The U.S. women’s national soccer team will play in Spain on Oct. 11, just four days after its highly anticipated matchup with England.
The timing of these international friendlies, though, sets up a quick turnaround for NWSL players. The first round of the NWSL playoffs is set for Sunday, Oct. 16, five days after the match against Spain.
The semifinals are set for Oct. 23, and the championship match is scheduled for Oct. 29 in Washington, D.C.
While the first round of the six-team bracket comes two weeks after the end of the regular season on Oct. 2, the NWSL avoids the FIFA international window set for Oct. 3-11, during which players are released to their national teams.
USWNT coach Vlatko Andonovski wants to give the team adequate preparation for next year’s World Cup. The top-ranked United States will get two of its toughest tests since last summer’s Olympics in England and Spain, who are ranked fourth and eighth in the world, respectively.
While the USWNT roster for the two October matches has not yet been announced, it is likely that a number of the NWSL’s high-profile players will be featured. And those players also have league duties to consider.
Alex Morgan has all but locked herself into the starting striker spot for the national team, also leads the NWSL’s Golden Boot race with 15 goals for San Diego Wave FC. The Wave are tied for second place in the league standings with 31 points and seemed primed for a playoff run in their inaugural season.
Of the 23 players on the USWNT roster for the team’s September friendlies against Nigeria, 13 are on clubs in line to make the NWSL playoffs.
Sophia Smith, who plays for the Portland Thorns, has been instrumental for the USWNT of late, helping to secure the team’s first win over Nigeria with a brace. Two more Thorns players in Becky Sauerbrunn and Sam Coffey also appeared on the September roster for the national team, as did OL Reign’s Rose Lavelle, Megan Rapinoe and Sofia Huerta.
The USWNT will want to bring its A game against top-tier opponents, even with the NWSL playoffs around the corner, so these stars should prepare to face a gauntlet of an October schedule.