The National Women's Soccer League announced a scheduling framework ahead of the 2023 season on Thursday. The league will enter its 11th season on March 25 and conclude with the NWSL Championship final on November 11. A total of 176 games will take place between the 2023 regular season and the 2023 NWSL Challenge Cup -- the six-week tournament will run concurrently with the regular season. The full league schedule and broadcast details will be released at a later date.

"Reaching our historic 10th season of play was a landmark moment for women's professional soccer and the greater women's sports community," said NWSL commissioner Jessica Berman. 

"The growth of the NWSL is a testament to the league's incredible athletes as well as the steadfast support of its fans, owners, and stakeholders, and we look forward to building off last season's momentum with another exciting season in 2023. I'm confident next year will provide an experience worthy of the world's premier professional women's soccer league." 

Let's take a look at some of the key points from the framework:

Key dates

  • Jan. 23-Feb. 6: Preseason camps
  • March 25: 2023 NWSL Regular Season begins
  • April: 2023 UKG NWSL Challenge Cup begins
  • Sept. 6: Challenge Cup semifinals
  • Sept. 9: Challenge Cup Final
  • Oct. 22: NWSL quarterfinals
  • Nov. 4: NWSL semifinals
  • Nov. 11: NWSL Championship

2023 NWSL Challenge Cup

Challenge Cup was originally launched in July 2020 in lieu of a regular season during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. The tournament was shifted to take place ahead of the regular season in 2021 and 2022, taking on the feel of a preseason event. The competition is transforming once again and will now run concurrently with the 2023 regular season.

The NWSL Challenge Cup will be a six-week tournament and run from April to September. The 12 NWSL clubs will be divided into three groups of four teams playing double round-robin matches for a total of six fixtures. After group play, three group winners and a second-place team (highest point total) will compete in the semifinals, and the semifinal winners will compete in the NWSL Challenge Cup final.

NWSL in a World Cup year

In light of the 2023 Women's World Cup set to take place in Australia and New Zealand in July, the league developed another 22-week schedule. There will be 132 games played during the regular season, played over 22 weeks, and mid-week matches have been eliminated. The efforts were made to minimize schedule congestion for player safety and peak performance.

While there is no mention of a "World Cup break" in the current framework, the schedule aims to limit the number of regular-season games staged during the World Cup to ensure the league's international players can compete for both club and country with minimal conflicts. Each team will play 28 matches between the regular season and the NWSL Challenge Cup, split between home and away.

What's next?

The first-ever free agency period is currently underway in NWSL. Under the new CBA, players with six or more years of service in the league are eligible under free agency, and players are able to negotiate deals with clubs. Most players have announced new deals with their same clubs, while USWNT defender Kelley O'Hara recently announced she will make the leap from Washington Spirit to NJ/NY Gotham FC.

The NWSL Draft is set for Jan. 12. The draft will take place during the United Soccer Coaches Convention at the Pennsylvania Convention Center in Philadelphia.