NWSL playoffs guide: How to watch, who to keep an eye on, and who could win in D.C.

The 2022 NWSL regular season had the best ending we’ve seen in the league’s decade, with the Shield and final playoff berth being decided during the final weekend of promotions. But despite the potential chaos that awaits us in this weekend’s single-elimination quarterfinals games, excitement for the postseason has been overshadowed by the release of the Yates report earlier this month; The ongoing fallout consumed the international break.

Still, there are games to play – and players to support, however you choose – and the storylines leading into the playoffs remain just as compelling as they were a few weeks ago. OL Reign won the NWSL Shield by a single point over the Portland Thorns and both sides will sit out this week to see who they host in the semifinals.

We’re kicking off the post-season in two markets that have never been held before. Houston already knows they will set a new attendance record when the Dash hosts the Kansas City Current, with over 14,000 tickets sold so far and a few days to go. On the West Coast, expansion team San Diego Wave FC have earned the right to host and face off against the Chicago Red Stars.

In short, the landscape for this year’s NWSL Playoffs is unlike anything we’ve ever seen.

Here is The Athletics 2021 Guide to First Round, Semifinals and Championship Match. Here are ways to follow our playoff coverage, as well as broadcast and streaming schedules and team previews – as well as some thoughts on playing these games through the much larger discussion (and still ongoing investigation) of abuse in the NWSL.

To accompany

On the athlete

You can Follow the NWSL as a league So you don’t miss any stories and can add your preferred team(s) directly or simply follow me and steph for our stories. We’re both heading to DC for the championship, so we’ll be covering the last game of the year extensively while we’re there.

There’s also the podcast! Full Time with Meg Linehan is a weekly show about women’s football. Listen & subscribe Apple Podcasts, Spotifyon the athleteor wherever you hear.

On twitter

Hashtags to follow: #NWSLPlayoffs and #NWSLChampionship – although neither seem to have been set up with the nice little hashflags yet. When in doubt, #NWSL always works.

Here is a pre-made list for your playoff experience, designed to ensure you don’t miss out on any of the teams or a single highlight.

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Follow our work and live match coverage:

@TheAthleticSCCR

Mega: @itsmeglinehan

steph: @Thrake

On TV & Stream

There’s bound to be trouble here – three of the four playoff games here in the US are only on CBS Sports Network (without being mirrored on Paramount+).

The good news: The championship game will be wireless on CBS, streamed on Paramount+ and in prime time this year thanks League sponsor Ally steps in To make it possible.

Here is the schedule:

2022 NWSL Playoff Schedule

Round date time (ET) home one way like watching

QF

16 Oct

17 o’clock

Houston Dash

KC current

Outstanding+

QF

16 Oct

22 O `clock

San Diego wave

Chicago Red Stars

CBSSN

SF

23 Oct

17 o’clock

Portland thorns

open (SD/CHI)

CBSSN

SF

23 Oct

19:30 o’clock

OL reign

open (HOU/KC)

CBSSN

final

29 Oct

8 p.m

open

open

CBS/Paramount+

All games are streamed on Twitch outside of the US.

Impact of the Yates Report

We don’t really know what these upcoming game days will be like. The first round this coming weekend will certainly have fans bringing in placards or singing in support of the players, but at this point all eyes must be on Portland as they host a semi-final game on Oct. 23. It’s the only game that will be played at Providence Park this fall by either the Thorns or the Timbers, who completely missed the MLS playoffs this year.

Thorn’s goalkeeper wrote Bella Bixby that she understood that some people might not play in the playoff games after the Yates report.

“That’s what I offer you from a player’s perspective – whether you support just the Thorns, any other team in the league or women’s football around the world, we need you now more than ever,” she wrote. “When we see our fans filling the stadium, we know they carry this heavy burden WITH us. Ultimately, we have no choice but to take the realities with us onto the field, but you may have a choice about being there to take them with us.”

We’ll have complicated conversations about the NWSL as a whole even as Houston sets its attendance record and the Wave hosts a playoff match in their first season. Every fan has to decide for themselves whether they want to support their club by buying a ticket. At the same time, there might not be a better time to put more pressure on the NWSL and its clubs to get things right than big, shiny playoff games on national TV.

team preview

OL reign

How they got here: Great expectations are coming this season, but for a while the talk of dominance was mostly about why they weren’t working properly – especially when it came to scoring goals. Megan Rapinoe has held out for the last few months of the season to step up and snag some.

