NWSL Playoffs: teams turning the tide in 2022

Naomi Girma of San Diego Wave FC walks with teammates.
Naomi Girma of San Diego Wave FC walks to the field with teammates ahead of the game against NJ/NY Gotham FC at Torero Stadium on May 07, 2022. (Photo by Meg Oliphant/Getty Images)

The 2022 NWSL regular season had it all: comebacks, heartbreaks, record-breaking moments, and debuts. It was a rollercoaster of a year, for sure.

Last time on the HFH Stateside podcast, we discussed how close everything was at the top of the NWSL table. That margin grew even tighter, and the final weekend of regular-season matchups proved to be one to watch.

Now we know the complete NWSL playoff picture, with the top two seeds directly qualifying for the semifinal match. Those clubs are the Portland Thorns and the OL Reign—the Reign having won the NWSL Shield after finishing the season with 40 points.

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The remaining playoff teams are the San Diego Wave, Houston Dash, Kansas City Current, and Chicago Red Stars.

Many NWSL fans will see a few of those clubs and think, “Oh well, maybe an underdog will win this year.” And I am here to tell you two potential teams could do just that: the Current and the Wave. Both water-themed teams could shift the dynamic of the 2022 NWSL Playoffs.

The new wave of women’s soccer

Finishing third in the league standings, San Diego made waves during their maiden NWSL season. They rounded out the year with ten wins and six losses, with 36 points total.

At the helm, Casey Stoney has done brilliantly. Coming from Manchester United in the WSL, Stoney’s coaching evolution to this style of play and pace was one that Wave FC needed. The leadership, vision, and skill Stoney brought to the club were evident in each match.

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One cannot speak about San Diego without mentioning its very star-studded roster. First and foremost, the newly announced golden boot winner, Alex Morgan, lit up San Diego’s scoreboard quite frequently. 15 goals out of 17 games played is a fantastic stat, not only for the player herself but also for the team as a whole.

Between the sticks, goalkeeper Kailen Sheridan had her fair share of stops—landing herself in the 400 Club. Then, there’s the supporting cast of Taylor Kornieck, Abby Dahlkemper,  Sofia Jakobsson, draft pick Naomi Girma, Emily Van Egmond, Christen Westphal, and Marleen Schimmer. But the list of players could go on. It’s just a snippet of why Wave FC will be ready to fight for silverware in this year’s playoff series. 

Riding the current of newfound success

Kansas City Current finished fifth in the NWSL standings. Their road to the top was one of true grit. The team had a sluggish start to the season, but there were several moments of greatness.

I was fortunate to watch the Current take on the Orlando Pride earlier this season, where the scoreline ended with a 2-2 draw. In that game, fans saw the team trying new tactics, and rising stars began to show their craft.

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It wasn’t until June that the Current was flowing fast. From the end of May until mid-September, the Current held onto a 12-game unbeaten streak. Along that glorious road, a few signees entered the squad. Claire Lavogez and CeCe Kizer joined, and they were just the missing pieces needed to complete the team’s squad dynamic.

Kansas City is now the face of determination in the league, from coming in last in the 2021 NWSL season to landing a spot in the 2022 playoffs. The Current have something to prove this postseason.

Heading into the deep end of the 2022 NWSL season

Many clubs seeded into this year’s NWSL playoffs have shown the determination to go all the way. Some are regular playoff contenders, while others are considered underdogs of the 2022 postseason. The NWSL’s unpredictability means that anyone can make a splash and win it all.

The 2022 NWSL playoff series begins on October 16, with the semi-final matches taking place on October 23. The championship game will happen on October 29 as we conclude another enthralling season brought to you by the NWSL.

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