Meet The 7 Openly Gay Players of the National Women’s Soccer League

The National Women’s Soccer League embarked on its fourth season this weekend. If you have been following the NWSL, you are awesome and we should be friends. If you haven’t been following, you totally should! Here are some important things you might wanna know.

+ There are 10 teams: Seattle Reign FC, Portland Thorns KC, Chicago Red Stars, FC Kansas City, Boston Breakers, Western New York Flash, Washington Spirit, Sky Blue FC, Houston Dash and Orlando Pride.

+ This is the Orlando Pride’s first season in the NWSL, which is awesome because it hopefully means the league is sustainable and expanding. This being the fourth season is a pretty big deal considering the last professional league in the United States, Women’s Professional Soccer (WPS), folded in 2012 after its third season. Before that, there was the Women’s United Soccer Association (WUSA), which was formed after the United States won the 1999 World Cup. That league also folded after its third season. So, good job NWSL!

+ Teams have one to four (lookin’ at you, Portland) players who also have steady spots on the USWNT. Those players’ schedules are crazy since it’s an Olympic year, but if you have a favorite, watching them play in the NWSL is a cool way to see them shine!

+ Most of the NWSL games are streamed live on the NWSL YouTube channel for free. So, show them some love this season. Fox Sports will also be broadcasting six NWSL games this year, but the broadcasts won’t begin until September, leading up to the playoffs.

+ There are lots of openly lesbian and bisexual players in the NWSL! Here are some of the lovely gay faces you can see around the NWSL this season.

Keelin Winters, Seattle Reign

Twitter: @KeelinWinters
Instagram: @winters11

Winters is a midfielder and has been on the Reign since 2013. In 2014 and 2015, Winters captained the Reign to the team’s winningest seasons, which earned them the NWSL Shield. Winters married her girlfriend in October 2015 and their wedding looked super cute on Instagram.

Jess Fishlock, Seattle Reign

Twitter: @JessFishlock
Instagram: @jessfishlock

Fishlock is also a midfielder for the Reign. In fact, she and Winters make up arguably one of the best midfields in the NWSL. Last year she spoke with BBC Sport about the difficulties that come with being a high-profile gay athlete. She also works with Athlete Ally, which aims to combat homophobia and transphobia in American sports.

Megan Rapinoe, Seattle Reign

Twitter: @mPinoe
Instagram: @mrapinoe

Rapinoe has been recovering from an ACL injury since December, but if her Instagram is any indicator, she’s working her tail off to get healthy. (Hopefully for the Olympics, too!) Pinoe has been on the Reign since 2013, where she plays forward. She came out before the 2012 Olympics in London and is engaged to musician Sera Cahoone.

View this post on Instagram

Damn right I am. Photo Cred: @seracahoone

A post shared by Megan Rapinoe (@mrapinoe) on

Meleana “Mana” Shim, Portland Thorns

Twitter: @MeleanaShim
Instagram: @MeleanaShim

Shim, who is a midfielder, came out publicly in 2013, a day before the Portland Thorns entered the inaugural season of the NWSL. She actually went undrafted in the 2013 NWSL College Draft and joined the Thorns after open tryouts. She also grew up in Honolulu!

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❤️❤️❤️ @alysonshim

A post shared by Mana Shim (@meleanashim) on

Natasha Kai, Sky Blue FC

Twitter: @NatashaKai
Instagram: @NatashaKai_32

Kai, who also grew up in Hawaii (I guess this is a thing with women’s soccer stars?), is a forward. She actually also played for Sky Blue FC when the team was part of the WPS and won the 2009 WPS Championship. She’s also known for her tattoos and has been in ESPN’s Body Issue.

Joanna Lohman, Washington Spirit

Twitter: @JoannaLohman
Instagram: @joannalohman15

Lohman is a midfielder who has really cool hair. She also helped relaunch an organization called GO! Athletes, which aims to help high schools and colleges to embrace LGBTQ athletes. She also used to be vice president of a commercial real estate company and has said that her dream job is to be GM of Washington’s NFL team, so she seems pretty well-rounded, if you ask me.

View this post on Instagram

My Number One ❤️ @lucykeener

A post shared by Joanna Lohman (@joannalohman15) on

Lianne Sanderson, Orlando Pride

Twitter: @liannesanderson
Instagram: @liannesanderson10

Sanderson is a forward and has been signed by the NWSL’s newest team, Orlando Pride. The Lewisham, England native signed with the Arsenal youth program when she was nine years old. She also said in an NWSL Q&A that she loves interacting with fans on Twitter, so follow her if you’re into that.

Did we miss anyone? Let us know in the comments! (We know there are other players who may be LGBT, but this list only includes players who have come out publicly.) Here’s to spending the next six months watching amazingly athletic women do really cool things.

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Kelly has written 3 articles for us.


    • I’d love to see people add to the list in the comments, but I can imagine the work it would take to do all that research.

