If women’s soccer fans were told five months ago that first NWSL season would end with Abby Wambach and Alex Morgan in the title game, some would have happily taken it. Others would have cried conspiracy. Few would have disputed it as a boon in the league’s first year, when every bit of publicity helps.
After Saturday’s semifinals, the league has their dream matchup, though it’s still unclear if all the stars will be on stage. Whereas Wambach is guaranteed to lead her team onto the field in Rochester after Western New York eliminated Sky Blue (2-0), Morgan has not played since suffering a knee injury in Boston nearly three weeks ago. Without her, Portland upset FC Kansas City on Saturday, Allie Long’s extra time winner giving Thorns FC a 3-2 win, giving FOX Sports license to run a week’s worth of Abby vs. Alex promos ahead of Saturday’s final.
But for anybody who watched Saturday’s game in Kansas, “a 3-2 win” feels like a gross understatement. Here’s how the Thorns (and Flash) advanced to the NWSL’s first championship game:
Semifinal 1: FC Kansas City 2, Portland Thorns FC 3
Favorites coming into the season, Portland slipped to third place by the time the last game was played, meaning their route to the final would go through Overland Park. In two regular season games at FCKC, Portland had only taken one point, generally being outplayed during their trips to Shawnee Mission District Stadium. Yet with Vlatko Andonovski’s team limping into the postseason — a two-game losing streak to non-playoff teams costing them first place — there was reason to doubt Kansas City carried the same quality that troubled Portland during the regular season.
Those doubts irrelevant after 25 minutes. Rookie of the Year Erika Tymrak, whose half season starting for Andonovski has earned her a national team call-up, scored from distance in the 12th minute. Melissa Henderson, goalless in 17 regular season games, beat Karina LeBlanc near the half’s mid-point, priming Portland for an embarrassing end to their season. With league MVP-to-be Lauren Holiday pulling the proverbial strings, the Thorns were getting steamrolled. Favorites before game one, eliminated at game 23, Portland’s lopsided elimination would bring joy to the throngs who’ve come to view PTFC as the NWSL’s Galactic Empire. Merritt Paulson’s Darth Vadar, and FC Kansas City were routing his stormtroopers.
Much to their chagrin, the Rebellion wasn’t meant to be. The narrative that won out in Overland Park was Kansas City’s demise, not Portland’s failure to play to their talent. Whereas the Blues once seemed destined to win the league comfortably, a slew of late capitulations over summer months (in New Jersey, Boston, Chicago, and at home against Chicago) served as a wakeup call. Only as Saturday’s collapse showed, Kansas City never woke up.
In the 35th minute Tobin Heath, playing on an obviously ailing right foot, pulled Portland within one. Tiffany Weimer, coming on strong after joining mid-season, pulled Portland even in the 65th, setting the stage for a bit of redemption. Scrutinized all season long for her play in Portland’s midfield, Allie Long forged the match-winner in the first period of extra time (103′) and, as is if to reinforce the Portland’s image as the league’s pantomime villain, spent the rest of the match committing fouls that teased a second yellow card. Like her team, though, she survived, with Portland’s 3-2 win putting them into Saturday’s final.
It was Portland’s best 90 minutes of the season, finally claiming some of their promise while on the verge of bowing out. For Kansas City, however, it was a heart-breakingly appropriate conclusion to their season. Though they seemed like the best team, their inability to finish games killed them. After this week of postseason awards ends, Kansas City will have the league’s best player, defender, rookie, goalkeeper and coach, but they’ll also have an unexpectedly early end to what has to what was ultimately a disappointing season.
Semifinal 2: Western New York 2, Sky Blue FC 0
Sky Blue’s last two months were all about Saturday. Whereas Kansas City slid into the playoffs and Portland had the postseason thrust upon them, Sky Blue had the final four in the sites ever since it became clear the formula vaulted them top of the league in June was not going to carry them through August. While falling to fourth, Jim Gabarra’s team consolidated, forging their best possible formula for playoff success, though their slide left them with a nightmare playoff matchup. Western New York, the regular season champions, had beat them three times in a row, outscoring them 8-1 in the process.
Gabarra, who had played a 4-3-3 formation for most of the year, decided to throw the Flash a curve. He went 3-5-2, a system nobody had played this season in the NWSL. Whether he did that to load up in defense, get more defenders to combat Abby Wambach, or put players wide on to deal with the Flash Sam Kerr-led wing play, it seemed to cause some confusion. While Western New York were better over the first half hour, a stalemate looked possible.
Then Carli Lloyd broke through. It was a big game, so the Flash midfielder, who most know from her two goals in the 2012 Summer Olympics’ final, was obligated to step up. Clutch is what she does. Converting on a cross from fullback Katherine Reynolds in the 33rd minute, Lloyd lived up to her reputation, putting the home side in front.
Sky Blue held on for the next hour, fostering the impression they could nick an equalizer at any time, but against the league’s best defense, an attack that had come reliant on one player (forward Lisa de Vanna) never broke through. They finished the game outshot 15 to 5, losing 2-0 after Lloyd’s 93rd minute goal completed the U.S. international’s double.
Ultimately, and despite Gabarra’s attempt to change it up, the game played out exactly as expected. While Sky Blue had recovered from their summer funk, they still didn’t have an answer for the Flash. Their new formation stalled the inevitable, but come full-time, the Flash had still controlled play, won a relatively straight forward game, and looked every bit the title favorite. They finished the regular season number one, and come kickoff in Rochester on Saturday, they’ll be favored to retain that mantle.
Final: Western New York vs. Portland Thorns FC
Ever since Kansas City’s slide began, Western New York has been the scariest team in the league. Now, with Lloyd clicking while Wambach continues to demand the defense’s focus, the Flash are on track for their fourth title in four years (across four leagues: W-League, WPS, WPSL Elite, NWSL). In a league down to two teams, they have the best defense, the best attack, the best coaching, and home field advantage. Despite drawing both their meetings with the Thorns this season, Aaran Lines team will be deserved favorites Saturday night.
The threat Portland poses depends on their health. Heath had to leave Saturday’s game after Kansas City’s Desiree Scott stepped on her foot. She’s expected to play, but her exact status won’t be known until later this week. Likewise, what Cindy Parlow Cone can count on from Alex Morgan depends on how much the Thorns star improves. The team’s optimistic, though if she’s healthy, the coaching staff face a challenge integrating her into a team that’s gone 2-0-1 without her.
That draw came two weeks ago, when Portland visited Western New York. Both teams seemed willing to accept the stalemate, the 0-0 result playing out as one of the league’s least compelling games of the season. But without Morgan, Portland were emboldened by the shutout, their improvement in defense giving them confidence going into their season finale.
Two wins later, the Thorns have a shot at the title. And with any luck, the NWSL will get an Abby vs. Alex matchup in its inaugural final.
EURO 2024 qualification live! EURO qualifiers schedule, updates, standings
A number of nations have guaranteed themselves no worse than a playoff spot due to their performances in the UEFA Nations League: Netherlands, Greece, Italy, Spain, Scotland, Georgia, Croatia, Turkey, Serbia, Kazakhstan.
Kazakhstan 1-2 Slovenia
Slovakia 0-0 Luxembourg
Italy 1-2 England – Video, player ratings as Kane breaks Rooney record
Denmark 3-1 Finland
Portugal 4-0 Liechtenstein
San Marino 0-2 Northern Ireland
North Macedonia 2-1 Malta
Bosnia and Herzegovina 3-0 Iceland
Friday, March 24
Bulgaria 0-1 Montenegro
Gibraltar 0-3 Greece
Moldova 1-1 Faroe Islands
Serbia 2-0 Lithuania
Austria 4-1 Azerbaijan
Sweden 0-3 Belgium
Czech Republic 3-1 Poland
France 4-0 Netherlands
Saturday, March 25
Scotland vs Cyprus — 10am ET
Israel vs Kosovo — 1pm ET
Armenia vs Turkey — 1pm ET
Belarus vs Switzerland — 1pm ET
Spain vs Norway — 3:45pm ET
Croatia vs Wales — 3:45pm ET
Andorra vs Romania — 3:45pm ET
Sunday, March 26
Kazakhstan vs Denmark — 9am ET
England vs Ukraine — Noon ET
Liechtenstein vs Iceland — Noon ET
Slovenia vs San Marino — Noon ET
Slovakia vs Bosnia and Herzegovina — 2:45pm ET
Northern Ireland vs Finland — 2:45pm ET
Luxembourg vs Portugal — 2:45pm ET
Malta vs Italy — 2:45pm ET
Monday, March 27
Montenegro vs Serbia — 2:45pm ET
Netherlands vs Gibraltar — 2:45pm ET
Poland vs Albania — 2:45pm ET
Austria vs Estonia — 2:45pm ET
Sweden vs Azerbaijan — 2:45pm ET
Moldova vs Czech Republic — 2:45pm ET
Hungary vs Bulgaria — 2:45pm ET
Republic of Ireland vs France — 2:45pm ET
Tuesday, March 28
Georgia vs Norway — Noon ET
Wales vs Latvia — 2:45pm ET
Romania vs Belarus — 2:45pm ET
Switzerland vs Israel — 2:45pm ET
Kosovo vs Andorra — 2:45pm ET
Turkey vs Croatia — 2:45pm ET
Scotland vs Spain — 2:45pm ET
EURO 2024 qualifying standings
Republic of Ireland
Bosnia and Herzegovina
The group winner will qualify for the finals (four teams) of the 2022-23 CONCACAF Nations League (June 15-18) as well as the 2023 Gold Cup (June 24-July 16). The group runners-up will also qualify for this summer’s Gold Cup.
Following their 7-1 thumping of Grenada on Friday, the USMNT is in good shape and interim head coach Anthony Hudson will likely rotate his first-choice back four back into the lineup.
Christian Pulisic, Brenden Aaronson, Weston McKennie, Gio Reyna and Ricardo Pepi all sparkled in the final third against Grenada and we could see Alex Zendejas and Daryl Dike from the start in Orlando.
Of course, Folarin Balogun is also expected to be watching on from the stands as intrigue grows around his possible switch from England to the USMNT to give the Americans another fine young attacking talent.
Here is everything you need for the USMNT vs El Salvador.
For the next few months CONCACAF Nations League takes center stage, while the program is very much in transition as Anthony Hudson takes temporary charge and both the GM (Brian McBride) and Sporting Director (Earnie Stewart) left in recent months.
2023 Gold Cup from June 16 to July 19 (USMNT yet to qualify)
USMNT games in 2022
vs. Morocco* — June 1 — Win 3-0
vs. Uruguay* — June 5 — Draw 0-0
vs. Grenada** — June 10 — Win 5-0
at El Salvador** — June 14 — Draw 1-1
vs Japan* — Sept. 23 (in Dusseldorf, Germany) — Loss 2-0
vs Saudi Arabia* — Sept. 27 (in Murcia, Spain) — Draw 0-0
USMNT at 2022 World Cup
vs. Wales*** — Nov. 21, 2 pm ET — Draw 1-1
vs. England*** — Nov. 25, 2 pm ET — Draw 0-0
vs. Iran*** — Nov. 29, 2 pm ET — Win 1-0
vs. Netherlands*** — Dec. 3, 10 am ET — Loss 3-1
USMNT 2022 World Cup qualifying scores, recaps, analysis
at El Salvador — Sept. 2 — Draw 0-0
vs. Canada — Sept. 5 — Draw 1-1
at Honduras — Sept. 8 — Win 4-1
vs. Jamaica — Oct. 7 — Win 1-0
at Panama — Oct. 10 — Loss 0-1
vs. Costa Rica — Oct. 13 — Win 2-1
vs. Mexico — Nov. 12 — Win 2-0
at Jamaica — Nov. 16 — Draw 1-1
vs. El Salvador — Jan. 27 — Win 1-0
at Canada — Jan. 30 — Loss 0-2
vs. Honduras — Feb. 2 — Win 3-0
at Mexico — March 24 — Draw 0-0
vs. Panama — March 27 — Win 5-1
at Costa Rica — March 30 — Loss 0-2
Remember: you can watch all 380 Premier League games across NBC, USA Network, NBCSports.com and Peacock. We’ve got you covered.
Will Manchester City win yet another Premier League title? Can Arsenal push them all the way? Will Chelsea and Liverpool recover to finish in the top four? Can Manchester United’s new-look side surge into the title race? What about Tottenham? How will the new boys get on? Who will be the surprise package?
Those questions will be answered from August 2022 to May 2023, with the full list of Premier League fixtures.
While below are the answers to all of the questions you have around the Premier League fixtures and everything else you need to know for the upcoming season, with full details on the Premier League TV schedule across the NBC family of channels and more.
The Premier League fixtures for the 2022-23 season were announced on Thursday June 16, 2022 at 4am ET. Below is the full schedule, as you can watch all 380 games across our NBC platforms.
The Premier League fixture computer decides who plays who and when, as teams located close to one another are usually playing at home on opposite weekends to help with policing, crowd control and transport congestion in those areas.
When will the Premier League take a break for the 2022 World Cup?
When will the 2022-23 Premier League season finish?
The final day of the season will be on Sunday, May 28, 2023.
Which teams will compete in the 2022-23 Premier League?
