What to watch for in the final weekend of the regular season:Playoff Picture
With only four games remaining in the regular season, we finally know all four playoff teams: North Carolina Courage, Seattle Reign FC, Portland Thorns FC and Chicago Red Stars. The Courage have the NWSL Shield and the No. 1 seed locked up, but the rest of the seeds are still to be determined.
Here’s what can happen this weekend and how it will affect the playoff games:
IF the Reign win vs. the Thorns on Friday night, and the Red Stars win on Saturday, the Reign would finish second and host the third-place Red Stars in the first semifinal on September 15. The fourth-place Thorns would then face the Courage in North Carolina on September 16.
IF the Reign win vs. the Thorns on Friday night, and the Red Stars lose or draw on Saturday, the Reign would finish second and host the third-place Thorns in the first semifinal on September 15. The fourth-place Red Stars would then face the Courage in North Carolina on September 16.
IF the Reign draw vs. the Thorns on Friday night, the Reign would finish second and host the third-place Thorns in the first semifinal on September 15. The fourth-place Red Stars would then face the Courage in North Carolina on September 16. (The result of the Red Stars would be irrelevant in this scenario, because they are unable to finish higher than 40 points and would lose the head-to-head tiebreaker with the Thorns for the No. 3 seed.)
IF the Thorns win vs. the Reign on Friday night, the Thorns would finish second and host the third-place Reign in the first semifinal on September 15. The fourth-place Red Stars would then face the Courage in North Carolina on September 16.
Meanwhile, the North Carolina Courage are 16-1-6 (54 points) and still in pursuit of several regular season records. They host the Houston Dash on Saturday night in the final game of the NWSL regular season.
The 16 wins and 54 points have tied NWSL records — but with one game remaining, they still have a chance to stand alone as the best regular season team in American women’s professional soccer history (covering the NWSL, Women’s United Soccer Association and Women’s Professional Soccer).
To do that, they need:
— 1 win to break the record for wins in a season (16, set by the 2014 Seattle Reign FC/2017 North Carolina Courage in NWSL, as well as the 2010 FC Gold Pride of WPS)
— 1 point to break the record for points in a season (54 points, set by Seattle Reign FC in 2014)
— 3 points to hold the highest points per game average (2.33 set by the 2011 Western New York Flash of WPS; the NWSL record is 2.25, set by the 2014 Reign)
Like the current Courage team, the 2014 Reign, 2017 Courage and 2010 FC Gold Pride did their damage in 24 game seasons, but the 2011 Flash played only 18 games, going 13-2-3 with 42 points, and finished with a 2.33 points per game average.
If this year’s Courage squad gets all three points on Saturday, they’ll finish with an average of 2.375 points per game. A loss would leave them tied for second on the list and a draw would put them at 2.29 points per game. No team in any league has ever finished with fewer than two losses.
1. 2011 Western New York Flash: 2.33 points per game
2. 2014 Seattle Reign FC: 2.25 points per game
3. 2010 FC Gold Pride: 2.21 points per game
4. 2015 Seattle Reign FC: 2.15 points per game
5. (tie) 2009 Los Angeles Sol: 2.05 points per game
5. (tie) 2016 Portland Thorns FC: 2.05 points per game
7. 2017 North Carolina Courage: 2.04 points per game
Elsewhere in record watch in the NWSL — Washington Spirit goalkeeper Aubrey Bledsoe set a new single-season record for saves with 108 in the Spirit’s regular season finale last weekend. Sky Blue FC goalkeeper Kailen Sheridan has 101 and has a chance to break the new record with her final game on Saturday. Bledsoe broke Alyssa Naeher’s record of 106 set in 2014 with the Boston Breakers. That season, Naeher allowed 53 goals in 24 games. Bledsoe allowed 30 goals in 21 games with a save percentage of 78.3%.
Other NWSL single-season records that could fall or be tied this weekend:
Set in 2017 by Sam Kerr while with Sky Blue FC
2018: Sam Kerr has 15 goals with the Chicago Red Stars
Set in 2016 by Tobin Heath, Portland Thorns FC
2018: Yuki Nagasato, Chicago Red Stars, has 7
Team shutouts: 12
Set in 2017 by North Carolina Courage
2018: Seattle Reign FC have 12
Goalkeeper shutouts: 11
Set in 2017 by Adrianna Franch, Portland Thorns FC
2018: Lydia Williams, Seattle Reign FC, has 10
Lowest Goals Against Average: .83 (20 in 24 games)
Set in 2017 by Portland Thorns FC and in 2014 by Seattle Reign FC
2018: Seattle Reign FC have allowed 16 and the North Carolina Courage have allowed 17
Most Goals Scored: 50
Set in 2014 by Seattle Reign FC
2018: North Carolina Courage have 48