NWSL Playoff Semifinal Preview

Two spots up for grabs in the NWSL Final, Who grabs them?

Portland, Chicago, and North Carolina. No surprises there, those three were widely predicted to make the NWSL playoffs. Orlando? Now there’s a team that surprised a few people. Can they crash the party and make it to a final they will host? First we have to get past the semifinal round.

Orlando Pride at Portland Thorns FC, Saturday at 3:30 p.m. ET (on Lifetime)

Since the start of July, Portland has gone 9-2-2 and Orlando is 7-2-4 in that same time. These two teams are playing the best soccer in the league right now and should lead to some fire works in front of what should be an outstanding atmosphere in Portland.

There is no shortage of star power on display in this one either. Alex Morgan, Marta, Ashlyn Harris, Christine Sinclair, Lindsey Horan, Amadine Henry all feature in this match. Oh have we mentioned Tobin Heath is back? Portland has gone through almost this entire year without her. Heath’s return could bolster the strength in the starting XI for Portland, or it could throw off a rhythm the team already has. My money is on the former.

For Orlando, a chance to play for a title on their home field would be a huge opportunity for them. The crowd in Orlando would undoubtedly be electric. To do that, they need Marta to continue her play in the midfield and the defense to remain organized in a hostile environment.

Chicago Red Stars at North Carolina Courage, Sunday at 3:30 p.m. ET (on Lifetime)

A matchup between the defending champions and a team stacked with talent. If you told people in April this would be a final no one would have questioned you. Only one can make the final though, and for whoever loses it will feel like a missed opportunity.

Chicago will rely on their steady defense led by Alyssa Naeher, and Julie Ertz who has moved to midfield. They will have their hands full against the attack of North Carolina. Good luck keeping Jess McDonald and Lynn Williams off the board.

When the Red Stars attack Christen Press has been one of the best strikers in MLS, but the matchup to watch will be how Ertz and North Carolina midfielder McCall Zerboni and how they control the midfield.