Update, Apr 28: After initially being deemed unavailable due to hosting the day-long Project Play Summit, event organizers, team and league staff were able to make adjustments in order to move the NWSL Challenge Cup semifinal game between OL Reign and the Washington Spirit to Audi Field. The game remains scheduled to kick off at 5 PM PT and will air on CBS Sports Network in the US and on Twitch internationally.
“I want to thank everyone who worked hard to get this playoff match to Audi Field,” said NWSL Commissioner Jessica Berman in a league release. “The spirit of partnership exhibited to make this work is exactly the kind of problem solving that makes me proud to work in the sports industry. This game between two spectacular teams will no doubt be one of the highlights of what has already been an exciting Challenge Cup and we’re pleased to have secured a world-class venue to showcase some of the greatest soccer players in the world.”
Original story: The group stage of the 2022 NWSL Challenge Cup concluded Sunday night with Angel City earning their first win as a club, defeating the Portland Thorns by a score of 1-0. That result meant that the Washington Spirit qualified for the Challenge Cup semifinals as the best-ranked second place team, so they will face OL Reign in a semifinal game on Wednesday, May 4 at 5 PM PT at Segra Field in Leesburg, Virginia. The other semifinal game will see the North Carolina Courage visit the Kansas City Current.
OL Reign earned the right to host a semifinal as the top-ranked team from the group stage, but Lumen Field was unavailable on May 4 due to hosting the second leg of the Concacaf Champions League Final between the Seattle Sounders and Pumas UNAM that evening. The Reign looked into a doubleheader at Lumen Field on that day, but that was not an option due to the high-profile nature of the CCL Final and the amount of signage and set-up that goes into a match of this magnitude. A shared matchday would be logistically impossible.
OL Reign confirmed to Ride of the Valkyries that as soon as they realized they may have a home semifinal — and a conflict on May 4 — “the club started to search for solutions to retain their potential home-field advantage, which ranged from moving the date of the game to finding an alternate venue. OL Reign dedicated countless hours to solving this issue, but no mutually agreeable solutions have been found with the league.”
The club did not share a list of venues that were considered, but it’s highly likely that no other local venues were available on short notice which met league requirements, and because the game cannot be rescheduled due to fixture congestion, league policy dictated that the lower-seeded team should instead host.
Fortuitously, the Reign travel to Washington, DC, to play the Spirit at Audi Field in their first regular-season match of the year on Sunday, May 1, meaning they can stay in the region between that game and the semifinal game on Wednesday. Unfortunately, Audi Field is also unavailable on May 4 due to the day-long Project Play Summit, which ironically includes a keynote panel with new NWSL Commissioner Jessica Berman and USSF President Cindy Parlow Cone. Thus, Segra Field, which continues to serve as an occasional home field for the Spirit, was the only remaining option for the game.
Should the Reign win their semifinal game, they will host the NWSL Challenge Cup final at Lumen Field on Saturday, May 7 at 10 AM PT, and their regular-season home opener against Louisville on May 8 would be rescheduled to a later date. The early kickoff is due to the league scheduling around CBS broadcast availability. To promote attendance on short notice, tickets for the final would be priced at $15 for the entire stadium, aside from premium seats.