NWSL playoff picture, standings, tiebreakers: Portland Thorns become first team to clinch playoff spot


nwsl NWSL playoff picture, standings, tiebreakers: Portland Thorns become first team to clinch playoff spot

The 2022 NWSL regular season is almost over and teams are beginning to enter the final stretch of the schedule. The playoff picture continues to change with only two weeks left in the campaign. Portland Thorns FC is the only club clinched a playoff spot, but several teams are in contention for the NWSL Shield — awarded to the team with the best regular season record — and other clubs are eyeing a playoff push. The next chapter in the story will be written this weekend as NWSL action continues and you can catch the matches Paramount+.

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The top six teams advance to the playoffs, with the first and second seeds receiving a first-round bye to the semifinals. The third and fourth seeds will host the fifth and sixth seeds in the quarter-final round, with the winners competing in the semi-finals for a place in the 2022 NWSL Championship final.

Here’s a look at the latest weekend action, potential playoff scenarios and teams on the brink of elimination:


League standings

1. Portland Thorns FC (35 points) — won the playoffs

2. San Diego Wave FC (34 points) — Playoff position

3. OL rule (34 points) — Playoff position

4. Houston Dash (33 points) — Playoff position

5.Kansas City Current (33 points) — Playoff position

6. Chicago Red Stars (30 points) — Playoff position

7. Angel City FC (29 points) — looking out

8. North Carolina Courage (28 points) — looking out

9. Orlando Pride (21 points) — deleted

10. Washington Spirit (19 points) — Deleted

11. Racing Louisville FC (17 points) — deleted

12. NJ/NY Gotham FC (12 points) — deleted

Playoff tiebreakers

Tiebreakers are decided first by most goal difference in the regular season, then total wins, then most goals scored. Teams have seven possible tiebreaker scenarios and are listed in order

  1. Highest goal differential throughout the regular season (against all teams, not just tied teams).
  2. Total wins throughout the regular season (against all teams, not just tied teams).
  3. Most goals scored throughout the regular season (against all teams, not just Tide teams).
  4. Results between tied teams (total points).
  5. Most goals scored between teams in a tie-to-head.
  6. Fewer disciplinary points accumulated throughout the regular season (against all teams, tied teams only).
  7. Coin flip (if two teams are tied) or drawing cards (if three or more teams are tied).

Viewing information

The regular season consists of two midweek contests this week, preceded by a full weekend of games. Here’s how to watch this week’s matches:

Wednesday, September 21

  • NJ/NY Gotham FC 0, OL Reign 1
  • Orlando Pride 0, North Carolina Courage 3
  • Portland Thorns FC 3, Racing Louisville FC 0
  • Angel City FC 2, Washington Spirit 1

Saturday, September 24

  • North Carolina Courage vs. NJ/NY Gotham FC, 7:30 pm ET (Paramount+)
  • Houston Dash vs. OL Reigns, 8:30 pm ET (Twitch)

Sunday, September 25

  • Portland Thorns FC vs. Chicago Red Stars, 4 p.m. ET (Paramount+)
  • Kansas City Current vs. Washington Spirit, 5 p.m. ET (Paramount+)
  • Orlando Pride vs. San Diego Wave FC, 7 p.m. (Paramount+)

Possible playoff matches

As the season continues this weekend, here’s a final look at playoff film:

  • No. 1 Portland Thorns FC – Bye to Semifinals
  • No. 2 bye to the semifinals against San Diego Wave FC
  • No. 3 OL rule and no. 6 Chicago Red Stars
  • No. 4 Houston Dash vs. no. 5 Kansas City Current

The Thorns clinched a playoff spot

1. Portland Thorns FC (35 points: 9-3-8)

  • Possible first round matchup: The winner of the semi-final and quarter-final at Providence Park will receive a bag.

The Thorns are the first team to clinch their spot in the postseason this season. They are advancing to the NWSL playoffs for the ninth time in their franchise history and the sixth time. Forward Sophia Smith snapped her four-game scoring drought during Portland’s 3-0 win over Louisville and is now three goals behind Alex Morgan in the Golden Boot race.

Sitting in second place is the San Diego Tide

2. San Diego Wave FC (34 points: 10-6-4)

  • Possible first round matchup: The winner of the semi-final and quarter-final will have a bye at the Snapdragon Stadium.

