We’re down to the final weekend of the NWSL regular season, and although 4 of 6 playoff spots have finally been claimed, only last-place Gotham FC is locked into their position in the table, meaning there’s still everything to play for. OL Reign’s victory over Houston ensured them of a top-4 finish and a home playoff game, but all six games this weekend have implications for final seeding and who gets a top-2 finish and coveted bye in the first round of the playoffs.
All eyes in Seattle will be on the Gotham-Thorns game on Saturday afternoon in New Jersey — a Thorns win would secure back-to-back NWSL Shields for the Portland side, while any points dropped would open a window of opportunity for the Reign to claim their third Shield. 538’s prediction model gives roughly 24% odds of that happening.
OL Reign didn’t get the assist they were hoping for this weekend from the Chicago Red Stars, who went to Portland desperate for a win to boost their own playoff hopes, but came out on the wrong side of a 3-0 drubbing and picked up two red cards in the process. But the Orlando Pride did the Reign a huge favor by drawing 2-2 at home to San Diego on Sunday evening, which gives the Reign control over their own destiny for a top-2 finish. That would at least secure a first-round bye for the Reign.
Here are the games this weekend that are important for OL Reign’s playoff seeding, in order of kickoff time (plus a handy cheat sheet at the end). As a reminder, goal differential is the first tiebreaker in the NWSL, followed by total wins and goals scored.
Friday, Sept. 30
7 PM PT: San Diego Wave (35 points, +11 GD) host the North Carolina Courage (31 points, +13 GD). The Courage need a victory to ensure themselves a playoff spot, and aside from their 2-1 loss to the Reign last Saturday, they’ve been on a hot streak. If the Wave fail to win this match, OL Reign are ensured of finishing ahead of them in the final standings.
Saturday, Oct. 1
3 PM PT: Gotham FC (12 points, -30 GD) hosts the Portland Thorns (38 points, +25 GD). This one is fairly straightforward — a Thorns victory will give them the NWSL Shield, while a draw or loss could see Portland fall as far as fourth depending on other results. If the Thorns fail to win this game, a Reign win later in the day would earn them the Shield.
4:30 PM PT: Racing Louisville (20 points, -13 GD) hosts the KC Current (36 points, +1 GD). Kansas City is presently in third, one point behind the Reign and one point ahead of San Diego. The same scenarios that held for the Wave hold true for the Current — if Kansas City fails to win this match, OL Reign will finish ahead of them in the final standings (with the exception of one extremely wild scenario where KC draws Racing and the Reign lose to Orlando by at least 9 goals.)
7 PM PT: OL Reign (37 points, +10 GD) host the Orlando Pride (22 points, -20 GD). The Reign are fortunate that all of the other games which could have an impact on their table position should be finished prior to head coach Laura Harvey needing to submit her lineup sheet on Saturday. If Kansas City and San Diego both fail to win, the Reign are ensured a top-2 finish regardless of their result in this match. If Portland loses to Gotham and the Reign draw, Portland would claim the Shield due to their significantly better goal differential, unless they somehow lose by at least 16 goals.
The other two games on the weekend (Houston at Washington, Sat. at 4 PM PT, and Angel City at Chicago, Sun. at 3 PM PT) also have potential implications for playoff seeding, but neither will directly affect OL Reign. Houston (33 points, +7 GD) currently sits in fifth place and needs only a point to secure a playoff spot, while Chicago (30 points, +4 GD) and Angel City (29 points, -2 GD) are in seventh and eighth place, respectively, and each needs a win and some help to jump either the Courage or Dash.
In the first round of the NWSL playoffs, which will take place on the weekend of Oct. 15-16, 3rd hosts 6th and 4th hosts 5th. The winners of those two games face the top two seeds in the semifinals the following weekend, and the NWSL Championship takes place at Audi Field in Washington, DC, on Saturday, Oct. 29.
OL REIGN FINISH FIRST IF:
- Reign win + Portland draw/loss
OL REIGN FINISH SECOND IF:
- Reign win + Portland win
- Reign draw/loss + KC draw/loss + SD draw/loss
OL REIGN FINISH THIRD IF:
- Reign draw/loss + KC win + SD draw/loss
- Reign draw/loss + SD win + KC draw/loss
OL REIGN FINISH FOURTH IF:
- Reign draw/loss + KC win + SD win