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NWSL playoff picture, standings, tiebreakers: Four teams clinch playoff spots, but NWSL shield still in play

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There’s one final game day left on the 2022 NWSL regular season schedule, and teams in the playoff hunt still have a lot on the line. Portland Thorns FC, OL Reign, Kansas City Current and San Diego Wave FC are the only clubs to have a playoff berth, with two post-season berths still in play. With only one regular season game day left, the 2022 NWSL Shield, awarded to the team with the best regular season record, is still battling between the three playoff teams. The next chapter of the story will be written this weekend as the NWSL action continues and you can follow the matches on Paramount+.

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The top six teams will advance to the playoffs, with the top and second seeds earning in the first round to the semi-finals as hosts. The third and fourth seed will host the fifth and sixth seed in a quarter-final round where the winners will compete in the semi-finals for a spot in the 2022 NWSL Championship Finals.

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Let’s take a look at the standings after last weekend, possible playoff scenarios and which teams are on the verge of elimination:

League standings

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one. Portland Thorns (38 points) – Playoffs ended

2. OL Reign (37 points) – Playoffs ended

3. Kansas City Current (36 points) – Playoffs ended

four. San Diego Wave FC (35 points) – Playoffs ended

5. Houston Dash (33 points) — Playoff position

6. Courage of North Carolina (31 points) — Playoff position

7. Chicago Red Stars (30 points) – Look inside from outside

eight. Angel City FC (29 points) – Look inside from outside

9. Orlando Pride (22 points) — Eliminated

ten. Racing Louisville FC (20 points) — Eliminated

eleven. Washington Spirit (19 points) — Eliminated

12. New Jersey/New York Gotham FC (12 points) — Eliminated

Playoff tie-breaks

Tiebreaks are determined first by greater regular season goal difference, then by most wins, and then by most goals scored. There are seven possible tiebreak scenarios for the teams listed in order

  1. Big goal difference throughout the regular season (against all teams, not just equals).
  2. Most wins in an entire regular season (vs. all teams, not just ties).
  3. Most goals scored in an entire regular season (vs. all teams, not just ties).
  4. Head-to-head results (total number of points) between tied teams.
  5. Most head-to-head goals scored between equal teams.
  6. Fewest disciplinary points accumulated in an entire regular season (vs. all teams, not just ties).
  7. Coin toss (if two teams are tied) or toss (if three or more teams are tied).

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It’s the last weekend of the regular season, with the last two playoff spots still on the line and three teams still alive in the race for top spot on the table. Find out how to watch matches this week:

Friday, September 30

  • San Diego Wave – North Carolina Courage, 10 p.m. ET (Paramount+)

Saturday, October 1

  • New Jersey/NY Gotham – Portland Thorns, 6:00 pm ET (Paramount+)
  • Washington Spirit vs. Houston Dash, 7:00 pm ET (Paramount+)
  • Racing Louisville FC vs. Kansas City Current, 19:30 (Twitch)
  • OL Reign vs Orlando Pride 10 pm ET (Twitch)

Sunday, October 2

  • Chicago Red Stars – Angel City, 6:00 pm ET (Paramount+)

Possible playoff matches

Here’s the final look at the playoff picture as the season continues this weekend:

  • No. 1 Portland Thorns – to semi-finals
  • No. 2 OL Reign FC vs Pre-Semi-Finals
  • No. 3 Kansas City Current vs. No. 6 North Carolina Courage
  • No. 4 San Diego Wave FC vs. No. 5 Houston Dash

Thorns advanced to the playoffs

1. Portland Thorns (38 points: 10-3-8)

  • Possible first round match: Runs through the semi-finals and hosts the quarter-final winner at Providence Park.

The Spikes were the first team to take their place in the postseason this year, and they have a shot at another NWSL shield this season. They will go to the NWSL Playoffs for the ninth time in their franchise history and for the sixth time in a row, but it’s still unknown who they’ll face in the postseason. Striker Sophia Smith has played a major role at the club, scoring 12 goals this season, but the club has the most extensive squad in the league, with the likes of Yazmine Ryan and Morgan Weaver revving up in the second half of the season.

OL Reign came in second

2. OL Rein (37 points: 10-4-7)

  • Possible first round match: Goodbye to the semi-finals and will host the quarter-final winner at Lumen Field.

OL Reign jumped higher into the top half of the playoff picture after a strong two weeks. USWNT stars Rose Lavelle and Megan Rapinoe have been key contributors to recent results, but the current win over Houston Dash also showed the depth of head coach Laura Harvey’s team. Strikers Bethany Balser and Veronica Lacko took the win and took OL to second place.

Kansas City consistently in third place

3. Kansas City Current (36 points: 10-5-6)

  • Possible first round match: vs. 6 North Carolina Courage

Kansas City secured a playoff spot with a win over Spirit. It was a remarkable turnaround for a team that finished last in their first season in 2021 and the club still has a chance to make history. Expect Lo’o Labonta to continue his dark horse in an MVP campaign for the team in the playoffs.

San Diego qualified for the playoffs in fourth place

4. San Diego Wave FC (35 points: 10-6-5)

  • Possible first round match: vs. No. 5 Houston Dash

The franchise recently made history as the first California expansion team to reach the NWSL playoffs in their first season with a 2-2 tie against Orlando. They do not qualify for the NWSL Shield as the maximum points they can score is 38, with the Portland Thorns ranked first on goal difference. In any case, their season will continue until we reach the playoffs.

Houston Dash dropped to fifth place

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

  • Possible first round match: vs No. 4 San Diego Wave FC

Thanks to the defeat from OL Reign Dash dropped to fifth place in one game day. A win over Washington could see them sneak into fourth place, depending on other results, where they make the playoffs for the first time in franchise history. They hold tiebreakers over the Chicago Red Stars if the Red Stars also catch up with 33 points.

North Carolina breaks into sixth place

6. North Carolina Courage (30 points: 8-8-6)

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

The Courage made it to the playoffs, spending the first half of the regular season in last place. Strong individual performances from the attacking players paved the way, including an impressive hat-trick by Brazil’s Debigny.

Angel City FC and Chicago Red Stars in playoff hunt

7. Chicago Red Stars (30 points: 8-7-5)

8. Angel City FC (29 points, 8-8-5)

  • Playoff prospect: The two go head to head on the last game day of the regular season, needing a win and San Diego’s help in defeating the North Carolina Courage.


Four teams have been out of contention for the playoffs for quite some time, but there could still be a spoiler on the last game day.

9. Orlando Pride (22 points: 5-9-7)

10. Racing Louisville (20 points: 4-9-8)

11. Washington Spirit (19 points: 3-8-10)

12. New Jersey/New York Gotham (12 points: 4-17-0)


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