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Casey Stoney says NWSL’s final day schedule needs to change

Casey Stoney's San Diego Wave enter the NWSL playoffs as the No. 3 seed. (Ray Acevedo/USA TODAY Sports)

The NWSL’s final regular season weekend was filled with drama, with the league’s Shield and last two playoff spots on the line.

All six NWSL matches, however, aired on streaming services, and none on national television.

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.

The schedule for the final weekend of the regular season also featured matches spread across three days, rather than a single decision day.

A North Carolina Courage win over the San Diego Wave on Friday would have made Sunday’s match 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 regular-season finale. Chicago hosts Angel City FC at 6 p.m. ET on Paramount+.

On Friday, Wave coach Casey Stoney spoke out against the staggered start times for the league’s final weekend of competition.

“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.”

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.

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.