Now that one of the most exciting, important, and unpredictable regular seasons of the National Women’s Soccer League has come to a close, it’s time for the playoffs to determine who will be crowned champion.
Starting October 16, the Houston Dash, the Chicago Red Stars, Kansas City Current, San Diego Wave FC, OL Reign, and the Portland Thorns will face off for the title. Who will come out on top?
Quarterfinal: Houston Dash vs. Kansas City Current
In the first game of the quarterfinals, the fifth-seed Houston Dash is set to face the fourth-seed Kansas City Current, who started the season off shaky, but came roaring back to accomplish an impressive 13-game unbeaten streak. Kansas City has incredible goal scorers in the form of Cece Kizer, Kristen Hamilton, and Lo’eau Labonta, as well as a strong defense with Hailie Mace and AD Franch. Houston’s star players will include Shea Groom, Nichelle Prince, Jane Campbell, and Ebony Salmon, a mid-season trade from Racing Louisville who has made a huge splash in Houston.
However, Houston lost Rachel Daly, one of their biggest goal-scorers, to Aston Villa, and it will be interesting to see what their playoffs look like without her. In the end, Kansas City Current, who have looked unstoppable for the second half of the season, are likely to edge out the Houston Dash.
Quarterfinal: San Diego Wave FC vs. Chicago Red Stars
San Diego Wave FC has already made history this season by becoming the first expansion team to make the playoffs, as well as shattering the attendance record in the NWSL at their September 17 game. San Diego FC has defied all expectations this season and proven themselves to be powerful contender, with an impressive roster consisting of American national team players Alex Morgan, Taylor Kornieck, Abby Dahlkemper, and Naomi Girma, as well as international players such as Kailen Sheridan, Jodie Taylor, and Sofia Jakobsson.
The Chicago Red Stars have always been a strong team, making the playoffs for the last seven seasons in a row, but just barely squeaked into the playoffs this year. Their biggest superstar will unquestionably be Mallory Pugh, a USWNT forward on the shortlist for MVP this season. Along with Danielle Colaprico, Vanessa DiBiernardo, and Alyssa Naeher, Pugh will play a huge role in trying to advance the Red Stars past the quarterfinals.
San Diego will be without Dahlkemper for the quarterfinal, and possibly Morgan and Kornieck. Their success may be put in jeopardy without these players, but even without them, they will likely beat out the sixth-seed Chicago Red Stars.
Semifinal: San Diego Wave FC vs. Portland Thorns
The Portland Thorns took second place in the regular season, giving them a bye through the quarterfinals to send them straight into the semifinals. Portland, like Chicago, has historically been a very strong team, making the playoffs in every season of the NWSL except one, and securing two championships and one NWSL Shield along the way. Players like Morgan Weaver, Christine Sinclair, and superstar forward Sophia Smith, as well as Bella Bixby, Becky Sauerbrunn, and Sam Coffey, will lead the way for the Portland Thorns as they take on San Diego FC.
Especially with the questionable absences and injuries with the San Diego Wave, Portland has a more complete roster that could take out San Diego, even with how strong they have been this regular season. It will be a tight game, but Portland is more likely to advance to the finals over San Diego.
Semifinal: OL Reign vs. Kansas City Current
Like Portland, OL Reign received a bye in the quarterfinals, and moved straight to the semis. They have been exceptional this season, losing only four games for a record of 11-4-7, and taking the NWSL Shield for the most points and first place in the regular season. Players like Megan Rapinoe, Jess Fishlock, Phallon Tulis-Joyce, Rose Lavelle, Alana Cook, and Bethany Balcer make up the star-studded roster that have propelled OL Reign to this amazing record and the semifinals. Coach Laura Harvey has also played a big role in OL Reign’s success.
With a great roster, a great seed, and the amount of offensive and defensive skill that OL Reign holds, they are likely to beat out Kansas City Current and advance to the finals.
Final: OL Reign vs. Portland Thorns
The Cascadia Rivalry between the OL Reign and the Portland Thorns is one of the biggest ones in the National Women’s Soccer League, and seeing it in the final would be historical and incredibly entertaining. The Portland Thorns and the OL Reign know each other well, and it will be a tight game, as there is never a guaranteed winner; out of the 31 games the two teams have played, the Thorns have won 12, the Reign have won 14, and 5 games have ended in a tie. If the NWSL Championship comes down to it, OL Reign, after an incredible season and winning the NWSL Shield, will likely beat the Portland Thorns to win the championship.
Tune in to the NWSL Playoffs to see who will win the championship on October 29!
This post may contain affiliate links. Meaning a commission is given should you decide to make a purchase through these links, at no cost to you. All products shown are researched and tested to give an accurate review for you.