The Ottawa Fury women came up a game short last year.
But if their trend holds, this could be the year the W-League powerhouse finally breaks through for a North American soccer championship in just its fourth year of existence.
The Fury, ranked ninth in the world, lost to the New Jersey Wildcats in last year's final and now has a fourtH-, third- and second-place finish on the women's circuit.
"We fell at the last step and it was very painful. After my divorce, it was the second-most painful thing in my life," coach Joel Rosas cracked yesterday as the Fury held a media reception to introduce this year's W-League and men's Premier Development League teams.
The women's opener is Saturday against the Hamilton Avalanche (6 p.m.). They will also play Sunday against the Sudbury Canadians (3:30 p.m.) with the men opening their season at 6 p.m. against the Westchester Flames (all games at Keith Harris Stadium at Carleton University).
The Fury women look to be the favourites along with the Wildcats again and the Vancouver Whitecaps, who will host this year's W-League championship.
Breaking through the last barrier could be the hardest step for the Fury, though they will be bolstered by the addition of forward Carrie Kveton, the W-League's leading scorer in 2003, who recently played for Bristol Academy in the FA Women's Premier League; midfielder Zoe Avner, a veteran of the French First Division, and defender Melissa Miller, an All-American from Ohio State.
"They were some hard stepping stones," said Fury midfielder Kelly Parker, the W-League MVP in 2004. "We've been progressing, four, three, two.
"Hopefully this is the year we get to celebrate being number one ... The new girls should make the team even stronger."
The men will be looking to win a playoff spot after missing by one rung last year with a 9-7 record in their inaugural season under coach Colin McCurdy.