      Hopefully there will be a list of queer ladies in the Olympics coming at us this summer. :D

  1. Love the NWSL, love the Seattle Reign, and really love that they are the gayest team in the league. My lady and I have gone to a few games and every time it’s ALHs as far as the eye can see. Wonderful.

    • yes! during this week’s game, i said to a friend that it’s great to go to Reign games to see my weekly quotient of ALHs

  2. Finally, a definitive list! I don’t want to be the person that only cares about athletes who share my identity, but I totally am. Can we speculate about Megan Klingenberg? She is so adorable with her kind of alternative-lifestyle haircut, even if it is just practical.

    • I think if you have to qualify it with “sorta” then it’s not really “openly gay.” There are all sorts of context clues that you can gather up to paint a picture but once again, if you have to assemble an evidence board, then that’s not “openly.”

      • She says in the video that she doesn’t label herself in terms of her sexuality. So I would include her on the list as being open.

        • Perhaps this just marks me as an Old but I prefer to hear a positive confirmation and not just a lack of denial before I’m comfortable discussion someone as being openly out. If she wanted or was able to say “yes I am not straight” then I think she would, but instead she prefers to navigate this sort of middle course that still allows her some privacy. If she has not directly said it, then I’m not comfortable directly saying it either.

  3. I thought there were more who were out publicly (I guess there are a whole lot more you can speculate on). But I guess I am thinking a lot of players who retired or went to different leagues between last year and this year.

    Also, still amazed that Sky Blue won against the Reign yesterday, including a goal from Natasha Kai!

    • I was at the game and it was so frustrating watching the Reign fail to break through Sky Blue’s defense – and then when there were a few beautifully served balls, people missed putting them in (most memorably, Fishlock totally whiffing a nice header opportunity)

      Not having Pinoe seems to really be cramping their style and there were clearly some team chemistry issues.

      But I’m technically a Thorns fan, so I can feel superior for their win over Orlando at least ;)

      • I just can’t believe the Reign lost, but at the same time I think it’s the worst they have ever looked. I don’t think it’s an indicator at all of how they’ll do this season (especially come Olympic time where a lot of teams lose a lot of productive players but they keep Fishlock, Little, and Yanez).

        I am a Red Stars fan, and although I am eternally optimistic, they had a lot of defensive issues that concern me. But week 1, they are all still building team chemistry! Haha.

        I also like the Thorns a lot (mostly because Tobin Heath is just so much fun to watch because she’s so technically incredible and also has an amazing jawline).

  4. Add Laura del Rio of the Washington Spirit; Nadine Angerer (Germany) used to be goalkeeper for the Thorns and is now their GK coach so…she sorta counts?

    Ashlyn Harris of Orlando Pride hasn’t outed herself but tweeted “Just because I don’t share my personal life on social media doesn’t mean I’m closeted” so…I mean, we don’t need to “out” her by including her in an article but I think it’s safe to say she’s a Team Member. Same with Krieger (Washington Spirit)

    As for non-USA players, there are many, but these are the few I know best (mostly from following SWE and NOR in the WWWC):

    -Casey Stoney (England/GB NT, Arsenal ladies)
    -Isabell Herlovsen (Norwegian NT, LSK Kvinner in Norway)
    -Trine Ronning (Norwegian NT, Stabaek FK in Norway)
    -Hedvig Lindahl (Sweden, Chelsea ladies)
    -Lisa Dahlkvist (Sweden, Paris St-Germain)

    • Between Harris’ “not closeted” tweet, Ali and her bro’s video where she talks about not having a label, and Harris’ twitter clap back yesterday, I definitely count them.

      I can’t handle how cute Casey Stoney’s family is on twitter.

    • Michelle Heyman (Australia, former WNY Flash) and Erin McCleod (Canadian, former Houston Dash, currently injured but signed with FC Rosengard) are two internationals not on your list that I can think of off the top of my head who are very openly out. Oh and some Australian W-League players like Grace Gill.

      • It’s always nice to know of more professional gal pals out there!

        But it makes sense that they aren’t on the list, as the list is only current NWSL players.

  5. Missing Erin Mcleod and her wife Ella Masar! Such a gorgeous couple. *dreamy sigh*

    I really wish Ashlyn Harris and Ali Krieger would just come out about their relationship already cause they rock so much, but they have to do it when they’re comfortable. Not sure what they’re waiting for though since they aren’t really hiding it.

    • Sadly, Ella and Erin don’t play in the NWSL anymore. They both moved to Sweden to play for FC Rosengård. Double sadly, Erin tore her ACL about early into her first match for the club and may be out for 1-2 years since she’s already had 2 surgeries to repair a previous ACL tear in the same knee.

    • And Masar just won the Swedish league with FC Rosengård (who added a pride flag to their jerseys this year)!

  6. Hi my name is Laura and I could never have enough NWSL/USWNT content on Autostraddle. Way to go author you did a great job.

    • so MAYBE I went to twitter stalk investigate this immediately and not only are they adorable, but Gorden’s son is just the cutest little cutie pie.

