The NWSL schedule is finally here, with the league releasing the 2023 calendar on Wednesday. The announcement comes after players, fans and NWSL insiders alike voiced their dissatisfaction with the delayed schedule release. NWSL commissioner Jessica Berman responded to the criticism Monday, admitting the 2023 docket’s publication “took too long,” adding, “Thank you for your passion and for holding us accountable. We will do better.”
Following a fair amount of commotion and social media uproar, the schedule is, at last, out—45 days ahead of the 2023 campaign’s kickoff. The 132-game, 22-week regular season features a 22-match balanced schedule, including a March 25 opening day that will see all 12 teams in action.
The 2023 slate will also involve the Challenge Cup, which will run concurrently with the regular season rather than front-loaded at the start of the schedule. The tournament, now in its fourth year, will commence on April 19 and conclude with the title match set for Sept. 9.
Meanwhile, the regular season will end on Oct. 2. Six teams will qualify for the playoffs, while the top two teams in the standings will receive first-round byes.
At first glance, there are already some compelling matchups that stick out, adding to the excitement surrounding the World Cup year. Here are some of the NWSL’s most intriguing games:
March 25: Opening Day
The Courage will kick off the 2023 campaign by hosting the Current, setting up an intriguing faceoff between Debinha’s new side and her former club of five years. The San Diego Wave, meanwhile, will host a Mallory Swanson-led Red Stars while Angel City FC and Gotham FC go head-to-head in a burgeoning East vs. West Coast rivalry in an action-packed start to the season.
April 1: Kansas City Current vs. Portland Thorns
The NWSL will waste no time getting down to business, with a rematch of last year’s championship match scheduled for the second weekend of competition. The Thorns walked away with the league trophy in October, but the Current have made some massive moves this offseason, signing stars like Brazil’s Debinha, Sweden’s Hanna Glas and 2023 No. 2 draft pick Michelle Cooper. We will find out how much Kansas City’s preseason signings paid off when the club hosts Portland, anchored by reigning MVP Sophia Smith.
April 19: Portland Thorns vs. San Diego Wave—Challenge Cup
The Thorns and Wave FC meet early in the year for the Challenge Cup, following up on last year’s thrilling semifinal showdown. San Diego will be out for redemption after Portland spoiled the expansion club’s championship hopes with a late banger from Crystal Dunn. Nearly every meeting between the sides has turned out to be a compelling show, and this season is on track to be no different.
May 28: Washington Spirit vs. Gotham FC
A blossoming Spirit–Gotham FC rivalry bubbled over last year following a heated Twitter exchange between NJ/NY goalkeeper Ashlyn Harris and Washington forward Trinity Rodman. Even though Harris has since retired, the friendly antagonism lives on, with the battle for the Eastern seaboard likely to produce some thrilling outings. The clubs’ May 28 meeting will be held at Audi Field as the Spirit officially moves on from Segra Field—the venue that sparked the social media spat that first ignited this rivalry.
June 28: Angel City vs. San Diego Wave—Challenge Cup
The California rivalry between Angel City and the Wave just got a lot more interesting, with Angel City drafting rising U.S. women’s national team star Alyssa Thompson. Alex Morgan facing off against who could be next great USWNT forward—well, the storylines write themselves.
September 16: OL Reign vs. Portland Thorns
OL Reign and the Thorns will meet four times: twice during the regular season and twice during the Challenge Cup. Depending on how the in-season tournament and the playoffs pan out, September’s matchup could mark the last Cascadia Rivalry matchup of the year. It may also be the final time fans see OL Reign veteran Megan Rapinoe and Thorns icon Christine Sinclair go head-to-head for bragging rights over Cascadia. While it’s too soon to declare the 2023 season Sinclar and Rapinoe’s last, they are both sitting on one-year contracts, and most believe this summer’s World Cup to be the duo’s coda.