Sandviken, now Brann, will try to keep 2021 fire crackling

New playoff system to determine Toppserien champion to debut

bergsvand

Photo: Terje Bendiksby / NTB
Guro Bergsvand (13) scoring for Norway against Belgium in a World Cup qualifier on Oct. 26, 2021, is one of five Brann players on the national women’s team.

 

JO CHRISTIAN WELDINGH
Oslo, Norway

A new soccer season is fast approaching, and after a couple of difficult seasons where the pandemic has kept spectators out of stadiums, the Norwegian soccer leagues are ready to get back to normal.

For the Norwegian women’s soccer league, Toppserien, there will be major changes in the league structure. The 20 teams will play 18 league rounds as usual, but then, modeled after American sports, the season will then end with a playoff based on the teams’ table positions. The teams that place as No. 1, 2, 3 and 4 will qualify for the playoff and start off with 6, 4, 2, and 0 points, respectively. The teams who place as No. 5-10 will play each other to avoid relegation. This should have been initiated in the 2021 season, but because of the pandemic, it was postponed until this year.

Photo: Trond Lillebo/Hamar Arbeiderblad / NTB
Marit Bratberg Lund accepted her Player of the Year award on Nov. 30, 2021, in Hamar, Norway.

Last year, Toppserien was very much a two-horse race. Sandviken Toppfotball—now called SK Brann after merging with Bergen’s men’s team—won 17 out of their 18 matches, the lone blemish a draw, and won the title with 52 points, outscoring opponents 50-6. They’ve strengthened their squad, bringing in Nora Eide Lie, Berglind Thorvaldsdottir, and Svava Ros Gudmundsdottir in an attempt to defend last season’s league title.

Defender Marit Bratberg Lund led the league with 13 assists and 20 points and was named Player of the Year as selected by OBOS-ligaen (also called the Norwegian First Division) in collaboration with NTB. Forward Maria Dybwad Brochmann scored 10 goals, five in the title-clinching game against Klepp. Those two are Brann players not on Norway women’s national team, which includes keeper Aurora Mikalsen, defenders Tuva Hansen and Guro Bergsvand, and midfielders Elisabeth Terland and Lisa Fjeldstad Naalsund.

Rosenborg (16-0-2) ended up a close second place with 48 points. They have three national team members: forwards Lisa-Marie Karlseng Utland (10 goals) and Synne Hansen and midfielder Emilie Bragstad. Rosenborg sold their star midfielder Julie Blakstad to Manchester City for a record fee earlier this winter and will certainly have the financial muscle to strengthen their squad. They have already brought in Icelandic midfielder Selma Sól Magnúsdóttir from Breidablik as Blakstad’s replacement. Rosenborg has an interesting streak. In 41 games since Sept. 29, 2019, they have lost only two games, both to Sandviken last year, but they haven’t won a championship.

Lillestrøm (LSK Kvinner) and Vålerenga battled it out for third place and ended the season with 37 and 35 points, respectively. Vålerenga brought in keeper Guro Pettersen, forward Runa Lillegård and defender Malin Sunde and also sold three top-class players in Katie Stengel, Hannah Seabert and Marie Dølvik Markussen. Gone is leading goal scorer Synne Jensen, who tallied 11. Pettersen and Sunde were called up to the national team on Feb. 8. Back is Serbian defender Dejana Stefanović, who scored nine goals, and long-time national team defender Elise Thorsnes.

LSK Kvinner broke their own transfer record in January when they sold Emilie Haavi, who led Toppserien with 13 goals in 2021, to Roma. They have used the money to bolster their squad with players like midfielders Nina Jakobsson (4 goals for Hammarby in Damallsvenskan) and Signe Holt Andersen, and defender Karly Røstbakken). National team keeper Cecilie Fiskerstrand returns.

Sandviken, Rosenborg Vålerenga and LSK Kvinner are expected to be the main contenders for the league title this season as well.

The new league structure will add a new level of unpredictability to the outcome of the 2022 season but given the results from last year and figuring in the teams’ reinforcements, expectations are that either Rosenborg or SK Brann will win the title.

This article originally appeared in the March 18, 2022, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.

Jo Christian Weldingh

Jo Christian Weldingh grew up in Lillehammer, Norway, and lives in Oslo. He has a bachelor’s degree in archaeology from the University of Oslo and a bachelor’s degree in business administration from BI Norwegian Business School.

You may also like...

%d bloggers like this: