The NWSL revealed the general schedule outline for 2023 on Thursday. Don’t get the wrong idea — they didn’t reveal the fixtures themselves, but did provide the basic signposts for the upcoming season.
First, preseason will open sometime between Jan. 23-Feb. 6, at the apparent discretion of teams. I would expect most teams to open camp on the early side, with training camp lasting 6-8 weeks.
The first competitive game in 2023 will be the regular season opener, the weekend of Mar. 25. That hints to the biggest change of the calendar, which is that the NWSL Challenge Cup will now run concurrently with the season. The Challenge Cup will kick off in April and last through September, and the format will be familiar: three groups of four teams, home-and-away fixtures in group play, and then a four-team knockout round after group play. The Challenge Cup final is scheduled for Sept. 9.
Meanwhile, the league is promising that in league play, the regular season schedule will be “eliminating mid-week matches to minimize schedule congestion for player safety and optimal performance.” It’s unclear then if the Challenge cup will be midweek, it certainly appears so. In addition, the NWSL says they will “limit the number of regular season games staged during the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup to ensure the league’s top players are able to compete for both club and country with minimal conflicts.” We’ll see how that shakes out.
And then when it comes to the postseason, six teams will again qualify for the playoffs, which will start in late-October. The NWSL Final is scheduled for Nov. 11.
So in some ways, the season will be similar to this year, and in other ways, it will be quite a bit different. In particular, the Challenge Cup will no longer be preseason, so whether that makes a difference to the regular season standings and how teams approach the Challenge Cup remains to be seen. On one hand, San Diego Wave FC made full use of the Challenge Cup to find their sea legs before dropping into the deep end of the regular season, and it helped them tremendously, as they fell just short of winning the NWSL Shield. But maybe teams will care more about the Challenge Cup, which would be nice, too.
Actual fixture dates and opponents will drop at a later date.
What do you think? Leave a comment below.