      WoSo players need to stop having cute kids, sometimes it makes me think I might want a child instead of just more dogs some day.

    • We need a fluff post on their relationship immediately.

      May have fallen down the rabbit hole of checking out their Instagrams. #toomuch

  7. You could probably go ahead and include Ashley Nick, Lianne Sanderson’s girlfriend. Bianca Henninger plays for the Houston Dash and is also out (she dated Mana Shim long ago). Jen Buczkowski is out and dating a women’s professional football player for the KC Titans, Liz Sowers ( Amanda Frisbie seems to have just come out on Instagram within the last couple of days (FC Kansas City) and is dating Western New York Flash player Kristen Hamilton.
    Michelle Heyman is also out, but I’m not sure she’s still with the NWSL.

      • Heath and Press aren’t out. There’s tons of speculation, but no confirmation of any sort from either of the two. Since this is a list of openly gay players, I don’t think they would belong among these names, at least not at the time being.

      • Heath and Press (AKA Preath) seems to me like a fantasy ship, like Talex or O’Solo. I mean, it would be cool, but there’s hardly evidence to the same level as Ash and Ali.

    • I love that we are at a place where you can legit miss putting people on this list because there aren’t news articles and press releases about their coming out, just effing adorable instagram pictures all “my girlfriend is the best!”

  8. Any Sky Blue fans planning on going to some of the games? It’d be cool to meet some straddlers there, especially if I can’t convince any of my friends to come with me.

    • She’s not openly gay and I suspect she wouldn’t appreciate it being discussed based on how private she is.

  9. I was going to add a bunch more names, but then I remembered that women’s soccer sees like half their players retire every offseason and everyone I was thinking of retired…

    In other news, did anyone see Lohman’s amazing goal on Saturday? I wish I did but the Spirit livestreams are terrible…

    • The Spirit live streams are so terrible! When I watched Reign vs Sky Blue and then the Thorns vs Pride I was so jealous of how much better their streams are. And that they’ve actually got commentators. The Spirit just has a guy that seems to be talking to himself all game.

      • The live stream started working about a minute after the goal. So frustrating.

        I hope Orlando has a more professional setup for their home games.

  10. Ella Masar and Erin McLeod – married. Teammates. Houston Dash until earlier this year when they moved to Rosengard FC in Sweeden. Still worth the mention.

  11. Is there a petition to add a note about Joanna’s awesome bicycle kick into this? Stuff can be amended after posting, right?

  12. Although they’ve never made an official statement, Rachel Daly of the Houston Dash and Sarah Gorden of the Chicago Red Stars are in a relationship together and have made that public through their Twitter accounts.

  13. Stephanie Labbe is openly gay and has a GF, Ashley Nick is Sanderson’s GF, and while they’ve never officially confirmed their relationship, Ashlyn Harris and Ali Krieger have both made statements that make them ‘out’. There’s, of course, speculation about Tobin Heath, but that’s more a case of reading between the admittedly obvious lines.

  14. What about Becca Moros (I love her) and Mandy Laddish? Some say Tobin and CP23 but dunno if that one is true. Moros and Laddish seem quite intimate. I think Amy LePeilbet and Liz Bogus are dating too but they retired. :-( Western New York’s GK last year Chantel Jones is dating an Australian player (can’t think of her name on top of my head); she retired after the 2015 season.

    • Neither of them have come out publicly, nor come out, so I think it would be unfair to add them to a list of “openly gay players in the nwsl”

    • Moderators please remove this comment

      Also, we’re right with God, if they exist, thank you very much.

  15. are the S.Gorden ad R.Daly still together? If so, can be on list.
    wasn’t there some speculation on Kelley O’Hara and a girl named Ann? i could be totally wrong though.
    would love it though if Ash and Ali are together. ahaha what wishful thinking.

    • Gorden and Daly don’t appear to be together anymore. I feel like at some point, it was clarified that Ann was a friend, but I can’t say for sure at the moment.

    • Daly and Gorden are no longer together. Daly is with Breakers’ Westphal and Gorden supposedly went back being with the kid’s father.

  16. God created Adam and Eve, and not Eve and Eve or Adam and Adam. So being gay is not something one should be proud of.

    • I’m not a member of your church, why should I have to follow your religion’s set of rules?

    • You know, this Mark fellow is someone who’s made quite effort to find this article on one of the most popular queer websites, particularly for women. I’m not entirely sure why said Mark fellow has come all this way, I feel as if we are obliged to welcome him in an Autostraddle way:

      Welcome to Autostraddle, we hope you’ve had a good day
      You’re welcome to browse around here and stay
      But if you have nothing good to say
      Then please go away.

  17. Tobin is dating someone from NJ. His name is Christopher. All I know is that he plays soccer. He’s 26.

  18. I found his facebook. It looks like he found her dirty little secret after they started dating, freaked out and almost left her.

  19. Word is he was at Tobin’s game against Sky Blue and that he’s very good looking.

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