The lineup for the National Women's Soccer League final has been confirmed. After their 1-0 win over Portland Thorns on Sunday, the Chicago Red Stars, led by record NWSL attacker Sam Kerr, booked their ticket to the ultimate game where they will face North Carolina Courage.
The Championship game, which will be held at the Sahlen's Stadium at WakeMed Soccer Park Cary in North Carolina, will draw the curtains on what has been a thrilling 2019 season. This is the biggest match in women's football following the highly-successful 2019 FIFA Women's World Cup tournament, as the top two teams from the regular season gear up for a battle this weekend. Here's everything you need to know.
When is the NWSL Championship?
The game between the NWSL Shield champions North Carolina Courage and Sam Kerr and Co. will take place on Sunday, October 27, 2019. Kick-off is at 15:30 ET.
How did the finalists book their tickets?
The way things work in the NWSL Championship is like this: the top four teams from the regular season book their tickets to the playoffs, which is a single-elimination tie.
For North Carolina, the path was straightforward. They were crowned the NWSL Shields champions for the third straight year. Their 3-0 win over Utah Royals FC in late September, their 15th victory in the 2019 campaign, confirmed their title defense. Courage were the best team in the league, losing only five times and boasting the best attack and defense. They would then go on to beat Reign FC 4-1 in the playoffs.
Debinha scored this beauty as Courage ran riot vs Reign FC
Chicago Red Stars, meanwhile, could have lifted the NWSL Shield had they racked up six more points during the regular season. They had league's deadliest attacker in the form of Sam Kerr but the Aussie's heroics weren't enough as the Red Stars narrowly missed out on the crown after racking up 14 wins, two draws, and eight defeats.
Nagasato and Kerr combined the score the winning goal in the playoffs clash with Portland Thorns
NWSL statistics and what's at stake in Sunday's final
Besides the Championship, not much else is at stake. Given that only the statistics from the regular season are taken into consideration, the Golden Boot has already been won and it went to Sam Kerr – surprise, surprise. Her tally of 18 strikes broke the previous record for most goals in a single regular season (17), which was held by none other than the Red Stars' Aussie superstar
Sam Kerr: 18 goals
Lynn Williams: 12 goals
Kristen Hamilton, Christine Sinclair, Amy Rodriguez: 9 goals
Kerr makes history by outdoing no one but herself!
As for top assists, that goes to Yuki Nagasato with eight. Debinha, who has been a crucial member of North Carolina Courage's season, comes in at a close second with seven assists. Fellow Courage star and NWSL April Player of the Month Crystal Dunn has only four under her belt.
Then there is the bigger picture: the popularity of women's soccer
The 2019 FIFA Women's World Cup in France was a huge success in terms of viewership and ticket sales, proving that women's football can fill out stadiums and get fans glued to their screens. However, this does not paper over the fact that the NWSL struggles to bring in a huge audiences.
The two finalists averaged an attendance in the five thousand, with only two teams averaging more than 10,000 in attendances during the regular season – Portland Thorns (20,098) and Utah Royals (10,774).
Here's where the 2019 FIFA World Cup will come in handy. The buzz France 2019 created around women's soccer was huge and that could have a trickle-down effect on the NWSL Championship, with the likes of Crystal Dunn, Debinha, and Sam Kerr who starred in the summer tournament set to headline the weekend final. All eyes will be on this game in what should be a thrilling showdown.
Will the NWSL Championship ride the wave of popularity sparked by the 2019 FWWC?
How to watch the 2019 NWSL Championship?
North Carolina Courage vs Chicago Red Stars Broadcast Information
Stadium: Sahlen's Stadium at WakeMed Soccer Park (Cary, North Carolina)
Canada: TSN GO, TSN2
United Kingdom: BT Sport Live, BT Sport 2
United States: Yahoo Sports USA, ESPN App, ESPN