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NWSL stars: 2023 playoff race is ‘most intense of all time’

Washington Spirit forward Ashley Hatch and OL Reign defender Emily Sonnett battle for the ball during the 2023 NWSL season. (Steven Bisig/USA TODAY Sports)

The NWSL is holding its first-ever Decision Day, with all 12 teams taking the pitch for six simultaneous matches at 5 p.m. ET Sunday. And with four playoff spots still up for grabs, expect it to live up to the billing.

“Do you think this is the most intense playoff race of all time?” Sam Mewis asked several of her fellow U.S. women’s national team and NWSL stars on the latest episode of Just Women’s Sports‘ “Snacks” podcast.

While the episode was recorded before the penultimate matchweek, the players still offered some prescient insights.

“It’s wild. There’s two games left in the season, and only one team has clinched and only one team has been eliminated,” said OL Reign midfielder Rose Lavelle, breaking down the state of the race with two games remaining. “It’s crazy.”

“Dun dun duuun!” said Emily Sonnett, chiming in with a sound effect to underline the suspense.

“Snacks” co-host and Gotham FC forward Lynn Williams, who also is in the midst of the playoff race, adding that by the time of the episode’s release, “two teams will have clinched and two teams will be out of the playoffs.”

Williams proved to be exactly right. The Portland Thorns and San Diego Wave are locked into the top two seeds, while the Kansas City Current and the Chicago Red Stars have been eliminated from contention. Eight teams remain in the running for the final four playoff spots, including Gotham FC and OL Reign.

“I think it’s gonna come down to the last game,” Williams said.

With the North Carolina Courage, Washington Spirit, Gotham FC, OL Reign, Orlando Pride, Angel City FC, Racing Louisville FC and Houston Dash all in the hunt, Williams is right. And while the playoff scenarios are complicated, for Gotham FC and OL Reign it could be as simple as: Win and they’re in.