The 2022 NWSL Challenge Cup final will kick off on Saturday as the North Carolina Courage will play host to the Washington Spirit at WakeMed Soccer Plex in Cary, North Carolina. The two sides have already faced each other twice in the group stage and will now square off with a chance to win their first Challenge Cup title in franchise history. Kick off is set for 1 p.m. ET on CBS and Paramount+.
claim the title for the first time in their respective franchise histories. Fans can watch the Challenge Cup final on CBS.
The league will have a new Challenge Cup champion after the previous two editions of the competition were won by Houston Dash (2020) and Portland Thorns FC (2021) before the tournament was reformatted. Fans can follow along with pre and post game coverage of the event with CBS Sports soccer podcast Attacking Third on YouTube.
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How they got here
The league expanded ahead of the 2022 calendar year by welcoming two new California expansion sides into the fold, growing the NWSL from 10 to 12 clubs. As a result, the Challenge Cup was reformatted to include three separate regional groups with four teams, with each club playing their group opposition twice.
North Carolina and Washington were divided into the East region alongside NJ/NY Gotham FC and Orlando Pride. The Courage and Spirit went unbeaten in the group stage, though their group stage head-to-head ended in a pair of 2-2 draws. Three of those four Washington goals scored against North Carolina have come from forward Ashley Hatch. Courage midfielder Debinha was not far off from Hatch’s pace, producing a goal in each Challenge Cup group stage game played against the Spirit.
Both sides are no strangers to big stages, with the Spirit currently sitting as the NWSL title holders and the Courage having won back-to-back titles in 2018 and 2019 while making the playoffs in every year since 2017. After the shortest offseason in NWSL history, the two sides have a chance to win a trophy to kick off their season as they make their first-ever trip to the Challenge Cup final.
The Spirit have a dynamic attack in Hatch, Ashley Sanchez and Trinity Rodman, but the trio had trouble in the final third during their semifinal and were out-shot 21 to 12 in regulation. North Carolina’s fullbacks could cause trouble out on the wings. They have plenty of talented options on their roster with Merritt Mathias, Jaelene Daniels and Carson Pickett. Pick: North Carolina Courage 2, Washington Spirit 1