting to be a part of.”