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NWSL Challenge Cup Proceeds to Knockout Round

Soccer

The NWSL was the first North American pro team league to return to play. And now, they’re the first league to start their playoffs as they move on to the knockout round of the Challenge Cup. Thank goodness for women’s sports.

July 16, 2020
BRYAN BYERLY/ISI PHOTOS/GETTY IMAGES
BRYAN BYERLY/ISI PHOTOS/GETTY IMAGES

The GIST: The NWSL was the first North American pro team league to return to play. And now, they’re the first league to start their playoffs as they move on to the knockout round of the Challenge Cup. Thank goodness for women’s sports.

Who’s moving on?: Everyone! The eight-team knockout stage (aka lose-one-and-done playoffs) starting tomorrow originally would have seen one team not make the cut, but since the Orlando Pride pulled out of the tournament, all eight teams made it, effectively making the group stage all about seeding.

  • For the knockout round, teams are seeded based on their group stage results with the undefeated North Carolina Courage taking the number one spot. As the top team, they’ll now face the last place team, Portland Thorns FC (FC stands for Football Club), after they notched three draws (aka ties) and a loss in the group stage.

So who’s going to win?: As the only undefeated team, the Courage are definitely the favorites. Their star striker Lynn Williams leads the tournament in goals (this epic two-goal performance even won her Woman of the Match) and their goalkeeper Steph Labbé has been holding it down, too. This should be a piece of cake, but soccer is a game of moments, so you truly never know.

  • Looking at this weekend, the Washington Spirit should sail through their matchup against Sky Blue FC on Saturday, so our game of the weekend is the Houston Dash–Utah Royals FC tilt. The Royals may have the home crowd atmosphere, but the Dash have “something to prove.” Tune in tomorrow night at 10 p.m. ET.

Exciting. Any MLS news?: Great news from the Florida soccer bubble: no new COVID-19 cases were reported this week. The group stage is set to continue with no foreseeable match postponements or cancellations in sight and with no additional teams pulling out. Take a moment to knock on all the wood around you.