NWSL’s 22-match regular season is in the books, and after a wild home stretch in which teams jockeyed for playoff positioning and OL Reign wound up atop the table thanks, in part, to a slip-up by their bitter rival, the playoff picture for the league’s 10th season is set.
OL Reign and the Portland Thorns, whose blown 3–1 lead vs. last-place Gotham FC cost the club a third NWSL Shield in club history, have earned the byes and will host semifinal matchups. Should they both advance, they’d be on a crash course for a final rife with subplots.
Plenty stands in the way, though. First and foremost is the expansion San Diego Wave, the third overall seed led by league golden boot winner Alex Morgan (15 goals, one more than Portland and fellow U.S. women’s national team forward Sophia Smith). San Diego went 1-0-1 against Portland, its would-be semifinal opponent, during the regular season.
If San Diego is to get to the semis, though, it must defeat a Chicago Red Stars side that finished as league runner-up a season ago and cemented its playoff berth with a win in the season finale against Angel City.
On the other side of the bracket, the Houston Dash reached the playoffs for the first time and will head to Kansas City for a clash with the Current, missing out on a home game only due to goal differential. Both sides split their meetings with OL Reign (each went 1-1-0), which may have a third Shield in club history but is still in search of a first league championship.
The playoffs will resume after the international break, during which the U.S. women’s national team will face England and Spain abroad. Of the 24 players Vlatko Andonovski has selected for that camp, half hail from NWSL playoff teams, and their clubs will watch closely in hopes of avoiding an injury that could dent their title hopes. Morgan, however, is not among them, being held out with a minor knee injury.
Here are the final standings for the six playoff teams and the schedule for the NWSL playoffs (all times Eastern).
1. OL Reign (11-4-7, 40 points, +13 goal differential)
2. Portland Thorns (10-3-9, 39 points, +25 GD)
3. San Diego Wave (10-6-6, 36 points, +11 GD)
4. Houston Dash (10-6-6, 36 points, +8 GD)
5. KC Current (10-6-6, 36 points, 0 GD)
6. Chicago Red Stars (9-7-6, 33 points, +6 GD)
QUARTERFINALS – OCTOBER 16
Houston Dash vs. KC Current, 5 p.m.
San Diego Wave vs. Chicago Red Stars, 10 p.m.
SEMIFINALS – OCTOBER 23
Portland Thorns vs. San Diego/Chicago winner, 5 p.m.
OL Reign vs. Houston/KC winner, 7:30 p.m.
FINAL – OCTOBER 29
NWSL championship match, Audi Field, Washington, D.C., 8 p.m.
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