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NWSL Decision Day: Eight Teams, Four Play-off Spots And One Exciting Day

Decision Day is on the horizon as eight National Women’s Soccer League teams gear up to fight for one of the four remaining spots in the Play-Offs.

In an exciting twist, all games are set to kick-off simultaneously this Sunday, causing suspense as no one will know their Play-Off destiny until the last whistle blows.

Building on the anticipation from last week’s hypothetical scenarios, we now explore the potential results and their significance for each team.

Orlando Pride vs Houston Dash

Orlando Pride, playing at home this Sunday, find themselves just one point away from securing a Play-Off spot.

While a victory against the Houston Dash would undoubtedly be a significant step, it doesn’t guarantee their Play-Off berth and their fate hinges on the outcomes of other matches.

Should the Pride emerge victorious, they must also pin their hopes on various scenarios. They must either hope for New York Gotham to stumble or rely on OL Reign and Angel City losing or settling for a draw. Alternatively, they need a team ahead of them to notch a draw and for them to make up the goal difference.

Houston Dash face a steeper uphill climb. Even if they secure a win, they still depend on several other factors falling into place. In addition to their victory, they would need OL Reign to suffer a loss while improving their own goal differential. Furthermore, they must rely on Angel City and Louisville to experience losses or draws in their respective matches.

The last time the two played each other, Houston clinched a 2-0 win at home in June. 

Gotham FC vs KC Current

As Gotham commemorates the retirement of ex-USWNT star Ali Krieger on their home turf, they’ll also be fiercely battling for one last push into the Play-Offs. If they secure a victory, they’re one of the four teams not dependent on other game results to secure their Play-Off spot.

KC Current’s Play-Off hopes were dashed early, becoming the first team to be eliminated from contention.

A win for them would improve their standings and possibly eliminate Gotham from Play-Off contention, although it wouldn’t be sufficient for them to secure a playoff spot themselves. Last week, they effectively ended the Chicago Red Stars’ Play-Off aspirations with a 6-3 home victory.

In the event of a tie between the two teams, Gotham would rely on the outcomes of other teams’ matches to extend their season.

The last time they faced each other, KC defeated Gotham 2-0 at home, courtesy of two goals scored by Débora Cristiane de Oliveira.

HARRISON, NEW JERSEY – AUGUST 27: Ali Krieger #11 of NJ/NY Gotham FC wears a taped armband that says Contigo Jenni which translates to With Jenni in support for Jennifer Hermoso of the Spanish National Team, before the National Women’s Soccer League match between NJ/NY Gotham FC and the Racing Louisville FC at Red Bull Arena on August 27, 2023 in Harrison, New Jersey. Luis Rubiales, president of Spain’s soccer federation is under investigation after he forcibly kissed the player Jennifer Hermoso after Spain’s Women’s World Cup victory(Photo by Ira L. Black – Corbis/Getty Images)
San Diego Wave vs Racing Louisville FC

San Diego Wave is one of the two teams already assured of their place in the final four, granting them direct entry to the semi-finals. A triumph at their home ground against Racing Louisville offers them a shot at claiming the NWSL Shield, an annual accolade presented to the NWSL team with the best regular-season record.

For Louisville, clinching a spot in the finals demands an uphill battle. Even if they secure a win, they must depend on any of these scenarios: Gotham loss, Washington Spirit loss, OL Reign loss or draw, Angel City loss or draw and a North Carolina Courage loss with a huge makeup of goal differential.

The most recent encounter between San Diego and Louisville transpired in June, culminating in a goalless draw during the home game for Louisville.

Washington Spirit vs North Carolina Courage

Washington Spirit and NC Courage, both currently situated in the top six, must secure a win to lock in a Play-Off spot. If they settle for a tie, it will necessitate them relying on the outcomes of other games and potentially hinging on goal differential.

Over the past year, they have encountered each other on three distinct occasions, with two of these clashes occurring during the NWSL Challenge Cup, coinciding with the FIFA World Cup. In their most recent face-off, North Carolina achieved a 6-0 victory over Washington at home during the Challenge Cup in late July.

Chicago Red Stars vs OL Reign

Chicago Red Stars have been mathematically eliminated from Play-Off contention but this setback doesn’t deter them from striving to climb the standings and potentially ruining OL Reign’s chances.

On the other hand, OL Reign merely require a road victory to secure one of the four remaining Play-Off spots. A tie would leave them in a position to await and depend on other match outcomes.

Reign dominated Chicago at home in their most recent encounter this past April, claiming a convincing 5-2 victory.

Angel City vs Portland Thorns

Sitting just one point away from securing a Play-Off spot, Angel City set their sights on defeating the current first-place team, Portland Thorns.

A victory at home would put them in contention, requiring any two of the following outcomes: a loss or draw for Gotham with an improvement in goal differential, a loss or draw for OL Reign, a loss or draw for the Pride, a Pride victory with an improvement in goal differential or a draw between the Courage and Spirit, outperforming the Spirit in goal differential.

The Portland Thorns, the other of the two teams to have already secured their place in the final four and a direct ticket to the semi-finals, aim for a win that would ensure the NWSL Shield, adding to their collection. 

In the past year, these two teams have faced each other three times, with two encounters occurring during the NWSL Challenge Cup. In their most recent clash, Angel City emerged victorious with a 2-1 win at home, driven by two goals from Savannah McCaskill.

DubSports is set to cover the Angel City vs Portland Thorns match.

With eight teams vying for the remaining four coveted spots, Decision Day in the NWSL promises to be a historical and intense event as the competition reaches a critical juncture.

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