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NWSL Golden Boot race: Alex Morgan leads heading into final weekend

(Kelvin Kuo/USA TODAY Sports)

The final weekend of the NWSL regular season is here, and with it comes high stakes — and not just in the races the playoffs and the NWSL Shield.

The league’s Golden Boot remains up for grabs.

Whoever wins already is assured to have more goals than last year’s winner. Washington Spirit forward Ashley Hatch claimed the 2021 prize with 10 goals. This year, four players have bested that number heading into the last weekend, and another has matched it.

Hatch sits tied for sixth this time around with nine goals on the season, alongside Houston Dash forward Ebony Salmon.

Ahead of them are Chicago Red Stars forward Mallory Pugh (10) in fifth, North Carolina Courage rookie forward Diana Ordóñez (11) in fourth and Portland Thorns forward Sophia Smith (12) and North Carolina Courage forward Debinha (12) tied in second.

San Diego Wave striker Alex Morgan (15) leads the pack.

While Morgan sits atop the stat sheet, a knee injury has kept her off the USWNT roster for next week’s friendlies. She played in San Diego’s last contest, but her status remains unknown Friday’s match. Her most recent goals came in the form of a brace on Sept. 10.

Meanwhile, Debinha has been on a tear of late, scoring five goals in the last two games – including a hat trick in North Carolina’s win over NJ/NY Gotham FC last Saturday.

Friday night could prove the decider, as Morgan and the Wave will take on Debinha and the Courage in San Diego. In addition to the individual stakes, the Courage need the win in order to have a shot at the playoffs, while the Wave will be looking to bolster their case for a first-round bye.

Like Debinha, Smith would need at least a hat trick to tie Morgan, and her goal-scoring of late has not been as consistent as it was to begin the season. She has just one goal in Portland’s last five, while she had eight in the five games before that.

The final weekend of NWSL regular season action kicks off at 10 p.m. ET Friday.