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NWSL playoff race: Locks, contenders and on the outside looking in

Crystal Dunn and the Thorns are in position to clinch one of two quarterfinal byes in the NWSL playoffs. (Amy Kontras/ISI Photos/Getty Images)

In three short weeks, the 2022 NWSL regular season will be over.

Every team has played at least 17 of their 22 scheduled games. While two teams have already been eliminated from playoff contention, none have punched their tickets to the postseason, which begins with the quarterfinals on Oct. 15. The four teams remaining will meet in the semifinals on Oct. 22, a week before the championship game on Oct. 29 in Washington, D.C.

Six of the 10 teams still in contention will earn a spot in the playoffs, and the top two seeds will get a bye to the semis. Overall, the top and bottom six in the standings have remained consistent throughout the regular season. But the NWSL is notorious for chaos, so as always, anything can happen.

Here is where we think teams currently stand in the playoff race.

Bye clinchers

Portland Thorns FC

31 points, four games left (8-3-7)

The Thorns have been one of the NWSL’s most consistently dominant teams this year. A few uncharacteristic results at the end of August briefly knocked them off their rhythm. Now, they’re just one point behind the first-place Current in the race for the 2022 NWSL Shield. Boasting the best goal differential in the NWSL at +19 and the fewest losses, Portland’s strength and depth in all areas of the park could launch them back to the top by the end of September.

Kansas City Current

32 points, four games left (9-4-5)

The playoffs are inevitable for Kansas City, currently on a 13-game unbeaten streak and in first place on the NWSL table. Three of the Current’s four remaining opponents — the Chicago Red Stars, Washington Spirit and Racing Louisville — are in the bottom half of the league, putting Kansas City in a good position to close out the regular season on a strong note and win the Shield. They’ll need to win it outright since the Thorns and Wave, each just one point off the lead, have the tiebreaker advantage in goal differential — Portland’s +19 and San Diego’s +10 to Kansas City’s +2.


San Diego Wave FC

31 points, three games left (9-6-4)

Outside of a couple of weeks in the summer, the Wave have hung around the top of the standings for the entire season and are likely to be a top-three team by the end. Their fortress of a backline has helped goalkeeper Kailen Sheridan allow a league-low 15 goals this season. First-year head coach Casey Stoney has fostered an environment in which players aren’t faulted for making mistakes and can take risks to fulfill their potential. That includes star striker Alex Morgan, who leads the league with 15 goals in just 16 games.

OL Reign

28 points, four games left (7-4-7)

OL Reign have been holding onto a playoff spot for most of the season — while not a top-three team, they haven’t dropped below sixth. Their creative attack and roster depth make it hard to believe they’d fall outside of playoff contention at this point in the year. Their defense has posted six shutouts and allowed a league-low 18 goals. With 2021 Coach of the Year Laura Harvey in charge, the Reign will find a way.

Houston Dash

30 points, three games left (8-5-6)

The Dash are comfortably in fourth place with 30 points and should feel confident going into their final three matches of the regular season. In their previous meetings against their remaining opponents, the Dash defeated the Red Stars and OL Reign and tied the Spirit. Houston has been a goal-scoring machine all season, with 32 total, and continuously plays with the grit of a playoff-caliber team.

Sixth-spot contenders

Chicago Red Stars

27 points, four games left (7-5-6)

In the top half of the standings for most of the season, the Red Stars, on paper, are the most likely of the middle-of-the-pack teams to clinch a playoff spot. Angel City, with one fewer game played, is just one point behind Chicago and will be hungry to make the playoffs in the club’s first NWSL season. Turning the page on a shaky summer, the Red Stars have a tough four-game slate ahead of them, all against teams they didn’t beat in previous meetings.

Angel City FC

26 points, five games left (7-5-5)

No. 7 Angel City serves as a good example of just how tight this year’s playoff race is — the expansion club has two fewer wins and one more loss than the top-ranked Current. ACFC has had a tough time breaking out of the bottom six this year, but currently riding a five-game undefeated streak, they have momentum on their side as they try to finish the job.

North Carolina Courage

22 points, five games left (6-7-4)

With their transitional play and goal-scoring prowess, the Courage have the ability to shock everyone in the final weeks of the regular season. Their inconsistency on the scoresheet, however, makes it nearly impossible to predict which team will show up. The 2022 Challenge Cup champions either dominate games or they don’t. In a best-case scenario, their recent 5-1 win over Racing Louisville kickstarts a run to the postseason, for which they’ll need at least two more wins to be considered a serious contender.


Orlando Pride

21 points, four games left (5-7-6)

The Pride’s odds of making the postseason are becoming slimmer by the week. While a win over Louisville in their next match is highly possible, they have three challenging games from there against North Carolina, San Diego and OL Reign to close out regular season. To claim the No. 6 spot, Orlando needs at least two wins and a draw as well as other results to fall into place. That is easier said than done, since the Pride haven’t won more than two consecutive games this season.

