NWSL playoff picture, standings, seeding: Portland Thorns clinch 2021 NWSL Shield

There are now only two weeks remaining in the 2021 National Women’s Soccer League regular season and the playoff picture is starting to take shape. There are four remaining playoff spots on the line now that two teams, the Portland Thorns and OL Reign, have punched their postseason tickets.

This is the first year for the NWSL’s expanded playoff format, with six teams qualifying instead of only four in years prior. Previously, at the conclusion of the regular season, the top four finishers would head into a semifinal with the top seed playing the fourth seed while the second and third-seeded sides also competed for a spot in the final.

This time around, once the regular season concludes on Oct. 31, six teams will compete in single-elimination playoffs with the top two seeds earning a bye straight to the semifinals. The first round of the playoffs will begin the weekend of Nov. 6 with No. 3 vs. No. 6 and No. 4 vs. No. 5 seeds facing off for a spot in the semifinal round. The NWSL semifinals will take place Nov. 13-14, concluding with the NWSL Championship final on CBS, which was originally scheduled to take place at Providence Park in Portland, Oregon, has been moved to Lynn Family Stadium in Louisville, Kentucky, home of Racing Louisville FC.

Let’s take a look at the current playoff picture if the regular season concludes today, this will be updated as the remaining weeks progress:

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Playoff picture

If the season ended today …

First-round byes into semifinals: 

  • 1. Portland Thorns FC (43 points, +16 GD) — clinched playoff spot
  • 2. OL Reign (39 points, +10 GD) — clinched playoff spot

First-round matchups:

  • 3. Washington Spirit (36 points, +2 GD) vs. 6. Houston Dash (32 points, +1 GD)  
  • 4. Chicago Red Stars (35 points, -1 GD)  vs. 5. NJ/NY Gotham FC (32 points, +8 GD)

Outside looking in:

  • 7. North Carolina Courage (32 points, +5 GD)
  • 8. Orlando Pride (28 points, -2 GD) — eliminated
  • 9. Racing Louisville FC (17 points, -21 GD) — eliminated
  • 10. Kansas City NWSL (15 points, -17 GD) — eliminated

Teams that have clinched

The first-place Portland Thorns and second-place OL Reign have booked their tickets to the 2021 NWSL playoffs as league play continues. Portland Thorns also clinched the the 2021 NWSL shield after defeating Houston Dash 1-0 on the road. It is the third title for the Thorns in 2021 as the club has already earned the 2021 Challenge Cup and 2021 Women’s international champions cup. 

The three consecutive titles come off first place in the 2020 NWSL Fall Series victory where the team earned a the first ever Community Shield, which awarded $25,000 to the local business or non-profit of the teams’ choice.

The Thorns have their place in the 2021 playoffs settled and will have to wait and see who they will face at the conclusion of the regular season. Four playoff spots remain and there are five active clubs competing for a chance at the biggest title of the year, the NWSL Championship.

Teams that have been eliminated

Racing Louisville FC and Kansas City sit in ninth and 10th place, respectively, and are mathematically eliminated from playoff contention. Orlando Pride are currently in eighth place and have been eliminated from playoff contention after their loss to Louisville. 

Current NWSL standings

  1. Portland Thorns: 43 points

  2. OL Reign: 39 points

  3. Washington Spirit: 36 points

  4. Chicago Red Stars: 35 points

  5. NJ/NY Gotham FC: 32 points

  6. Houston Dash: 32 points


  7. North Carolina Courage: 32 points

  8. Orlando Pride:  28 points

  9. Racing Louisville FC: 20 points

  10. Kansas City NWSL: 15 points

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