The NWSL Final: What You Need to Know

NWSL championship

By MC Bousquette

The NWSL’s third season is coming to a conclusion in Portland, Oregon with the Championship match on the horizon. The final represents the pinnacle of women’s soccer in North America and will be televised on Fox Sports 1.

When is the final and who’s in it?

The NWSL final will take place Thursday night at 9:30pm EST at Providence Park in Portland, Oregon. This is the home of NWSL’s Portland Thorns (think Tobin Heath, Christine Sinclair) and MLS’ Portland Timbers. As of Wednesday, Portland team owner Merritt Paulson shared that 12,000 tickets have been sold for the final.

NWSL Shield winners Seattle Reign FC will take on reigning NWSL champions FC Kansas City in a rematch of the 2014 NWSL Final.

I’m watching the NWSL for the first time- is there anyone on these teams from the national team?

Absolutely. Numerous US Women’s National Team stars populate both teams, and serve as major contributors’ to their success.

Seattle Reign FC has two major USWNT names. The 2015 Women’s World Cup Golden Glove winner Hope Solo stands ready at goalkeeper and Megan Rapinoe, who plays midfield for the national team and serves as a vital component of Seattle’s offense up top. Rapinoe scored in the Reign’s 3-0 semifinal victory over the Washington Spirit.

FC Kansas City has its own share of USWNT players. Amy Rodriguez serves as a striker for FCKC, and hasn’t stopped scoring since returning to the NWSL. She scored a brace against Seattle in the 2014 Final and in this year’s semifinal against the Chicago Red Stars. Look for her to continue the fire on Thursday night.

Alongside A-Rod is the retiring Lauren Holiday up top, while Heather O’Reilly, who’s been lighting it up on the USWNT’s Victory Tour, features at midfield. Last, but certainly not least, is centerback and 2015 NWSL Defender of the Year Becky Sauerbrunn, who dominates on the back line.

Who else should I know on each team? 

While this will certainly not be exhaustive (this league is chock full of world class, non-USWNT team talent), I’ll give you three to know from each club.

Seattle Reign FC:

  1. Jess Fishlock is the Welsh wonder at midfield. Fishlock is a threatening, physical player with eight goals during the NWSL regular season.
  2. Kim Little, who may as well be termed the Scottish Messi with her deft footwork and proclivity for scoring amazing goals, is another up top who could definitely trouble Kansas City’s defense. Watch her as closely as FC Kansas City will be – she could well provide a show.
  3. Bev Yanez: Moments after returning to the game from weeks of injury, Yanez found the back of the net off an assist from Rapinoe against the Washington Spirit in the semifinals, marking her 10th goal of the season:

FC Kansas City

  1. Jen Buczkowski: Buczkowski is a phenomenal defensive midfielder, and is definitely one of the most underrated players in the NWSL. She serves both as a major defensive support and as a crucial link to swing the ball back upfield to FCKC’s powerful offense.
  2. Lee Ann Robinson: While Sauerbrunn was at the World Cup, Robinson proved why she is one of the best defenders in the NWSL. In tandem with the Broon, Becca Moros, and Amy LePeilbet, Robinson stands ready to shut down the Seattle offense.
  3. Amy LePeilbet: LePeilbet played every minute of the NWSL season for FCKC, and is another significant contributor to the back line’s solidity. The Kansas City brick wall is going to be difficult for Seattle to penetrate, and she’s a major reason why.

Is there anything else going on?

Lauren Holiday (née Cheney) is retiring. She credits FC Kansas City as a significant contributor to her development. She shared after FC Kansas City’s final regular season match, “[FC Kansas City] completely changed my career… to have a coach that believes in you as much as Vlatko [Andonovski] believes in me, it’s transforming for your confidence.”

Lauren Holiday as her jersey is retired before her final home match. (Credit: NWSL)

Lauren Holiday as her jersey is retired before her final home match. (Credit: NWSL)

Holiday is fan and team favorite- she’s heralded as a leader on the national team, and it’s clear that she’s beloved both on and off the pitch. “I’ve cried over this way too much because it really does sadden me to think that I’m not going to play with one of my best friends anymore, but I’m really excited for her. Retirement after an awesome career is so amazing and I’m excited for her,” Rodriguez shared in the conference call previewing the NWSL Final, “I can’t tell you how many times she made me and [other players] look good on the field because of all the work that she does.

So… who’s going to win?

This game could go either way. Seattle and Kansas City both have a stellar combination of a strong defense and a coordinated attack. Even if you have no allegiance to either side, this is one of the best soccer match ups there is with two very complete sides. It is well worth your time to tune in if you like soccer! Or sports. Or watching awesome things happen on TV.

Anything else?

Erm, sure. Here’s a little bit of friendly rivalry between Pinoe and the Broon from back during the World Cup:

  • HydraHamster

    LET’S GO KANSAS CITY FC!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!