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Player to watch: This list could be long for this team, and Steph and I have struggled to narrow down a single MVP candidate from Reign. However, my money is still on Sofia Huerta; It attacks in wide areas and provides the top line with pennies.

Why they could win everything: Just look at the list. There are still three veterans at the heart of this team: Rapinoe, Lu Barnes and Jess Fishlock, who have all endured shield runs and championship heartbreaks, but they all said this year felt different.

And why they don’t: The goals must come. When they’re not clinical, their defense is good – but good enough to fend off two other playoff-caliber teams?

Portland Thorns FC

How they got here: I still think Portland has been kind of underrated all season despite always being at the top of the chart. The number of shots on goal has been elitist across the board this season.

Player to watch: Sophia Smith, no question. Playing as number 9 for the Thorns, she has shown just how many different ways she can score.

Why they could win everything: Did I mention their ability to score goals? They finished with 49, the most in the league, and a league-best goal difference of plus 25 (12 more than the two teams in 2nd place). Furious! Don’t be surprised if they suddenly lose three points in the semifinals to the unsuspecting team they’re facing. Portland has the ability to shift gears.

And why they don’t: You now have to worry about the mental state of the Thorns players. It was context that could not be ignored for USWNT games during the international break and Portland are one of the teams that could be hit hardest this month given the organizations turmoil following the Yates report and now over a scandal year.

San Diego wave

How they got here: As the storybook extension team rolls into the postseason, The Wave may not have been as consistent as the other West Coast teams, but they were impressive in their first year under Casey Stoney.

Player to watch: I know you thought I’d say Alex Morgan, but the real answer here is goaltender Kailen Sheridan. She is one of – if not the – best goalkeeper in the league. She is more than capable of finding a stop that changes the course of a game.

Why they could win everything: Stoney has been methodical in their approach and adaptation to the NWSL’s playstyle, and between Morgan and Taylor Kornieck they have the ability to strike quickly.

And why they don’t: The Wave has a number of injury issues in the postseason. Morgan and Kornieck missed the international break and centre-back Abby Dahlkemper has not been able to take a break this season. Will these key elements be 100 percent present? open.

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Houston Dash

How they got here: Houston has 10 wins this season, but like every other team in the postseason this year, they could be turned upside down. Still, they had some big victories, including the road to Providence Park and a 2-0 win over the Thorns.

Player to watch: María Sánchez is just pure joy on the ball. Her return to the NWSL is absolutely one of the brightest spots for Houston.

Why they could win everything: Ebony Salmon was also a revelation for the team, and the front office were aggressive to shore up the roster for a playoff run. The signing of Gotham defender Caprice Dydasco was another smart move.

And why they don’t: I just mentioned the 2-0 win in Portland, but the team followed that up with a 4-0 drubbing at home against the Thorns. If they feel the pressure of a first home playoff game, that advantage and momentum could be wiped out.

Kansas City Stream

How they got here: The Current had a tremendous turnaround from last season’s bottom finish despite some serious squad injuries. Lo’eau LaBonta led that roster, not only on the field, but in celebration and joy. These intangible values ​​have played a massive role in electricity.

Player to watch: This was Claire Lavogez’s first NWSL goal. Give us more of these in the postseason, thanks.

Why they could win everything: KC is a team that excels at in-game customization. Head Coach Matt Potter dances around endlessly around tactics, but he’s equipped players with a system they know well enough to be able to change it up on the fly.

And why they don’t: Defensive midfielder Desiree Scott’s red card in the final game of the regular season was a huge and very unnecessary concern that will make it difficult for the Current to progress.

Chicago Red Stars

How they got here: It wasn’t until the very last day of the season, but the Red Stars booked their annual trip into the postseason with a home win over Angel City. This season was an absolute must grindalthough.

Player to watch: Mal Pugh, obviously. It’s more than just scoring goals, she’s also played with six assists this season.

Why they could win everything: The Red Stars still have a way of getting other teams to play their game. If they can set the pace and unleash Mal Pugh, it’s on to a trophy lift in DC

And why they don’t: That backline hangs by a single thread, and like Portland, Chicago is in one of the tougher situations right now on the Yates report.

(Photo: Stephen Brashear-USA TODAY Sports)

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