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A little more than halfway through the regular season and on the eve of the 2024 Paris Olympics summer break, it’s a good time to look into the individual performance awards and who the front-runners are at the moment. 

There are five individual awards: Most Valuable Player, Golden Boot, Defender of the Year, Goalkeeper of the Year, and Rookie of the Year. Additionally, there are Best XI First and Second team honors up for grabs. As per the current NWSL collective bargaining agreement (CBA), each of the previous awards comes with a $5,000 bonus. 

Reference previous award winners: here

With the surplus of Under-18 players who have joined the league and players from external leagues, in the next CBA it would be nice to see the expansion of awards to ones like Newcomer of the Year and Young Player of the Year. 

Golden Boot

Although Sophia Smith started the season off with a bang, Barbra Banda’s arrival in Orlando and the explosiveness of the Kansas City Current led by Temwa Chawinga has resulted in a crazy golden boot race this season. As a reminder, the Golden Boot goes to the NWSL’s highest scorer, and the tiebreaker is assists—so this one comes down purely to the numbers. In the 2023 regular season, Sophia Smith took home the trophy with 11 goals, and there might be a chance for someone to break the NWSL season-high of 18 goals set by Sam Kerr back in 2019. 

Current Golden Boot standings 

Most Valuable Player

Coming off of the crazy scoring frenzy, it’s easy to see the impressive impact of Barbra Banda (Orlando Pride), Sophia Smith (Portland Thorns), Temwa Chawinga (Kansas City Current) and how they are also at the forefront of the MVP race. Looking at the award historically, forwards have received the award the last two seasons, six of the ten years the award has been given out—the other four have been given to midfielders—and six out of ten years the winner has also been the Golden Boot winner. 

Keep an eye on: Trinity Rodman (Washington Spirit, Forward), Croix Bethune(Washington Spirit, Midfielder), Ashley Sanchez (North Carolina Courage, Midfielder)

Defender of the Year

Taking full advantage of free agency, Casey Krueger signed with the Washington Spirit this offseason and has immediately made an impact. She’s had three assists, one goal, and 75 possessions won along the wing. After being just a few minutes short of having an Ironwoman season Orlando’s Emily Sams came into year two and earned her first NWSL goal, and her first assist—not often things you see from a center back. She has had an 88% passing accuracy, 86 possessions won, and her performance earned her a call-up to the USWNT training camp ahead of the Olympics. San Diego Wave defender Naomi Girma is coming off back to back years winning this award, taking it home in both her rookie (2022) and second season (2023) in the league. This year she is showing her consistency boasting a 91% passing accuracy and 70 possessions won. 

Keep an eye on: Isabella Obaze (Portland Thorns), Sam Staab (Chicago Red Stars), Sarah Gorden (Angel City)

Goalkeeper of the Year

Currently only two goalkeepers have conceded less than one goal per 90, with Orlando’s Anna Moorhouse and Gotham’s Ann-Katrin Berger boasting 0.73 goals against/game. Berger is leading the league in save percentage with an impressive 83% rate, while Moorhouse is a close second at 81%. Moorhouse is also leading the league in clean sheets with seven. It will truly come down to the backend of the season to see who ends up ahead. 

Keep an eye on: Kailen Sheridan (San Diego Wave), Jane Campbell (Houston Dash)

Rookie of the Year

Right now, Washington Spirit midfielder Croix Bethune is by far the front runner in the Rookie of the Year race. With five goals and nine assists, she is currently leading the entire league in assists and on trend to break the single season record of 10 set by Tobin Heath in 2016 for the Portland Thorns. If she continues to score as she has, Bethune also has the chance to break the record for most goals in a regular season by a rookie which currently sits at 11—set by Diana Ordonez back in 2022. 

Keep an eye on: Hal Hershfelt (Washington Spirit, midfielder), Madison Curry (Angel City, defender)