The crowning achievement of the 2023 NWSL season was its virtually unrivaled competitiveness, to the point that there were 729 possible playoff outcomes with three games to go and the eventual champion was last place just a year ealier. It only bolsters the potential for exciting developments in 2024, but also means the new campaign might not live up to the previous season's drama, especially with two new teams and two more playoff spots up for grabs.

While we are far from finding out whether or not this season can deliver jaw-dropping stats, the very early returns of the NWSL's 2024 campaign demonstrate that there's still a high level of competitiveness that could once again be the league's defining feature on the pitch.

Case in point? The current top two teams -- the Kansas City Current and the Chicago Red Stars -- occupied the last two places on the table by the end of the 2023 season, so much so that they were the only two teams out of the playoff picture on decision day while eight teams competed for four spots. They are not the only teams that missed last year's playoffs to offer some optimism at this early point in the season, with familiar faces and NWSL newcomers contributing in equal force.

Here are the talking points from the latest round of NWSL action, where the theme for several teams was about changing the narrative.

Swanson's return has Red Stars ahead of schedule

Though their winning streak was halted on Friday with a 1-1 draw at the Orlando Pride, the Red Stars are in the midst of one of their strongest starts to the season with seven points and a second place spot. Few would have blamed them if they were taking a more patient strategy -- the club is in year one of a rebuild under new ownership and new head coach Lorne Donaldson. Three games in, though, it's clear the Red Stars are not just here to compete later -- they're also here to win now.

Donaldson's team has so far been happy to play without the ball and prefers to be clinical when they have their somewhat infrequent chances in front of goal, a strategy that has so far seen them score five goals from five different scorers. There's an even more optimistic outlook on the Red Stars long-term vision after this weekend because the focal point of their attack is officially back. Mallory Swanson has started each of the Red Stars' three games, her first minutes since tearing her patella tendon last April, and finally scored her first goal of the season on Friday.

At this early point of the season, the Red Stars are officially to keep an eye on, especially as U.S. women's national team watchers and others keep an eye on Swanson's progress post-injury.

Current can't stop, won't stop

Perhaps the story of the 2024 season so far is the Current, for whom everything seems to be going right. The club made history on the opening day of the regular season by opening the first stadium built solely for an NWSL team and have followed that up with three wins out of three to start their season, delivering must-see TV in the process. They have already scored 11 goals this season and almost love conceding in equal measure, opening CPKC Stadium with a 5-4 thriller against the Portland Thorns and following that up with a 4-2 win over Angel City on Saturday.

The Current have relied on nine different goalscorers in the process, with Bia Zaneratto and Vanessa DiBernardo so far the only players to score more than once this season. It marks a dramatic return to the NWSL for Vlatko Andonovski, who was one of the league's most respected coaches before his spell as the USWNT coach ended with a disappointing outing at last year's Women's World Cup. The early returns on the Andonvoski era, including the strong start for newcomer Zaneratto, serve as a vote of confidence in the Current's rebuild after 2023's second-to-last place finish -- even if it was not the buzziest restructure of the NWSL offseason.

The Current's performances differ greatly from the USWNT team that went more than 200 minutes without scoring a goal at the World Cup, which feels appropriate nearly a year removed from the tournament. The national team is beginning to put the World Cup behind them and it appears Andonovski is doing the same.

Kanu's bright start in Louisville

Like one the Red Stars and the Current, Racing Louisville are also one of the NWSL's unbeaten teams at this early point of the season. The big difference is that they have only draws to their name so far, in large part because they boast the league's current top goalscorer -- Uchenna Kanu.

The Nigeria international scored just once in 21 appearances in all competitions last season, but already has three of Louisville's four goals this season. New head coach Bev Yanez has reaped the rewards of handing the keys over to Kanu, who averaged around 30 minutes a game in regular season play last season but has started each of Louisville's three games in 2024. Her numbers are up in several categories, too -- she's averaging 1.06 shots on goal per game, more than the 0.78 she posted in the 2023 regular season, while expected goals per game is currently at 0.42, nearly double the 0.2 she had last year.

It's not all rosy for Louisville, who have to work on their defensive record before making a case as a complete new-and-improved side. Kanu provides an awfully strong foundation for them to build upon as the season continues, though, and is easily one of the bright spots of the new season.