A new year inevitably brings a new football calendar to look forward to. And what a busy 2017 we have ahead! With 12 months packed full of domestic and international action, we’re betting we’re not the only ones who can’t wait to see it get underway.
With so much going on, we have picked out our top 10 things to look out for. Take a look below (they’re in no particular order)!
With the FAWSL switching to a winter league in September, it is going to be a strange year for the English top division. The transition period will be filled by a one-off winter series, enabling senior players to get match time ahead of the European Championships and hopefully giving younger players time to gain experience.
Each team will play teams in their own league once. The FAWSL 2 kicks off on the 11th February while the FAWSL 1 starts on the 22nd April. Qualification for the UWCL will be suspended until the 2016/2017 winter season, streamlining English football with the competition. We don’t have long to wait for the fixtures; they will be out on the week commencing 9th January.
The full winter season will then start in September and run through to the following May.
FAWPL Conclusion and Promotion
With half the season played for most teams, we are in for another exciting run in to the FAWPL season.
In the Northern division, Middlesbrough currently top the table but have played five more games than their nearest rivals. Blackburn Rovers, who are in touching distance, are the only team to remain unbeaten in the division. It has also been an exciting year for newbies Leicester City who have the games in hand to mount a challenge.
In the Southern division, Spurs lead the pack and along with Cardiff City remain the only teams unbeaten. This league though is looking particularly tight with Coventry United and Charlton Athletic also in the race at the moment.
Following the conclusion of the leagues, the winner of each will face eachother in a play-off to determine who will enter the FAWSL in the 2017-2018 season.
FA Cup Magic
We are already well into the 2016/2017 FA Cup run with qualifying and first round already completed. The competition continues on the 8th January with 28 teams competing in the 2nd Round. There are a couple of standout fixtures with Southampton looking to continue their great run against Cambridge United while Charlton Athletic host Portsmouth at The Valley. You can find all the fixtures here.
FAWSL 2 teams enter the competition in the 3rd Round (to be played 5th February) and FAWSL 1 in the 5th Round (to be played 19th March). The final will be held at Wembley once again on the 13th May 2017.
Road to Cardiff and the UWCL
This season’s Champions League returns in March with the quarter-finals. Unlike last year, there is British interest in the competition with Manchester City pitted against Danish side, Fortuna Hjorring (22/23 and 29/30 March). Should they get through this stage, they will go on to play the semi-finals in April with the aim of reaching the final in Cardiff on 1st June.
The competition will return with qualifying in the summer before the knockout phases begin in the autumn. Manchester City, Chelsea, Glasgow City and Hibs are all guaranteed places while there will also be opportunity for the winner of the WPWL, Northern Irish Premier League and FAI WNL to go through qualifying.
WPWL, SWPL and FAI WNL
The Welsh Premier League will come to a conclusion in the Spring with the winner qualifying for the Champions League qualification stage. Swansea City are currently leading the pack with an impressive run of form but Abergavenny and Cardiff Met are hot on their heels.
Scotland is an exciting place to be for the women’s game at the moment and the SWPL will begin ahead of the national team’s first run out in an international tournament. Fixtures are normally announced in the first couple of months with Glasgow City aiming for their 11th title in a row.
Opposite to the FAWSL, the Continental Tyres FAI WNL is moving to a summer schedule. Details of the new format and fixtures is still to be released. Watch this space!
FAWSL license renewal
With the current strategy coming to an end in 2018, licenses to remain a FAWSL member are being renewed. These will come into play from the 2018-19 season while relegation from the WSL 2 to the FAWPL will start in 2017/2018.
We will find out the FA’s decision in May. Hopefully, this will be less controversial than the last time around when Doncaster were relegated to the second division before even kicking a ball.
England & Scotland prepare for a big summer
Both sides are in action during the January International window. England travel to La Manga to face Norway and Sweden (22nd and 24th) while Scotland will face Denmark on the 20th and 23rd in Cyprus.
In March, England will head stateside for the She Believes Cup where they will face Germany, France and the USA. Meanwhile Scotland will return to Cyprus for this year’s Cyprus Cup. The tournament will also feature Wales and the Republic of Ireland.
In addition, look out for several friendlies to be announced in the months leading up to July.
The excitement is particularly high due to England and Scotland opening against eachother on the 19th July in Utrecht. England will go in as one of the favourites for the tournament but games between the two are never straightforward. Both sides will also face Spain and Portugal in the group. Fingers crossed both can make it through to the knock-out rounds.
World Cup Qualifying
No sooner does one major tournament end then qualifying for the next one begins. Qualifying for the 2019 World Cup will begin in the autumn with England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland all involved. Make a note in your diaries – the qualifying draw takes place on the 24th April.
U19s and U17s back in action
As with every year, we must not forget the International youth teams.
At U19 level, England, Scotland and the Republic of Ireland will be looking to get through the Elite Round to qualify for the Euros to be held in Northern Ireland in August. Scotland and Ireland will face each other as well as Ukraine and Finland while England will play Turkey, Czech Republic and Denmark. The fixtures for all teams will take place between 4th and 10th April.
The same three countries and Wales will take place in the U17 Elite Round in March 2017. Scotland and Ireland are again pitted against each other alongside Hungary and Serbia. England face a tough challenge in a group with Germany, Italy and Poland while Wales will face Norway, Denmark and Bosnia. Only the group winners and the best runner-up will proceed to the Finals to be held in the Czech Republic in May.