The NWSL quarterfinals will wrap up on Sunday when North Carolina Courage hosts NJ/NY Gotham FC at WakeMed Soccer Park in Cary, North Carolina. The only two east coast teams in the playoffs, both sides will square off for the chance to meet reigning NWSL champions Portland Thorns FC in the semifinals. This will be their fifth meeting of the season. Fans can watch all the quarterfinal action on CBS Sports Network.
Here’s everything you need to know about the game:
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- Date: Sunday, Oct. 22 | Time: 7 p.m. ET
- Place: WakeMed Soccer Park — Cary, North Carolina
- TV: CBS Sports Network
- Odds: Courage +106; Draw +238; Gotham +222
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The NWSL postseason is a knockout-round format. Six teams advanced to the playoffs with three rounds of competition including two first-round matches, two semifinal games (Nov. 5), and the NWSL Championship (Nov. 11). Each playoff game will be 90 minutes of regulation, and if the score is tied, two 15-minute periods of extra time will be played. If the two periods of extra-time has not determined a winner, then a penalty kick shootout will take place.
North Carolina Courage: They’re 2023 Challenge Cup winners and the Courage are back in the NWSL playoffs after missing out in 2022. Head coach Sean Nahas and the franchise needed little time to bounce back despite losing several star players over the last two years. The club has had a resurgence over the 2023 season, backed by standout play by their international players Kerolin Nicoli and Narumi Miura, and an emphasis on retaining the ball through possession style.
Coach Nahas has stated numerous times the club is ahead of where they thought they’d be in their rebuild, though he recently declined to comment on the availability status of Kerolin during the quarterfinal pregame conference. Later, the club announced that Kerolin suffered a torn ACL.
NJ/NY Gotham FC: The New Jersey side is also back in the NWSL postseason after a quarterfinal appearance in 2021. It’s a big step forward for the club and the second playoff appearance for head coach Juan Carlos Amoros after being in the quarterfinals with Houston Dash in 2022. Only a handful of players remain from the 2021 playoff squad, and the 2023 roster additions of Lynn Williams, Yazmeen Ryan, and Esther Gonzalez have provided a significant upgrade in the attack.
Their bench depth is underrated. After losing Taylor Smith, starting goalkeeper Abby Smith, and U.S. national team player Kristie Mewis, multiple players have stepped up in their absences through an international window with a FIFA Women’s World Cup stretch.
Players to watch
Narumi Miura (North Carolina Courage): The Japanese international has been the breakout signing for North Carolina this year. She’ll be essential to the team now with Kerolin out for the quarterfinal. While Kerolin has led nearly all offensive stats for the squad, Narumi has been right behind her. She’s second on the team in chances created (27) and expected assists (2.76). Look for her to retain the ball and break the lines for North Carolina.
Lynn Williams (NJ/NY Gotham FC): The USWNT forward is in her first season with the club and leads the team in shots on target (36) and goals scored (seven). Her relentless efforts in the counter-press will be a major asset against a North Carolina side that wants to keep the ball. She can also take over a game when needed so watch for her to be play collaborator and facilitator.
These two teams played to a wild 3-3 draw back in September, so don’t be surprised if this is the first playoff match to go into extra time Pick: Gotham 2, North Carolina 1 (AET)