Washington Spirit

16 points, four games left (2-6-10)

On the bright side, the Spirit just won their first match since May 1 in a thrilling overtime contest with San Diego. On the other side, the reigning NWSL champions hadn’t won since May 1, and now they need a miracle to continue playing into October. Outside of winning all four of their remaining games to finish the regular season with 28 points, they need a lot of help. The sixth-place Stars would have to lose their last four matches, and Angel City would only be allowed a tie in their final five games. North Carolina and Orlando would also have to falter in the last few weeks.

See you next year

Racing Louisville FC

14 points, four games left (2-8-8)

Racing Louisville is officially out of playoff contention. Even if they win their final four games, their 26 total points wouldn’t be enough to pass No. 6 Chicago (27 points) and No. 7 Angel City (26 points). For the second year in a row, the 2021 expansion team will finish near the bottom of the table.

NJ/NY Gotham FC

12 points, four games left (4-14-0)

With their 1-0 loss to the Current on Sunday, Gotham FC was officially eliminated from playoff contention, closing the chapter on a season that started with much promise and ended in a coaching change and disappointment. With 12 points and four games left, Gotham can only hope to end the regular season with 24 points before looking ahead to next year.

Jessa Braun is a contributing writer at Just Women’s Sports covering the NWSL and USWNT. Follow her on Twitter @jessabraun.

USWNT to face Costa Rica in final Olympic send-off

uswnt sophia smith and tierna davidson celebrate at shebeilves cup 2024
The USWNT will play their final pre-Olympic friendly against Costa Rica on July 16th. (Photo by Greg Bartram/ISI Photos/USSF/Getty Images for USSF)

U.S. Soccer announced Tuesday that the USWNT will play their last home game on July 16th in the lead-up to the 2024 Summer Olympic Games in Paris.

The 2024 Send-Off Match against Costa Rica will take place at Washington, DC’s Audi Field — home to both the Washington Spirit and DC United — at 7:30 p.m. ET on Tuesday, July 16th. The friendly rounds out a four-game Olympic run-up campaign under incoming head coach Emma Hayes’ side, with the last two set to feature the finalized 2024 U.S. Olympic Women’s Soccer Team roster.

Hayes will appear on the USWNT sideline for the first time this June, helming the team as they embark on a two-game series against Korea Republic hosted by Dick’s Sporting Goods Park in Commerce City, Colorado on June 1st followed by Allianz Stadium in St. Paul, Minnesota on June 4th. 

The team is then scheduled to meet a talented Mexico squad on July 13th at Gotham FC’s Red Bull Arena in Harrison, New Jersey, where the Olympic-bound lineup will attempt to rewrite February’s shocking 2-0 loss to El Tri Femenil in the group stages of this year’s Concacaf W Gold Cup. And while clear roster favorites have emerged from both of this year’s Gold Cup and SheBelives Cup rosters, a spate of recent and recurring injuries means making it to the Olympics is still largely anyone’s game.

Broadcast and streaming channels for the USWNT's final July 16th friendly at Audi Field include TNT, truTV, Universo, Max, and Peacock.

Caitlin Clark’s WNBA start to serve as 2024 Olympic tryout

Clark of the Indiana Fever poses for a photo with Lin Dunn and Christie Sides during her introductory press conference on April 17, 2024
The talented Fever rookie is still in the running for a ticket to this summer's Paris Olympics. (Photo by Ron Hoskins/NBAE via Getty Images)

The USA Basketball Women's National Team is still considering Caitlin Clark for a spot on the Paris Olympics squad, says selection committee chair Jennifer Rizzotti. 

On Monday, Rizzotti told the AP that the committee will be evaluating the college phenom’s Olympic prospects by keeping a close eye on her first few weeks of WNBA play with Indiana.

The move is somewhat unconventional. While Clark was invited to participate in the 14-player national team training camp held earlier this month — the last camp before Team USA’s roster drops — she was unable to attend due to it coinciding with Iowa’s trip to the NCAA Women’s Final Four.

Judging by the immense talent spread throughout the league in what might be their most hyped season to date, competition for a piece of the Olympic pie could be fiercer than ever before.

"You always want to introduce new players into the pool whether it's for now or the future," said Rizzotti. "We stick to our principles of talent, obviously, positional fit, loyalty and experience. It's got to be a combination of an entire body of work. It's still not going to be fair to some people."

Of course, Clark isn’t the first rookie the committee has made exceptions for. Coming off an exceptional college season that saw her averaging 19.4 points, 8.7 rebounds, and 4 assists per game for UConn, Breanna Stewart was tapped to represent the U.S. at the 2016 Olympics in Brazil less than two weeks after being drafted No. 1 overall by the Seattle Storm. Eight years prior, fellow No. 1 pick Candace Parker punched her ticket to the 2008 Games in Beijing just two weeks after making her first appearance for the L.A. Sparks.

