NWSL playoff race: ‘Couldn’t write a script better’ than this weekend’s games

Rose Lavelle of OL Reign dribbles the soccer ball
Rose Lavelle of OL Reign dribbles the soccer ball

OL Reign head coach Laura Harvey can’t imagine a better advertisement for the NWSL than this weekend’s slate of games. The top eight teams are currently separated by seven points and they’re all playing each other.

“You couldn’t write a better script than that,” said Harvey. “I mean, the Premier League would die for that. They would put it on Sky Sports and it would be on every channel.”

Each NWSL team has 3-4 remaining regular season games and there is a lot at stake. Six teams will qualify for the 2022 NWSL Playoffs, with the top two teams receiving a bye to the semifinal round. Of the 12 teams in the league, 10 are still in the running for a playoff berth.

Then add in the fact that the No. 3 San Diego Wave have sold all 32,000 tickets for Saturday’s match against No. 7 Angel City FC at Snapdragon Stadium. That game is expected to shatter the NWSL single game attendance record of 25,218, set by the Portland Thorns in 2019.

Also on Saturday, the No. 5 Chicago Red Stars will host the No. 4 Houston Dash, while the No. 6 OL Reign travel to the No. 8 North Carolina Courage. With so many teams in the running, clinching scenarios and probabilities are in constant flux.

“At this point, every game is crucial, every point is crucial and so we just have this mindset that we’re going to win out these last few games,” said OL Reign forward Bethany Balcer.

Then on Sunday, the top two teams in the league — the Kansas City Current and Portland Thorns — will meet at Children’s Mercy Park in Kansas City.

Harvey, the winningest NWSL head coach in history, hasn’t ever been a part of such a close end-of-season race.

“I think the reason there’s a dramatic difference this year is because there’s no runaway leader. I think that is a different dynamic…” she said. “There is so much parity across the league.”

“It is the most cliche answer, but it’s true in this league: on any given day, any given team can win,” echoed Portland Thorns head coach Rhian Wilkinson. “Watching the table is not a helpful thing to do. We just take care of ourselves and our business and that’s all we can control. Everything else is just the NWSL: It’s going to play out as it plays out.”

See below for the full NWSL weekend schedule for Sept. 17-18, as well as the current league table.

This Weekend’s NWSL Games

Friday, September 16:

  • Orlando Pride at Racing Louisville (7:30pm ET, Paramount+)

Saturday, September 17:

  • Gotham FC at Washington Spirit (7pm ET, Twitch)

  • OL Reign at North Carolina Courage (7:30pm ET, Paramount+)

  • Houston Dash at Chicago Red Stars (8pm ET, Paramount+)

  • Angel City at San Diego Wave (10pm ET, Paramount+)

Sunday, September 18:

  • Portland Thorns at Kansas City Current (5pm ET, Paramount+)

NWSL Table

Standings as of Friday, September 16, 2022: 

  1. Kansas City Current (32 points)

  2. Portland Thorns (31 points)

  3. San Diego Wave (31 points)

  4. Houston Dash (30 points)

  5. Chicago Red Stars (30 points)

  6. OL Reign (28 points)

  7. Angel City (26 points)

  8. North Carolina Courage (25 points)

  9. Orlando Pride (21 points)

  10. Washington Spirit (16 points)

  11. Racing Louisville (14 points) — out of playoff contention

  12. Gotham FC (12 points) — out of playoff contention

Follow Alex Azzi on Twitter @AlexAzziNBC

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NWSL playoff race: ‘Couldn’t write a script better’ than this weekend’s games originally appeared on NBCSports.com