One year ago, OL Reign forward Bethany Balcer put the NWSL on blast over Challenge Cup scheduling issues. One year later, she’s back at it.
The Seattle-based club once again has clinched the top seed heading into the tournament semifinals. But if OL Reign advance to the final, they would not be able to host, as the championship match is locked into a 12:30 p.m. ET start time on CBS — so 9:30 a.m. local time in Seattle.
Rather than force players into an early wake-up call, the NWSL instead would ask OL Reign to be the visiting team for the final, Balcer wrote Wednesday in her Instagram Story. OL Reign will host Racing Louisville at 10 p.m. ET Wednesday, then the winner will advance to face either the Kansas City Current or the North Carolina Courage in the championship.
“Screw CBS and put that game on YouTube for all I care,” Balcer wrote. “No wonder we struggle to get the exposure and views we want…because what the league is giving us is SHIT.”
As the outspoken 26-year-old star pointed out, such scheduling has been a recurring issue for the league. In the 2021 Challenge Cup, the Portland Thorns hosted the final at 10 a.m. local time. Then in the 2021 NWSL playoffs, the championship was scheduled for a 9 a.m. PT kickoff at Portland’s Providence Park, but the league moved the match to Lynn Family Stadium in Louisville after players voiced their discontent.
In the 2022 Challenge Cup, No. 1 seed OL Reign had to travel to the No. 4 seed Washington Spirit’s home stadium for the semifinal round due to scheduling conflicts at their own home field. And even if they had advanced to the final, the start time would have left them unable to host.
“It BLOWS my mind that we have had the Challenge Cup for three years and we still are making the same mistakes,” Balcer wrote Wednesday.
Perhaps due to these issues, the NWSL reportedly will not stage the Challenge Cup as a tournament in 2024.
“The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results… well our league is looking pretty insane to me,” Balcer wrote. “Put the game on at 7 p.m. local time for whoever is the top seed. If that is too difficult, you aren’t in the right job and you don’t care about growing the women’s game.”