The 2020 NWSL Challenge Cup is down to its final four participants after an eventful quarterfinal round that saw three of the four matchups decided in penalty shootouts. North Carolina Courage, Washington Spirit and OL Reign, the top three seeds of the tournament, were eliminated in the quarterfinals.
While the Power Rankings shifted throughout the duration of group play,for prognosticators, which goes to show that in a small sample-size competition like this one, anything is possible in 90-plus minutes.
Take a look below at where teams have landed now that the quarterfinals are in the books.
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Portland Thorns FC
Thanks to a superior performance from Britt Eckerstrom, who entered the tourney No. 3 in their keeper depth chart, they were the only team to score in regulation during the quarterfinal round. Prior to the knockout rounds, Portland Thorns struggled to find a win, which is why they were sitting dead last in our rankings last week. The victory over North Carolina could be what pushes the team through to the cup final, though Houston stands in their way.
Houston Dash played tournament hosts Utah Royals FC to a scoreless draw, and advanced on penalties as Jane Campbell came up with two big saves in the shootout. We didn't see the same scoring between these two teams from the opening match, but Houston has shown it can adjust if need be. Portland is up next in the semifinal.
Sky Blue FC
Sky Blue FC entered the tournament with some significant injuries to their roster while using the group stage to implement their style of play. They earned a win over Houston Dash in their group, while struggling to score in others. They eliminated No. 2 seeded Washington Spirit on penalty kicks, thanks to a final save from Kailen Sheridan. They will face Chicago in the semifinal.
Chicago Red Stars
After splitting the roster into two groups to compete in group play, the Red Stars entered knockout rounds with no goals from their forwards. They found themselves with good chances on goal in their quarterfinal, but were still unable to finish in front of net. They eliminated OL Reign, on penalty kicks, largely due to the team being able to convert their attempts. Sky Blue FC stands in the way before this weekend's final.
North Carolina Courage
After dominating the group stage with a three-game sweep, the reigning NWSL champs were ousted by Portland Thorns FC. Despite the early exit, the Courage are still the team to chase in 2021.
Coach Richie Burke and his young core wanted to make a statement during this tournament and they did by getting results during their group stage against Portland Thorns FC and Chicago Red Stars. They showed they can compete against experienced teams and they'll probably be among the top-tiered teams for next season.
Utah Royals FC
The 3-5-2 formation was a mixed bag for new coach Craig Harrington, which saw his team score four times in the first two group stage games before going on a three-game losing streak to crash out of the Challenge Cup. Veteran players Amy Rodriguez and Vero Boquete impressed during the group stages, while Elizabeth Ball and rookies Tziarra King and Kate Del Fava had strong individual performances.
New head coach Farid Benstiti and his team struggled in front of goal all the way through to the knockout stage. The team earned results in the form of a 2-0 loss, two scoreless draws, and a 1-0 win -- that came in the form of a stoppage time goal in the second half. A number of injuries to significant players -- Jess Fishlock and Sofia Huerta -- were also a small setback. Benstiti hinted after the elimination that the style he is implementing could use new personnel, but that concerns around COVID-19 will prevent roster moves from happening in the near future.