In the lead-up to Paris’ Opening Ceremony on July 26th, USA Basketball Women’s National Team is scheduled to play a pair of exhibition games. They'll first go up against the WNBA's finest at the July 20th WNBA All-Star Game in Phoenix before facing Germany in London on July 23rd.

While an official roster announcement date hasn’t yet been issued, players won’t find out if they’ve made this year’s Olympic cut until at least June 1st.

WNBA teams make history with 2024 season ticket sell-outs

Arike Ogunbowale on the wnba court for the dallas wings
The Dallas Wings are now the third team to sell out their entire season ticket allotment in WNBA history. (Michael Gonzales/NBAE via Getty Images)

For the first time in history, three different WNBA teams have completely sold out of season ticket plans well before the league's May 14th kick-off.

Call it the Caitlin Clark effect, attribute it to this year’s tenacious rookie class, or look to the skyrocketing visibility of veteran players across the board. But no matter the cause, facts are facts: Tickets to the 2024 WNBA season are selling like never before. 

On Monday, the Dallas Wings became the third team to sell out of season ticket memberships in the league’s 27-year history. The announcement from Arlington came shortly after the Atlanta Dream issued their own season ticket sell-out statement, also on Monday, and almost seven weeks after the back-to-back WNBA Champion Las Vegas Aces made headlines by becoming the first-ever WNBA team to sell out their season ticket allotment.   

According to the Wings, season ticket memberships will fill nearly 40% of the 6,251 seats inside their home arena, College Park Center. The club also said that their overall ticket revenue has ballooned to the tune of 220% this year, spanning not just season tickets but also a 1,200% increase in single ticket sales. There’s currently a waitlist to become a Dallas season ticket holder, a status that comes with extra incentives like playoff presale access and discounts on additional single-game tickets. 

In Atlanta, season tickets aren't the only thing flying off the shelves. The Dream also announced that they broke their own record for single-game ticket sales during a recent limited presale campaign. Sunday was reportedly their most lucrative day, with five different games totally selling out Gateway Center Arena. Individual tickets for all upcoming matchups will hit the market this Thursday at 8 a.m., while a waitlist for season ticket memberships will open up next Tuesday at 10 a.m.

"Excitement around women's sports, particularly basketball, is at an all-time high and nowhere is that felt more than here in Atlanta," Dream president and COO Morgan Shaw Parker said in the team’s statement. "We’ve continued a record-setting growth trajectory over the past three years under new ownership — both on and off the court — and 2024 is shaping up to be our best season yet."

As of Tuesday, season ticket sales revenue for Caitlin Clark’s hotly anticipated Indiana Fever debut haven’t yet been announced by the club. But if these numbers are any indication — not to mention the explosive demand for Fever away games felt by teams around the country — it won’t be long before we see some scale-tipping figures coming out of Indianapolis.

Nelly Korda ties LPGA record with fifth-straight tournament win

Nelly Korda of the United States celebrates with the trophy after winning The Chevron Championship
Nelly Korda poses with her trophy after acing her fifth-straight tour title at The Chevron Championship on Sunday. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

25-year-old American pro golfer Nelly Korda secured her spot in LPGA history on Sunday, notching her fifth-straight title at this weekend's Chevron Championship in The Woodlands, Texas.

Ranked No. 1 in the world by Rolex Women’s World Golf Rankings, Korda joins Nancy Lopez (1978) and Annika Sörenstam (2005) as just the third LPGA player to rack up five consecutive tour wins. She is also the third No. 1-ranked player to capture The Chevron Championship victory since the rankings debuted in 2006, accompanied by Lorena Ochoa and Lydia Ko.

The Florida native shot three-under 69 in Sunday's final, besting Sweden's Maja Stark despite Stark's valiant come-from-behind attempt in the 18th. Korda finished with a four-day total of 13-under 275, celebrating her two-stroke win by cannonballing into Poppie's Pond, much to the crowd's delight. She left The Club at Carlton Woods with $1.2 million from an overall purse of $7.9 million.

It wasn't long ago that the two-time major champion's current winning streak seemed unimaginable. After maintaining her No. 1 position for 29 weeks, Korda underwent surgery to remove a blood clot from her left arm in 2022. She returned to the course not long after, but failed to win a single tournament in 2023 before seeing a surge in form during the first four months of 2024. As of today, she hasn't lost a tournament since January.

Korda will attempt a record sixth-straight win at next week's JM Eagle LA Championship at Wilshire Country Club in Los Angeles, where she'll vie for a cut of the $3.75 million purse.

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