NWSL schedule, live stream, playoff picture: Portland Thorns, OL Reign chase shield; Washington Spirit return

The 2021 NWSL regular season returns after an international break this weekend with two games on Saturday and a triple-header of games on Sunday. We’re about a month away from the end of the regular season as several teams make one final push for a playoff spot. Fans can watch four of the five games this weekend across on Paramount+

On Saturday we have NJ/NY Gotham FC hosting North Carolina Courage and the Chicago Red Stars meeting Portland Thorns FC. Sunday will feature Racing Louisville FC against the Houston Dash, Washington Spirit hosting Kansas City and OL Reign against the Orlando Pride to close out the weekend.

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Here’s how to watch and what to know about the games this weekend:

How to watch NWSL games this weekend

Saturday, Sept. 25

  • NJ/NY Gotham FC vs. North Carolina Courage, 3 p.m. ET (Paramount+)
  • Chicago Red Stars vs. Portland Thorns FC, 8 p.m. ET (Paramount+)

Sunday, Sept. 26

  • Racing Louisville FC vs. Houston Dash, 3 p.m. ET (Paramount+)
  • Washington Spirit vs. Kansas City NWSL, 5 p.m. ET (Paramount+)
  • OL Reign vs. Orlando Pride, 7 p.m. ET (Twitch)

Playoff picture

If the season ended today …

First-round byes into semifinals: 

  • 1. Portland Thorns FC (38 points, +17 GD)
  • 2. OL Reign (32 points, +8 GD)

First-round matchups:

  • 3. North Carolina Courage (29 points, +12 GD) vs. 6. Washington Spirit (23 points, -5 GD)
  • 4. Orlando Pride (28 points, +3 GD)  vs. 5. Chicago Red Stars (26 points, -3 GD)

Outside looking in:

  • 7. Houston Dash (23 points, -3 GD)*
  • 8. NJ/NY Gotham FC (22 points, +2 GD)
  • 9. Racing Louisville FC (17 points, -12 GD)
  • 10. Kansas City NWSL (11 points, -19 GD)

*-Washington owns head-to-head tiebreaker (1–1–0) over Houston

Gotham FC need a win

NJ/NY Gotham FC are in desperate need of a win at home as they have stumbled out playoff position during a crucial point in the season, having gone winless in their past seven games (four ties, three losses). A win against the Courage, who sit third on the table and seven points ahead of Gotham, could see them leap back in the playoff picture with seven matches remaining. The team will need another dynamic game from forward Ifeoma Onumonu, who is in the mix for the league’s golden boot with seven goals this season.

Portland and Chicago close out season series

Portland Thorns FC, who sit atop the table, and Chicago Red Stars recently had several players off on international duty with the United States national team squaring off against Paraguay in a two-game series. The Red Stars are unbeaten in their last two, but have only one win in their last six. They will need a strong performance from Morgan Gautrat to lead their midfield over the Thorns. Portland has shown off its depth by picking up wins regardless of the players unavailable to international break. 

Houston aims for playoff spot

Houston currently sits outside of playoff position in seventh place, but a win on the road against Racing Louisville FC could get James Clarkson’s side back in the top six, especially if Canadian international Nichelle Prince, who has been active on the wing, puts together a solid performance. Louisville has struggled defensively all season, and the recent loss of forward Nadia Nadim is a major blow to the attack. They will need more from Savannah McCaskill in the midfield to get a result. 

Spirit return from month-long absence

Washington Spirit cling to sixth place after forfeiting their previous two matches. The team will return to play after nearly a month away from action on the pitch. Despite the two forfeiture the team is still in playoff position, and will host last-place Kansas City NWSL. Spirit midfielder Andi Sullivan earned two starts with the U.S. national team over the international break, and having her in the starting XI could be crucial for a team searching its first win since Aug. 22.

Can Orlando even series vs. OL Reign?

This is the final meeting between the two sides with OL Reign currently winning the head-to-head thanks to a 2-0 win back in late July. Reign head coach Laura Harvey has kept the team on task in terms of getting results as only four points separate them from Orlando. Her tactical shifts has seen Sofia Huerta move into the outside back role for the team, expanding options in the attack. Orlando will need to have an organized defense against the Reign to pull of a result.

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