NWSL playoff scenarios: San Diego Wave lead crowded race

Jaedyn Shaw, 17, is helping lead the Wave's playoff push. (Kelvin Kuo/USA TODAY Sports)

With just two weekends to go in the NWSL regular season, the race for the playoffs remains tight, as does the race for the NWSL Shield.

No team has clinched a spot in the postseason yet.

Expansion club San Diego Wave FC sits atop the standings with 34 points, one point ahead of the Houston Dash in second and the Kansas City Current in third. The Wave also lead those teams with a plus-11 goal differential, compared to plus-nine for the dash and minus-two for the Current.

The Portland Thorns sit in fourth with 32 points, but they have a game in hand on the three teams ahead of them.

Rounding out the top six are OL Reign (31 points) and the Chicago Red Stars (30). But their spots in the six-team bracket are far from secure, as expansion club Angel City FC (26) and the North Carolina Courage (25) could still challenge for the last berths.

Any of the top six teams could vie for the NWSL Shield, which makes this race the closest since 2013.

U.S. women’s national team players such as San Diego’s Alex Morgan and Portland’s Sophia Smith would love to clinch that No. 1 spot, or at least the No. 2 seed, as either comes with a first-round bye. That would mean not playing on Oct. 16, mere days after the USWNT returns from a pair of international friendlies in England (Oct. 7) and Spain (Oct. 11).

If all four of the top teams win out, Portland would end up taking the shield with 41 points, while San Diego would finish in second place with 40.

The Red Stars, meanwhile, will play Angel City in the final match of the season, which could wind up as a de facto play-in match for the postseason.

The Washington Spirit, Racing Louisville and Gotham FC all have been eliminated from playoff contention, while the Orlando Pride – on a three-match losing streak – would have to win out and make up goal differential in order to have a shot at the playoffs.