2023 NWSL playoffs preview

October 22, 2023
This week’s edition is the best yet because the NWSL playoffs have officially started.
Sports NewsSoccer

🏆 How it works

After battling through the 22-game regular season, six of the NWSL’s 12 teams snagged a playoff spot following the league’s first-ever Decision Day, which more than lived up to the hype.

The three-week postseason consists of three single-elimination rounds, culminating in the championship game in San Diego on Saturday, November 11th. Queens will be crowned.

  • The top two seeds, the No. 1 San Diego Wave and No. 2 Portland Thorns FC, received byes through the first round and will sit tight until the semifinals on Sunday, November 5th.
  • Round one kicked off on Friday with No. 4 OL Reign topping No. 5 Angel City FC 1–0 to book a date with the Wave, while the winner of today’s No. 3 North Carolina Courage vs. No. 6 Gotham FC match will face the Thorns.

📝 The quarter-finals


As mentioned, the quarter-finals kicked off Friday when OL Reign beat Angel City FC 1–0 in a physical affair, thanks to a clutch 87th minute goal from forward Veronica Latsko. 

  • USWNT icon Megan Rapinoe, who played 115 regular-season games for the Reign, announced her retirement ahead of the FIFA Women’s World Cup (WWC) this summer. Will her career end on November 5th against the Wave or will her farewell tour march on?

This brings us to today, where the North Carolina Courage will face off against Gotham at 7 p.m. ET. The two teams played each other four times this year, resulting in two close wins for the Bats and two draws. 

  • The Courage have won back-to-back Challenge Cups, but after missing the playoffs for the first time in franchise history last year, they’ll be looking to prove they can show out in the postseason as well.
  • As for this year’s Dark Knight horse, Gotham, they finished dead last in the 2022 season but have since completely turned things around, securing this year’s final playoff spot. Led by midfielder Kristie Mewis and Beyoncé stan Ali Krieger, this team could go on a Cinderella run.

⬆️ The automatic byes


No. 1 San Diego Wave: Superstar Alex Morgan and No. 1–seed San Diego are cruising like a tidal wave after winning the NWSL Shield in historic fashion. But do the Wave have what it takes to win a championship in just their second season of existence?

No. 2 Portland Thorns: They may not have Taylor Swift on their side, but the reigning champs do have 2023 NWSL Golden Boot winner Sophia Smith and the all-time leading international goal scorer Christine Sinclair (who announced her retirement from international play on Friday).

  • Notably, the Thorns could become the first NWSL club to win four titles. No pressure.

📺 How to watch


It’s no secret that interest in women’s soccer is on the rise with viewership records being regularly broken: See Megan Rapinoe’s last regular-season home game, the 2023 WWC, last year’s NWSL championship, and the entire 2022 NWSL season.

And you can help keep the good times rolling by watching tonight’s 7 p.m. ET Courage vs. Gotham quarter-final on the CBS Sports Network in the U.S. and TSN 2 in Canada. Baby, let the games begin.