No matter the finish, the Waves have made history all season in their inaugural year in the NWSL. A 1-0 win over California rivals Angel City FC in a record crowd of 32,000 gave the club a chance to be on top once again when they faced the Orlando Pride on the road. The regular season set a record for the most attendance in an NWSL tournament.

OL Reign moved up to third place

3. OL rule (34 points: 9-4-7)

  • Possible first round matchup: 6 vs. Chicago Red Stars
  • Tiebreakers: OL Reign is tied with San Diego for total points, but the first tiebreaker for highest goal differential throughout the regular season (against all teams, not just tied teams) keeps them in third place.

OL Reign, who had been in fifth place for several months, moved into the top three. The team has had some strong individual performances from Rose Lavelle and Megan Rapinoe in the final month of the regular season, and they will have a chance to pick up points in two contests this week.

Houston has dropped to fourth place

4. Houston Dash (33 points: 9-5-6)

  • Possible first round matchup: vs. No. 5 Kansas City Current

The Dash won 1-0 against the Chicago Red Stars. Forward Ebony Salmon scored her ninth of the season, scoring the lone goal. The club will face another challenge against fifth-placed OL Reign on Saturday.

Kansas City dropped to fifth

5. Kansas City Current (33 points: 9-5-6)

  • Possible first round matchup: Against No. 4 Houston Dash
  • Tiebreakers: Kansas City is tied with Houston for total points, but holds the first tiebreaker for most goal differential throughout the entire regular season (against all teams, not just tied teams) at fifth.

The current number one seed is in contention for both the 2022 NWSL Shield and will be looking to get back into the win column after last week’s loss and draw. Goalkeeper Adriana Franch is having an MVP-caliber season for the team and will need to continue her form against the Washington Spirit’s Ashley Hatch, Ashley Sanchez and Trinity Rodman on Sunday.

The Red Stars are hanging on for the final playoff spot

6. Chicago Red Stars (30 points: 8-8-6)

  • Possible first round matchup: vs. No. 3 Kansas City Current

The Red Stars are still hanging onto the sixth and final playoff spot for the playoffs, but they have recently managed to gain some separation in the standings with results against OL Reign and Kansas City. Four points now separate them from seventh-placed Angel City after a 1-0 loss against Houston, but the Red Stars’ tough late-season schedule against other playoff-bound teams continues as the club now faces Portland.

Angel City FC, North Carolina Courage in playoff hunt

7. Angel City FC (29 points: 8-7-5)

  • Playoff Outlook: The Red Stars hold the first tie-breaker for goal difference throughout the regular season, one spot out of a final playoff slot and one point out of sixth place.

The team is winless in its last three games and has suffered two consecutive defeats. They bounced back in a big way after a 2-1 win over the Washington Spirit.

8. North Carolina Courage (28 points: 8-8-4)

  • Playoff Outlook: Two points away from the final playoff spot, two points from a possible sixth place. North Carolina currently holds the first tie-breaker for goal differential against Angel City.

The team’s winning streak was snapped at three after a 2-1 loss to OL Reign, but they are back in the playoff hunt after a 3-0 win over Debinha-led Orlando Pride. They will have another chance to secure a place in the playoff table against Gotham FC on Saturday.


9. Orlando Pride (21 points: 5-8-6)

The team was mathematically in contention for the playoffs ahead of their midweek match against North Carolina and had three games left to pick up nine points to chase sixth place. A one-goal gap with Chicago at plus-seven for the tie-breaker. As the Pride lost 3-0 to the Courage, the assumptions and math now wash away.

10. Washington Spirit (19 points: 3-6-10)

The Spirit struggled to stay in contention after a brutal start to the season. But despite seven points from their last three matches, they ran out of time. They will have a chance to play spoiler against Kansas City.

11. Racing Louisville FC (17 points: 3-8-8)

Orlando earned their first win since May 22 with a 2-0 victory over the Pride. Unfortunately, Racing Louisville has had few ideas on the pitch all season, and the club still has three games to see if coach Kim Bjorkgren is there to take the team to the next level. Angel City will try to make things difficult on Sunday.

12. NJ/NY Gotham FC (12 points: 4-15-0)

The club suffered its 15th loss of the season after losing 2-0 to the Washington Spirit. After a 1-0 loss to OL Reign on Wednesday, all that remains is a spoiler game against North Carolina this week.



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