American soccer writing, history & data.
The second full season of the USWISL, better known as the W League, say the league still finding its footing. The organization began to coalesce around a core group of around 10 to 12 clubs while still dealing with an amount of turnover of expansion teams.
The W League lost six teams from the 1995 season but added 11 more for the 1996 competition. The 24-team league was split into three conferences with most teams scheduled for a 10-game season. The regular season schedule ran from May to early August with the Swizzlin' Six playoffs being held the second weekend of that month.
The first round saw the first, second and fourth seeds from the Central Conference and the Denver Diamonds, regular season champions from the Western Conference, meet to see which two made it to the semifinals. Denver beat the Chicago Cobras 3-0 and Dallas Lightning, winner of the Central Conference regular season, beat the Rockford 'Dactyls 4-0. In the semifinals the host Columbus ZIGGZ beat Dallas in a shootout and Maryland Pride, the Eastern Conference regular season champs, beat Denver 4-0. In the championship match the Maryland Pride, formerly known as the Baltimore Lady Bays, beat the Dallas Lightning 3-0 to win the 1996 W League title.
The Sacramento Storm had an uncharacteristically poor W League season finishing fourth in the Western Conference. But the Storm made it to the final of the USASA's Women's Open Cup but lost 2-1 to the Dallas Lightning on July 20 at the New Mexico Youth Soccer Complex in Bernalillo.
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