Tuesday, December 5, 2023

NWSL playoff predictions, expert picks: Experts divided with Thorns, Wave, Gotham, Courage all possible champs

After the NWSL’s first Decision Day delivered on the chaos, the playoffs promise just as much excitement.

While the San Diego Wave and Portland Thorns take a break after earning a first-round bye, four other teams – including three sides who missed out on last year’s playoffs – begin the 2023 postseason with the hopes of lifting the NWSL’s revamped silverware a month from now.

The OL Reign will embark on yet another quest for NWSL glory after Sunday’s 3-0 win over the Chicago Red Stars, allowing them to extend Megan Rapinoe’s career by at least one more game before she officially retires. They will take on first-time playoff contenders Angel City, who have lost just once since making a managerial change and handing Becki Tweed the reins in June.

The North Carolina Courage, meanwhile, hope to translate this year’s Challenge Cup triumph into a meaningful postseason run on the back of an MVP-caliber season from Kerolin. They will have to get through NJ/NY Gotham FC first, though, who hope to give Ali Krieger an ideal sendoff before her retirement and will rely on attacking talents like Lynn Williams and Midge Purce to get the job done.

Here’s a look at the NWSL playoff picture before the action begins on Friday.

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NWSL playoff structure

The playoffs begin with two quarterfinal matchups in which the Reign will take on Angel City and the Courage will face Gotham. The winner of the Reign’s game against Angel City will face the Thorns in Portland, while the victor of the Courage’s matchup with Gotham will take on the Wave in San Diego.

The winners of the two semifinal matches will then meet at San Diego’s Snapdragon Stadium for the championship game on Nov. 11.

NWSL Playoff Schedule 

All times Eastern


Friday, Oct. 20
OL Reign vs. Angel City, 10 p.m. (CBS Sports Golazo Network, Paramount+)

Sunday, Oct. 22
North Carolina Courage vs. NJ/NY Gotham FC, 7 p.m. (CBS Sports Network)


Sunday, Nov. 5
Portland Thorns vs. North Carolina Courage or NJ/NY Gotham FC, 7 p.m. (CBS Sports Network)
San Diego Wave vs. OL Reign or Angel City, 9:30 p.m. (CBS Sports Network)


Saturday, Nov. 11
Winner of semifinal one vs. Winner of semifinal two (CBS, Paramount+)

NWSL Bracket

NWSL playoff picks – Attacking Third

NWSL playoff picks – CBSSports.com writers

OL Reign vs. Angel City

by Sandra Herrera

  • Matchup to watch: Amandine Henry vs. Jess Fishlock
  • Most likely goal scorer: Veronica Latsko
  • Potential surprising performance: Emily Sonnett
  • Player of the match: Jess Fishlock
  • Prediction: OL Reign 2-1


by Sandra Herrera

  • Matchup to watch: Lynn Williams vs. Kaleigh Kurtz
  • Most likely goal scorer: Lynn Williams
  • Potential surprising performance: Jenna Nighswonger 
  • Player of the match: Lynn Williams
  • Prediction: Gotham 2-1

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