Challenge Cup moves to in-season competition and more.
With the 2022 NWSL season officially over and everyone underway in preparing for the 2023 season, the NWSL announced today the overall calendar with key dates for the league’s eleventh season of play.
First up, training camp for NWSL teams can start as early as January 23, but no later than February 6. Saturday, March 25 is kickoff weekend for the league.
As with this year, each team will play 22 regular-season games in 2023. A major improvement is that there will no longer be any midweek regular-season matches.
Shortly after the regular season kicks off, the NWSL Challenge Cup, now rebranded as UKG NWSL Challenge Cup, will begin in April. The format of a group stage with three groups of four teams, with the top four teams advancing to a knockout round, remains. The competition will now be interspersed during the regular season, similar to how the men’s US Open Cup and most European cup competitions are structured. In the league’s announcement, the Challenge Cup in 2023 will be a six-week tournament that spans April to September. While exact dates for the group stage games will be determined later, the logical guess is that Challenge Cup matches will be scheduled for the midweek across that window. Additionally, per the league’s announcement, the Challenge Cup semifinal matches will be played on Wednesday, September 6, and the final on Saturday, September 9.
The format by which teams qualify for the NWSL Playoffs remains the same, with the top six teams playoff-bound and the clubs finishing first and second in the standings receiving a bye in the first round. The quarterfinal round of the NWSL Playoffs will take place on Sunday, October 22. Following a one-week break due to a FIFA international window, the semifinal round of the NWSL Playoffs will be played on Saturday, November 4. And lastly, the 2023 NWSL season will conclude with the NWSL Championship game the following Saturday, November 11.
Overall, it’s refreshing that the league announced the key dates of the 2023 NWSL season before this calendar year has ended. While the full schedule reveal is likely still likely some ways off, we can surmise some additional detail with regards to OL Reign.
NWSL kickoff weekend has been announced for Saturday, March 25, and OL Reign will definitely be starting the 2023 season on the road. Lumen Field’s events calendar shows that weekend will see the stadium hosting Monster Energy Supercross.
This summer, OL Reign and Sounders FC announced the return of the doubleheader match in 2023. At Wednesday night’s Sounders FC annual business meeting, it was revealed that both clubs are aiming to have the doubleheader match either serve as the send-off match for OL Reign’s international players who will be playing at next summer’s FIFA Women’s World Cup, or as one of the first matches after the tournament concludes on Sunday, August 20.
And speaking of the summer, Lumen Field is no stranger to hosting massive concerts that call for use of the stadium on summer weekends, which rules out a few more weekends for potential home games. George Strait on June 17 and Ed Sheeran on August 26 have called dibs on Lumen Field for those weekends. And lest we forget, Taylor Swift will be taking over Lumen Field for two shows on the weekend of July 22 and July 23; Swifties, good luck in your war against Ticketmaster.