The National Women's Soccer League announced its preliminary framework plans for its historic 10th anniversary season during Saturday's coverage of the 2022 NWSL Draft on Paramount+. Let's take a look at the key dates and schedules set in place for the new season.
The 2022 season begins with a six-week preseason camp beginning on Feb. 1 in preparation for the third annual Challenge Cup, which will begin on Saturday, March 19 and end on Saturday, May 7 in a competition that will last almost two months.
Here's how the Challenge Cup will work: Teams will be split into three groups of four teams and play double round-robin matches, which means each team will play six group stage games before we get to the playoffs.
The league will then pause after the Challenge Cup before it picks it back up with the 2022 regular season, which, for the first time since 2014, will feature an old-school format where each team will play each other once home and away. As opposed to last season where each team played a 24 games in the regular season, this time around each team will play two fewer games to balance out the fixture list before the postseason, which will not change in format.
The top six teams will qualify for the NWSL postseason and the two two seeds, including the NWSL Shield winner for best regular-season record, will receive a first-round bye nd into the semifinals. All in all, we'll still see five playoff games (two in the first and second rounds and a final), including the NWSL Championship game in the weekend of Oct. 28.
The league is also working on limiting the number of regular season games during FIFA international windows, especially as United States women's national team (along with other international players outside of the U.S.) prepare to qualify for the 2023 FIFA Women's World Cup.
So, to recap:
- Third annual Challenge Cup: March 19-May 7
- 22-game regular season (first balanced schedule since 2014)
- Top six qualify for playoffs
- Championship weekend: Oct. 28
With the Challenge Cup and the regular season combined, each team will be guaranteed at least 14 games at home and 14 on the road. The Challenge Cup final (May 7) and NWSL Championship (weekend of Oct. 28) will air on CBS and Paramount+