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The NWSL Playoffs are just over the horizon

We “think” we know who will make it but every matchday serves up different iterations of the final six teams

NWSL: North Carolina Courage at Kansas City Current Amy Kontras-USA TODAY Sports

In the NWSL, the “big show” is the playoffs and ultimately the NWSL Championship. While in previous years, you could all but guarantee which four teams would be in the playoffs by the time we got to this stage of the season, this year, things are remarkably different. We have six teams sitting in the playoff spots right now but those just below them could easily make a run and overtake some of those teams when all is said and done.

Let’s examine the current playoff picture:


Portland Thorns FC (1), OL Reign FC (2), Kansas City Current (3), San Diego Wave FC (4).

The Portland Thorns won against Racing Louisville in comprehensive fashion to not only put themselves firmly in the NWSL Shield but also booked their spot in the playoffs. As both the Chicago Red Stars and/or Angel City can’t get enough points with the games left to overtake the Thorns (both teams play each other on the final day of the regular season), Portland officially can count themselves as a playoff team this season.

OL Reign and KC Current booked their spots in the playoffs with wins against the Houston Dash and the Washington Spirit, respectively. Kansas City had an easier time of it against the Spirit while OL Reign had to tough it out in Houston but they got the win nonetheless.

San Diego Wave were minutes away from being dragged into the playoff chase as they were 2-0 down to the Orlando Pride with roughly 15 minutes to go. They fought back and gained a 2-2 draw but injuries to Abby Dahlkemper and Taylor Kornieck will make this draw, and their first ever appearance in the playoffs, slightly less celebratory for them until they know the extent of those injuries.

In (Potentially)

Houston Dash (5), NC Courage (6).

The Dash succumbed to a loss against OL Reign which dropped them further down the table. I still expect the Dash to make the playoffs but their ability to host a playoff game is now out of their hands.

The Courage continue to storm up the table and know that their playoff hopes are in their own hands. They have a tough final game in the regular season but with the form they’re in now, I wouldn’t bet against them getting the necessary three points to qualify for the playoffs.

In The Hunt

Chicago Red Stars (7) and Angel City FC (8).

The Red Stars have been in freefall and against the Thorns, the pressure of making the playoffs showed. After going down by one goal early in the second half, they then lost all composure and had two players sent off. Those two players (Bianca St-Georges and Zoe Morse) are key defensive figures and will now miss the win or go home game they have on the final day of the regular season. The Red Stars will also need to hope that the Courage drop all three points in their final game as well to be able to sneak into the playoffs. It’s a tall ask but many of the Red Stars fans will be hoping that something falls their way this season.

Angel City succumbed to a shock loss at home against Racing Louisville. That loss has taken the playoffs out of their hands and they will now have to not only beat the Red Stars next weekend, but hope that rivals San Diego put on a show against the Courage. After being so close to also making the playoffs first time as an expansion team like San Diego, this past weekend’s loss will be a bitter one to swallow. They will need a miracle now to make the playoffs.


Orlando Pride (9), Racing Louisville (10), Washington Spirit (11) and NJ/NY Gotham FC (12).

The Pride and Racing Louisville pulled off huge performances to get results this weekend. Despite losing their lead late, Orlando shows glimpses of a team there and there will be plenty of optimism for them going into next season. The same applied for Louisville who travelled to a hostile environment in Los Angeles and put in a great performance against Angel City. Their seasons may be over in terms of making the playoffs but both Orlando and Louisville can be proud of what they showed this past weekend overall.

The Washington Spirit seemed to have found some form again recently but they went down with barely a whimper against Kansas City on Sunday night. The season has finally taken it’s toll on Washington and seemed like any fight they had found recently just disappeared after the Current’s first goal. Alberto Montoya won’t be around after the season ends so who will be leading them going forward is a huge question to be answered in the off season, as well as the futures of a lot of key players in their ranks who’s contracts are almost up.

Gotham’s abysmal season continues to roll on and with nothing left to play for, they were torn apart by the Courage during the weekend. Like the Spirit, there’s a lot of questions about this team going into next season, including who will take over from Hue Menzies once the season ends. I’m sure anyone involved with the team would just like the season to end now.

* As we get closer the playoffs, we’ll be updating this piece regularly

Updated on September 26, 2022