NWSL Schedule Announced
As the Portland Thorns dominate this year’s Challenge Cup in a tantalizing preview to league play, the NWSL has confirmed the format and dates for the 2021 season. Each of the NWSL’s ten teams will again play in a dozen home and away contests, making a twenty-four-game regular season that will conclude at the end of October. Some early season highlights include the season opener for the newly minted NY/NJ Gotham FC hosting Houston Dash in their new home, Red Bull Arena, as well as that stacked Portland Thorn squad going toe-to-toe with their Pacific Northwest rivals, OL Reign. It’s notable that the season will not pause for the Olympics, so the depth of elite teams will be sorely tested when their team USA and international stars are off in Japan.
Two New Teams in the Mix
That ten team NWSL roster features two new squads, Racing Louisville FC and Kansas City NWSL. Racing Louisville FC features a roster with a good handful of international talents, including veteran Japanese striker Yuki Nagasato, who was the first Japanese woman to play for the first team on a professional men’s squad back in Japan. Kansas City NWSL has a few imports as well, featuring Scottish captain, defender Rachel Corsie as well as three members of the top-ten ranked Canadian national team. Expansion teams always face a tough adjustment period, and both currently rank at the bottom of their brackets in the current Challenge Cup standings.
New NWSL Playoff Format
The postseason will feature an expanded format for 2021, with a six-team playoff and first round byes for the two top-seeded sides. The playoffs will run for the first three weeks of November, with the NWSL Champion being crowned on November 20th. It’s a playoff expansion that makes a lot of sense, especially in a year that will be somewhat unusual because of the Olympic absences right in the middle of the season. Team USA athletes are the core of all of the NWSL’s best teams, so expect to see younger stars emerge on the league’s best sides down the stretch. The performance of those younger players will more than likely determine who makes the final six.