all scores

2023 NWSL schedule features World Cup breaks, in-season Challenge Cup

The Portland Thorns won their third title during the 2022 NWSL season. (Nick Tre. Smith/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

The NWSL schedule for the 2023 season finally has arrived.

The league released the long-awaited schedule on Wednesday afternoon, 45 days before the first games kicks off on March 25. The season runs through the championship match on Nov. 11, two weeks later than in 2022.

Why the longer season? Thank the 2023 World Cup, which will run from July 20 through Aug. 20 in Australia and New Zealand.

While the NWSL will not break for the full tournament, the league will take two separate weeks off during the World Cup. The league will not play any matches from July 10-20 and from Aug. 7-17, which will leave two weekends free of competition.

Also to accommodate the World Cup, the NWSL will avoid regular-season matches from July 10 through Aug. 17. Instead, the league will concentrate on the in-season edition of its Challenge Cup tournament during that timeframe.

“For me personally, I don’t want to miss a lot of games with San Diego,” Wave and U.S. women’s national team forward Alex Morgan told CBS Sports. “I also don’t think that fans should have to choose between watching an NWSL game and a World Cup game.”

USWNT players also were concerned about when exactly the league would release them for international duty.

While the NWSL only is required to do so during established FIFA international windows, the league agreed to release players to their national teams on June 26, two weeks before the FIFA window opens on July 10. The move came only after pushback from players, The Equalizer reported.

Each of the league’s 12 teams will play 22 games in the regular season, the same number as they played in 2022, for a total of 132 games. For the first time in NWSL history, all 12 teams will compete on the final day of the regular season as clubs jockey for final playoff positioning. Casey Stoney, San Diego Wave manager and the 2022 NWSL Coach of the Year, had advocated for this format last season.

Each team will also play six Challenge Cup matches, either played on Wednesdays across April, May and June or during the World Cup window in July and August. The tournament will culminate in the semifinals on Sept. 6 and the final on Sept. 9.

Five NWSL matches to watch in 2023

March 25 (2 p.m.): North Carolina Courage vs. Kansas City Current

The first day of matches brings a barn burner, as 2022 MVP finalist Debinha returns with her new team to face the new-look Courage.

April 1 (12:50 p.m.): Kansas City Current vs. Portland Thorns

The Thorns visit Kansas City for a rematch of the 2022 NWSL Championship. Portland claimed a 2-0 victory and the crown in October, but the Current look ready to challenge for the title again.

April 23 (8 p.m.): Angel City FC vs. San Diego Wave

The two California expansion teams made quite the impression in their inaugural seasons, and they’ll aim to keep that momentum in their sophomore campaigns.

May 28 (5 p.m.): Washington Spirit vs. Gotham FC

Kelley O’Hara made the biggest splash of NWSL free agency when she joined Gotham FC. This match will mark her first return to Washington, the club with which she won a title in 2021.

Sept. 16 (10:30 p.m.): Portland Thorns vs. OL Reign

The top two finishers from the 2022 season meet in this late-season contest, which could hold significant playoff implications.

*All times ET