After a mini-break for international matches, players have returned to their clubs and right into a high-speed playoff chase. Every single week from here until the end of the season — just under a month from now, on Oct. 1 — has the potential to mash shuffle on the top-7, possibly 8.Six playoff spots, four guaranteed home playoff games, and two first-round byes are on the line. With just six points separating first from seventh, we’re in for a Fury Road-esque ride — flames, wailing guitars, the works. Let’s see what awaits us in Valhalla this weekend. OL Reign vs. Chicago Red Stars, 10pm ET Friday on Paramount+Reign are 5th, with 27 points, and Chicago sits 6th with 26, meaning nine out of 10 babies agree that the simple math potential makes this one extraordinarily fascinating.A point for each keeps them on each other’s heels but loses them ground in the fight to remain above Angel City (7th). Three points would help Reign pull away, while the Red Stars could leapfrog the Pacific Northwest club and put them in a battle with Angel City. Washington Spirit vs. San Diego Wave, 1pm ET Saturday on CBS & Paramount+Normally a 1 vs. 11 match would not be one to watch, however, this is not your typical 1 and not at all your typical 11. Expansion club San Diego are currently at the top of the table and looking to do what no expansion team has ever done and finish at the top in their first season. The Spirit, meanwhile, were last season’s champions. They’ve undergone another coaching change, and the match against the Wave will be interim coach Albertin Montoya’s first.The Spirit have had a season that’s as curious as it’s been calamitous. Despite their position, they’re still a difficult team to get a result from. They have ten draws and all six of their losses have been by a single goal in each game. With a new coach bounce and new ideas, plus a roster we already know can win a Championship, the Spirit should not be taken lightly, particularly after a cross country flight. Houston Dash vs. Angel City, 7pm ET Sunday on Paramount+Houston find themselves sitting second in the league, but tied on points with Kansas City Current who have played one fewer game. Houston must keep adding three points to their total to have a chance at staying in the top two. Meanwhile, Angel City are fighting for their playoff lives, currently just one point out but with one match to make up as well.The adage ‘styles make fights’ may not be truer than in this matchup. Houston have built a vertically expansive team that looks to get the ball up the pitch quickly to their creators in and around the box while Angel City tends to rely on a nonstop high-intensity press to chase the opposition into mistakes then capitalize. 

The rest of the docket (and reason to watch):

Orlando Pride vs. Portland Thorns, 7pm Friday on Paramount+Portland recently dropped from Shield favorites to 4th, they need three points to get back among the top of the table. North Carolina Courage vs. Racing Louisville, 7pm Saturday on @TwitchThe Courage have a game or two to make up but zero margin for error, while Louisville are desperate to end a 12-match winless streak. Gotham FC vs. Kansas City, 6pm Sunday on CBS Sports NetworkGotham’s play has improved a lot under interim coach Hue Menzies but results haven’t. If that turns around against Kansas City, they could end the Current’s 12-match unbeaten run.

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