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There are now only three 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 (40 points, +15 GD) -- clinched playoff spot
  • 2. OL Reign (39 points, +12 GD) -- clinched playoff spot

First-round matchups:

  • 3. Washington Spirit (33 points, +0 GD) vs. 6. North Carolina Courage (32 points, +8 GD)  
  • 4. Houston Dash (32 points, +2 GD)  vs. 5. Chicago Red Stars (32 points, -2 GD)

Outside looking in:

  • 7. NJ/NY Gotham FC (29 points, +5 GD)
  • 8. Orlando Pride (28 points, -2 GD) 
  • 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 after league play resumed last week. The two teams are both in contention for the 2021 NWSL Shield, which is an annual award given to the team with the best regular-season record, as they are currently separated by one point. The two teams have concluded their regular-season series as OL Reign hold the head-to-head tiebreaker with two wins.

NJ/NY Gotham FC are a long, long-shot contenders for the shield despite sitting outside of playoff position in seventh place. They have four matches remaining, more than any other club at the moment, and if they win all four while Portland and OL Reign lose out, they could shock the league.

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. 

Current NWSL standings

  1. Portland Thorns: 40 points

  2. OL Reign: 39 points

  3. Washington Spirit: 33 points

  4. Houston Dash: 32 points

  5. Chicago Red Stars: 32 points

  6. North Carolina Courage: 32 points


  7. NJ/NY Gotham FC: 29 points

  8. Orlando Pride:  28 points

  9. Racing Louisville FC: 17 points

  10. Kansas City NWSL: 15 points