The NWSL’s final regular season weekend was filled with drama, with the league’s Shield and last two playoff spots on the line.
The schedule for the final weekend of the regular season, however, featured matches spread across three days rather than a single decision day. San Diego Wave head coach Casey Stoney, whose team had already clinched a playoff spot, took issue with the scattered start times.
“I think it’s absolutely ridiculous that we’re kicking off over three days,” Stoney said. “Where is parity in that? That doesn’t happen in any other league in the world. You kick off on the same day at the same time for the last game of the season, so you’re really putting integrity into people’s hands in terms of results and stuff.
“I don’t agree with it. I think it has to change about this league,” she added. “Everyone should finish at the same time.”
All six NWSL matches over the weekend also aired on streaming services, and none on national television. A North Carolina Courage win over the Wave on Friday would have made Sunday’s regular-season finale irrelevant. Instead, the Courage and Wave played to a scoreless draw, giving the Red Stars a chance at a postseason berth and adding intrigue to the game Sunday night (though it was only available to stream on Paramount+).
OL Reign’s NWSL Shield-clinching win over the Orlando Pride streamed on Twitch at 10 p.m. ET on Saturday night, despite a record crowd of 10,746 fans packing Seattle’s Lumen Field for one of the most significant matches of the year.
A majority of the 137 games on the NWSL schedule this season have appeared on Paramount+ and Twitch, with CBS airing two regular-season fixtures and CBS Sports Network carrying 11 contests.
Last night Match 131 of 132 decided the Shield.Today, Match 132 decides the final playoff spot. Get your popcorn ready 🍿 pic.twitter.com/aqSXtF0fPm— National Women’s Soccer League (@NWSL) October 2, 2022
Last night Match 131 of 132 decided the Shield.Today, Match 132 decides the final playoff spot. Get your popcorn ready 🍿 pic.twitter.com/aqSXtF0fPm
Despite the criticism over the final weekend, the NWSL did fix a sticking point from last season’s schedule.
The 2021 NWSL Championship match originally was set for 9 a.m. local time at Portland’s Providence Park, drawing ire from players and fans alike. That match was ultimately moved to noon local time in Louisville, KY.
This time around, the league is giving the final primetime treatment. The 2022 NWSL Championship will air on CBS at 8 p.m. ET on Saturday, Oct. 29, from Audi Field in Washington, D.C, making it the first primetime final in league history.
“What I’ve heard from our players is that in order for them to deliver on their value proposition and to maximize their potential, they need first-class facilities and they need to feel like they’re being treated like the first-class athletes that they are, and for them, being on prime time is really important,” NWSL commissioner Jessica Berman told Just Women’s Sports in August.