The wait is finally over.
Tthe NWSL announced its full schedule for the historic 2021 Challenge Cup, with twenty-one games slated over the course of the month-long competition. The Challenge Cup splits the league’s ten teams in two competing divisions – East (OL Reign, Portland, Kansas City, Houston, Chicago) and West (Louisville, North Carolina, Orlando, Washington, and Sky Blue). The winner of each division will face off in the 2021 NWSL Challenge Cup Championship on Saturday, May 8th, at 1pm EST.
Ahead of the impending tournament kick-off, here are five dates worth circling on your calendar this spring:
1) The Rematch – Houston Dash vs Chicago Red Stars
Friday, April 9th, 8:30pm EST (BBVA Stadium, CBS Sports Network)
Kicking off this spring’s festivities is a rematch of the memorable 2020 Challenge Cup Championship. The Dash begin their title defense with many of the same faces that featured in Utah, adding Gabby Seiler and Emily Ogle from the Thorns. Chicago boasts two major additions, with Mallory Pugh and the return of Nikki Stanton looking to offset the loss of Yuki Nagasato and Savannah McCaskill to Louisville.
2) The Return – Portland Thorns FC vs Kansas City
Friday, April 9th, 10:30pm EST (Providence Park, Paramount+)
After four years away, Kansas City has returned to the NWSL – and begins its Challenge Cup quest with a visit to one of the league’s marquee venues. The Thorns have added Crystal Dunn to a largely unchanged roster, as Mark Parsons’ side looks to claim its first trophy since 2019. Kansas City has supplemented its roster well both at home and abroad, as Victoria Pickett and Addie McCain look to stake their claim alongside new additions Chloe Logarzo and Mariana Larroquette.
3) The Debut – Racing Louisville vs Orlando Pride
Saturday, April 10th, 7pm EST (Lynn Family Stadium, Paramount+)
Rounding out the opening weekend is another historic match, as Christy Holly’s Racing Louisville FC make their much-awaited league debut at Lynn Family Stadium. Louisville enters the league with an impressive blend of highly touted draft choices (Emily Fox, Emina Ekic) and NWSL veterans (Michelle Betos, Brooke Hendrix) and aim to set the tone in their first campaign in Kentucky. Orlando comes to the Challenge Cup with a young, promising roster that is bolstered by new arrivals and familiar faces alike. Alex Morgan returns following a loan spell at Tottenham Hotspur, while Gunny Jónsdóttir and Crystal Thomas have been acquired to provide depth going forward.
4) The Derby – Portland Thorns FC vs OL Reign
Wednesday, April 21st, 10pm EST (Providence Park, CBS Sports Network)
A fixture to circle no matter the year or the competition, this year’s first Cascadia Derby is sure to have profound effects on the race for top spot in the Western Division. OL Reign have added a litany of high-profile talent across their roster, as Angelina, Karen Bardsley, and Tziarra King supplement the return of Megan Rapinoe to NWSL action.
5) Decision Day – Sky Blue FC vs Racing Louisville FC, Kansas City vs OL Reign, and Houston Dash vs Portland Thorns FC
Sunday, May 2nd, 12:30pm – 4:30pm – 7:30pm (Paramount+)
Following the result of the match between the North Carolina Courage and Orlando Pride, four of the league’s ten clubs will play their final match on the same day as each club vies to clinch one of the two slots remaining in the NWSL Challenge Cup Championship.