No turning back now: FA WSL 2019-20 season preview

Long before the first ball of the FIFA Women's World Cup was kicked, there was a feeling that the tournament was to be a very powerful one for the Lionesses. From the squad announcement - each player was announced by an individual video message from sports legends, celebrities (and even a royal) - to the murals of the players spread across the country, England was ready to get behind their team.

TV figures went through the roof during the tournament: 11.7m people watched England's semi-final loss to the US, the highest live TV audience of the year to date. In total, 28.1m people watched BBC's TV and coverage of the Women's World Cup - 62% of those were male, 38% female.

England women's football team, the Lionesses, huddle at the 2019 World Cup including

The Lionesses at the 2019 FIFA Women's World Cup

Media coverage of women's football was also at an all time high, and social media was buzzing with messages of support, including hundreds of photos of children in their England kit inspired by their Lionesses.

Despite a fourth place finish the nation was talking, and about the right things - less about whether women should be playing football, and more about how they play football. Who should start up front: Jodie Taylor or Ellen White? Should we really be changing our winning formation to face the US? And surely moving the best player in the world out of her natural position doesn't make sense?

After a summer of national pride, the real test for women's football though, is surely how this enthusiasm translates into a domestic setting.

FA Women's Super League set to kick off

While the Championship and lower leagues kicked off last month, the crème de la crème of women's football in England restarts this weekend. The FA Women's Super League will run from Saturday 7th September to Saturday 16th May 2020. The ninth edition of the WSL - the second since the rebranding of high level women's football in England - will feature 12 teams, the highest number so far, reflecting a gradual increase from the original eight participants. Last season's champions Arsenal - who won their first title in seven years - look set to tussle with Manchester City yet again for top spot. Arsenal actually lost more games than City last season - they had two negative results while City were heading for an unbeaten season before they lost to the already crowned champions in the last game of the season. In the end, Arsenal came out with 54 points from 18 wins, no draws and two losses, while City achieved 47 from 14 wins, five draws and one loss. Such are the fine margins of the WSL: this season each team will play 22 games in total, and not many of those will allow for error.

Arsenal Women FC celebrate winning the 2018-19 FA WSL season

Arsenal were the champions of the 2018/19 FA Women's Super League

The top two spots guarantee Champion's League football, so expect Chelsea to be putting pressure on for that. In middle of the table, expect to see Reading, Bristol City, West Ham, Liverpool, Birmingham City and Manchester United battling for the 'best of the rest' title. Birmingham finished fourth last season, a massive 13 points above fifth place Reading, but the loss of striker Ellen White to Man City means they are unlikely to hit such heights again this year.

Though only formed 15 months ago, and just promoted to the top tier, Man Utd should be comfortable. Managed by former England captain Casey Stoney, they took the Championship by storm last year and won the title with nine points to spare. It's perhaps a relief for some championship clubs, and fans of women's football in general, that United are no longer likely to be able to steamroller teams by scoring eight, nine, or even 12 goals. The improved opposition will be a better judge of where United are really at, and last year's goal difference of 91 will likely be quartered at least.

Tottenham Hotspur should have a more difficult time than their promotion pals this season. Expect the club, who will be playing in the WSL for the first time ever, to be battling at the bottom end of the table with Brighton & Hove Albion and Everton. Only one team will be relegated to the Championship, and it should be a more closely fought encounter than last year. Yeovil Town were relegated having been deducted 10 points during the season due to reported administration. They are now playing in the FA Women's National League South.

New sponsorship provides hope of stability

Hopefully, that will be the last time we see a women's professional football team fall so drastically. The new £10m Barclays sponsorship, the largest commercial investment in women's sport in the UK, should provide WSL clubs with more financial stability: they will earn a share of a £500,000 prize fund, with the winners taking home £100,000.

Aside from this investment, the FA has put other plans in place to ensure that they growth of the women's game doesn't plateau after the world cup. The FA player, a new streaming service broadcasting every WSL game live internationally for free, has been launched. BBC Sport and BT sport will continue to air some games.

Two of the opening weekend games in particular are attracting big crowds: the derbies. On Saturday 7 September the Man City v Man Utd will be played at the Etihad stadium, while Sunday's clash between Chelsea and Spurs will take place at Stamford Bridge with an expected attendance of around 20,000.

Arsenal players Vivianne Miedema and Jordan Nobbs hug

Arsenal's Vivianne Miedema was last season's top scorer. Here she hugs Jordan Nobbs who will be making up for lost time after missing the majority of last season due to injury

Will Miedema shine again?

In terms of individual awards, Arsenal's Vivianne Miedema was last season's top scorer, with 22 goals. She also had the best goal-to-game ratio, scoring one every 81 minutes. You wouldn't bet against her getting the most goals again this year, especially since her greatest competitor in 2018/19, Nikita Parris, is now plying her trade in the French league at Lyon. Parris's departure has left a leading scorer shaped goalscorer hole in the Man City side, one which Georgia Stanway, who got 11 last year, and Ellen White, who got six but may fare better with improved service, will be looking to fill. Beth England and Erin Cuthbert, both of Chelsea, are two more to watch.

Incredibly, five of the top seven assists numbers were from Arsenal players. Leading the pack was Beth Mead with 12. Mead will be looking at making it two years in a row, but may be given a run for her money by teammate Jordan Nobbs who has recently returned to action following an anterior cruciate ligament injury which ruled her out for the majority of last season. Nobbs registered nine assists in 10 games before her injury in November - who knows how many she'll get this season if she can stay injury free. On the eve of the ninth FA Women's Super League WSL, there's a lot to be excited about. Interest in the league is unprecedented. The fans are ready, the media are prepped and the clubs are raring to go. There's no turning back for women's football in England now. Visit the FA WSL website for more information on fixtures and tickets.