The National Women’s Soccer League’s 2019 regular season has come to a close. Which means it’s time to gear up for the playoffs. Just four teams make it into the postseason, and only one will come away with the championship. Let’s take a look at the four teams that will be competing, and see which one will be the most likely to win.
The NWSL Championship Line Up
North Carolina Courage
The North Carolina Courage is the reigning NWSL Champions and certainly has a high chance of retaking the title. They have a star-studded offense with Jessica McDonald, Lynn Williams, Crystal Dunn, and Kristen Hamilton. A strong midfield of McCall Zerboni, Debinha, Sam Mewis, and Denis O’Sullivan to back up the attack. North Carolina’s defense consists of Abby Erceg and Abby Dahlkemper, JaeleneHinkle, and likely Heather O’Reilly.
Since starting right-back Merritt Mathias is out with an ACL injury. As a team, North Carolina has the most goals, shots on goal, and assists out of the entire NWSL. With the motto “No Finish Line,” North Carolina has shown their determination and grit all season. Furthermore, it earned them a record of 15-5-4. The Courage, as the first seed, will play the Reign, who is the fourth seed. The Courage is dominating many of their games this season. In the eyes of their fans is the top contender for the championship. Predicted Placement in the NWSL Championship: First
Chicago Red Stars
The Chicago Red Stars have made it to the playoffs every year except the first in the National Women’s Soccer League. But has never made it to the finals and therefore, has never won a championship title. Australian superstar Sam Kerr, who looks to be the acceptor of the Golden Boot once again with 18 goals. She leads the way on offense for Chicago. Yuki Nagasato, Vanessa DiBernardo, and Danielle Colaprico are crucial parts of Chicago’s offense and midfield.
Julie Ertz is perhaps Chicago’s most influential player, holding down the defense and making her presence known in the attack. Casey Short and Tierna Davidson also keep the defense strong, as does the USWNT’s starting goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher. Chicago is also hosting its semifinal that they earned as the number two seed. Finishing the regular season with a record of 14-8-2. They have also had a few weeks of rest between their last regular-season game and the semi-final. However, it will be tough to beat out North Carolina in the final. Predicted Placement in the NWSL Championship: Second
The Portland Thorns were continually at the top of the leaderboard this season and are regarded as one of the league’s best teams. The semi-final between them and Chicago is bound to be a close one. However, Portland’s last five games in the regular season were three losses, a win, and a draw, and one of those losses was a 6-0 defeat. Two of Portland’s star players, both USWNT Players, as well, Lindsey Horan and Tobin Heath, have been struggling with potential injuries.
It’s unknown if they will be playing in the semi-final in Chicago or not. Portland has suffered from a goal-scoring drought, as well. Scoring just one goal in their last five games and they are going up against Chicago. A team that has some of the best goal-scorers in the league. Portland is a team with a ton of grit, determination, and heart. The semi-final will be a tight one, but in the end, Portland is looking like they might come out on the bottom. Predicted Placement in the NWSL Championship: Third
Reign FC edged out the Utah Royals at the end of the season to take the final playoff spot and the fourth seed. They dealt with more than a few injuries this season. Including their two preferred goalkeepers, Lydia Williams and Michelle Betos, star midfielder Jessica Fishlock, defender Taylor Smith, and striker Jasmyne Spencer, whom the Reign had acquired from Orlando the season before. Megan Rapinoe, the face of the Reign, didn’t even play a game until September. But the team still managed to win ten of their games and make it to the postseason.
The Reign have recovered from a few of their injuries. However, they have a lot of their starters out. Even though they have had a strong season and finished with a 10-6-8 record, they are the clear underdog in their match-up against North Carolina. They most likely won’t make it into the finals. Predicted Placement in the NWSL Championship: Fourth
No matter what team takes the title of 2019 NWSL Champions, these three final games are stacked with global superstars, World champions, and league leaders, and are sure to be exciting.