These are the 20 teams which will compete in the Premier League for the upcoming season:
Arsenal, Aston Villa, Bournemouth, Brentford, Brighton and Hove Albion, Chelsea, Crystal Palace, Everton, Fulham, Leeds United, Leicester City, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United, Newcastle United, Nottingham Forest, Southampton, Tottenham Hotspur, West Ham United, Wolverhampton Wanderers
2:45pm: AFC Bournemouth v Brighton
2:45pm: Leeds v Nottingham Forest
2:45pm: Leicester vs Aston Villa
3pm: Chelsea vs Liverpool
Wednesday 5 April
3pm: Man United v Brentford
3pm: West Ham v Newcastle
Saturday 8 April
7:30am: Man Utd v Everton
Aston Villa v Nottingham Forest
Brentford v Newcastle
Fulham v West Ham
Leicester v AFC Bournemouth
Spurs v Brighton
Wolves v Chelsea
12:30pm: Southampton v Man City
Sunday 9 April
9am: Leeds v Crystal Palace
11:30am: Liverpool v Arsenal
Saturday 15 April
7:30am: Aston Villa v Newcastle
Chelsea v Brighton
Everton v Fulham
Southampton v Crystal Palace
Spurs v AFC Bournemouth
Wolves v Brentford
12:30pm: Man City v Leicester
Sunday 16 April
9am: West Ham v Arsenal
11:30am: Nottingham Forest v Man Utd
Monday 17 April
3pm: Leeds v Liverpool
Friday 21 April
3pm: Arsenal v Southampton
Saturday 22 April
7:30am: Fulham v Leeds
Brentford v Aston Villa
Crystal Palace v Everton
Leicester v Wolves
Liverpool v Nottingham Forest
Sunday 23 April
9am: AFC Bournemouth v West Ham
9am: Newcastle v Spurs
Postponed due to European action
Man Utd v Chelsea
Brighton v Man City
Tuesday 25 April
2:30pm: Wolves v Crystal Palace
2:45pm: Aston Villa v Fulham
2:45pm: Leeds v Leicester
Wednesday 26 April
2:30pm: Nottingham Forest v Brighton
2:45pm: Chelsea v Brentford
2:45pm: West Ham v Liverpool
3pm: Man City v Arsenal
Thursday 27 April
2:45pm: Everton v Newcastle
2:45pm: Southampton v AFC Bournemouth
3:15pm: Spurs v Man Utd
Saturday 29 April
7:30am: Crystal Palace v West Ham
Brentford v Nottingham Forest
Brighton v Wolves
12:30pm: Arsenal v Chelsea
Sunday 30 April
9am: AFC Bournemouth v Leeds
9am: Fulham v Man City
9am: Man Utd v Aston Villa
9am: Newcastle v Southampton
11:30am: Liverpool v Spurs
Monday 1 May
3pm: Leicester v Everton
Wednesday 3 May
3pm: Liverpool v Fulham
3pm: Man City v West Ham
Thursday 4 May
3pm: Brighton v Man Utd
Saturday 6 May
AFC Bournemouth v Chelsea
Spurs v Crystal Palace
Wolves v Aston Villa
12:30pm: Liverpool v Brentford
Sunday 7 May
9am: Man City v Leeds* subject to possible Champions League schedule
11:30am: Newcastle v Arsenal
2pm: West Ham v Man Utd
Monday 8 May
10am: Fulham v Leicester
12:30pm: Brighton v Everton
3pm: Nottingham Forest v Southampton
Saturday 13 May
Arsenal v Brighton
Aston Villa v Spurs
Brentford v West Ham
Chelsea v Nottingham Forest
Crystal Palace v AFC Bournemouth
Everton v Man City
Leeds v Newcastle
Leicester v Liverpool
Man Utd v Wolves
Southampton v Fulham
Saturday 20 May
AFC Bournemouth v Man Utd
Brighton v Southampton
Fulham v Crystal Palace
Liverpool v Aston Villa
Man City v Chelsea
Newcastle v Leicester
Nottingham Forest v Arsenal
Spurs v Brentford
West Ham v Leeds
Wolves v Everton
Sunday 28 May
16:00 Arsenal v Wolves
16:00 Aston Villa v Brighton
16:00 Brentford v Man City
16:00 Chelsea v Newcastle
16:00 Crystal Palace v Nottingham Forest
16:00 Everton v AFC Bournemouth
16:00 Leeds v Spurs
16:00 Leicester v West Ham
16:00 Man Utd v Fulham
16:00 Southampton v Liverpool