Rules & Regulations

2017 Competition Rules & Regulations


Teams will be aligned into a single table:

Boston Breakers
Chicago Red Stars
Houston Dash
FC Kansas City
North Carolina Courage
Orlando Pride
Portland Thorns FC
Seattle Reign FC
Sky Blue FC
Washington Spirit

Each of the ten (10) NWSL clubs will play 24 games, 12 at home and 12 away.

Teams will receive three points for a win, one point for a tie and zero points for a loss.

All referees in NWSL are either USSF (United States Soccer Federation) or CSA (Canadian Soccer Association) National Referees. Referees for all NWSL games will be trained, assigned and evaluated by PRO (Professional Referee Organization).

The official game time for all National Women’s Soccer League games will be managed on the field by the referee. If necessary, the referee may also allot extra time (a.k.a. “stoppage time”) at the end of each period (first half, second half, and if applicable, first overtime period and second overtime period during playoff matches) to allow for injuries, time-wasting or other disturbances.

The stadium clock will display the time from 0:00 to 45:00 and from 45:00 to 90:00. For statistical purposes, the minutes for goals, substitutions, yellow cards, etc., will be listed from the first minute until the 90th minute. A goal scored at 15 minutes 10 seconds will be listed as having been scored in the 16th minute. Events occurring during stoppage time will follow the international norm by being demarcated with a “+” sign and the extra minutes. For example, a goal scored three minutes into first half stoppage time will be officially identified as happening at “48+”.

Each team can nominate 18 players for a game day roster. Teams are allowed three substitutions per game.

A Player will be suspended for one game upon receiving her fifth yellow card, regardless of the nature of the infraction which resulted in her being awarded the yellow card. A second suspension of one game would result after the awarding of an additional three cards as would a third suspension after the awarding of card number eleven.


Given the likelihood of lightning during the League season, and the potential for personal injury and structural damages lightning can cause, each Home Team will have a detailed weather delay plan that includes the following:

1) Specific persons in charge of decision-making (one management level person from the stadium, one person from the Home Team, one person from law enforcement)

2) Direct contact with the U.S. Weather Bureau and/or Doppler radar

3) Formation of a weather delay committee with pre-designated meeting location (and back-up location) that includes the Referee, Team representatives and TV producer

4) Immediate and consistent contact with the League’s Game Notice Designee

5) Updates to spectators and media via PA announcement (and video if available)

6) “Standing Orders” (procedures) published and posted to accomplish the above In the event it is deemed safe to resume play, refer to “Team Warm-Up Period Following Game Delay” for League guidelines.


Per the measures taken to protect player safety at the 2014 FIFA World Cup, the NWSL has established the following hydration break procedure for the League.

Decision Making Process:

Per the National Weather Index Heat Chart, cooling breaks are mandated if the heat index reaches 89 degrees Fahrenheit or higher Temperature and humidity should be checked sixty (60) minutes before kick-off

Heat index should be confirmed by the referee and a representative from each team (coach, medical staff, etc.)

Any onsite questions should be directed to the NWSL League Staff

Implementation of the breaks will be managed solely by the referee


Each break shall be approximately three (3) minutes in length and held approximately thirty (30) minutes into each half (around the 30th and 75th minute respectively)

Ball must be out of play for the break to commence

Referee will signal for the start of the break and inform both teams and all match officials

Both teams will go to their respective team areas

Clock will continue to run and all time allotted for the break will added to stoppage time

NWSL Playoffs:
Single-Elimination Format


The top four clubs in points from the League standings at the end of the regular season, qualify for the 2015 NWSL Playoffs.

The two Semifinals will be decided by a single knockout game, the winner of which will advance to the Championship Game.

The NWSL Championship will be a single championship match hosted at a pre-determined site.

If the score is tied after 90 minutes of play in any playoff game, two 15-minute extra time periods will be played in their entirety, followed by kicks from the penalty mark, if necessary.

Team-Standings Tie-Breaking Procedures

The team awarded the highest position in the NWSL standings will be the team with the greatest number of points (three points for a win, one point for a tie, zero points for a loss). In the event that two teams finish the regular season with an equal number of points, the following system will be used to break the tie:

When two or more teams are tied in the standings on points (3 points for a win, 1 point for a draw, 0 points for a loss), the following tiebreakers will be used in the sequence below, until one team ranks ahead of the other(s):

1) The highest position shall be awarded to the team with the better win/loss record in current Regular Season games against all other teams equal in points. (head-to-head competition)

2) If the teams are still equal in the standings, the highest position shall be awarded to the team with the greater goal difference against all other teams during the Regular Season. (goal differential)

3) If the teams are still equal in the standings, the highest position shall be awarded to the team scoring the greatest number of total goals against all other teams during the Regular Season. (total goals)

4) If the teams are still equal in the standings, the procedures described in this section shall be applied only to games played on the road by each team against all other teams during the Regular Season. (road 1-3)

5) If the teams are still equal in the standings, the procedures described in this section shall be applied only to games played at home by each team against all other teams during the regular season. (home 1-3)

If the teams are still equal in the standings, the highest position in the standings shall be determined by the toss of a coin.

The first tiebreaker in a three-way tie is also head-to-head, but it is determined via points-per-game versus the other two teams. If two teams are tied in points-per-game head-to-head, the next tie breaker is goal difference.

NOTE: If two clubs remain tied after another club with the same number of points advances during any step, the tie breaker reverts to step 1 of the two-club format.

2017 Competition Calendar
Thursday, March 09, 2017Primary Registration/Transfer Window opens
Monday, March 13, 2017Preseason starts
Monday, April 10, 201718-20 Player Rosters Due
Saturday, April 15, 2017Regular Season / Discovery Process begins
Wednesday, May 31, 2017Primary Registration/Transfer Window closes
Monday, June 05, 2017Secondary Registration/Transfer Window opens
Friday, July 05, 2017Secondary Registration/Transfer Window closes
Monday, August 28, 2017Last day to Waive Players prior to Roster Freeze
2017 Discovery Process Closes
Tuesday, August 29, 2017Roster Freeze Date
2017 Semi-Guaranteed contracts become guaranteed
Wednesday, August 30, 20172018 Re-signings and Option Extensions Open
Saturday, September 30, 2017Regular Season ends
TBDNWSL Semifinals
TBDNWSL Championship
Tuesday, October 17, 2017Off-season Discovery Process Opens
Wednesday, October 18, 2017Deadline for Teams to exercise 2018 options
Monday, October 23, 2017End of Season Process Commences
Tuesday, October 24, 2017End of Season Process Concludes
NOTE: For the purposes of NWSL deadlines, the time of the day at which the deadline expires shall be 5 p.m. ET for deadlines falling on a business day and 11:59 p.m. ET for a deadline falling on a weekend or public holiday.