No, the playoffs aren’t here, but also they kinda are. There are only six playoff spots and currently the top seven teams are separated by just six points. Within that, there’s the chase for the NWSL Shield (most regular season points, the way they do it in Europe), chase for a first round bye, and the chase to host a playoff game. With all this on the line and God hitting shuffle on the table each week, it’s time for the NWSL’s stars to shine their brightest.

Last weekend, Megan Rapinoe had an outrageous assist and match-winning goal to deliver a come-from-behind 2-1 win over Orlando; Mal Pugh went beast, God and Emperor of the Universe mode on Racing Louisville, tormenting them for two goals and two assists in a 4-0 win; and Alex Morgan’s second goal in as many games added to her lead atop the scoring charts with her, handed Portland just their third loss of the season and helped replace them at the top of the table. 

Buckle up

For the majority of the season, Portland looked set to run away with the Shield and first round bye – now they’re fourth. This is the reality of the NWSL, one slip of imperfection, among teams that make it impossible to maintain perfection, and a team can go from the penthouse to a crowded service elevator.

What makes it even more fun for viewers is that every team trapped in this blender has a player capable of unplugging and tossing the machine. Pugh, Rapinoe and Morgan did it this past weekend, and all will likely need to do it again. And it won’t be easy, as the rest of the top six have just as much star power. Sophia Smith (Thorns) might be the best young player on the planet, Ebony Salmon (Dash) has scored eight goals in just over a month, and Lo’eau LaBonta (Current) has firmly planted herself in the MVP conversation while Kansas City has pushed their unbeaten streak to 12 (8 wins, 4 draws). 

You need to see this

I don’t know what ‘this’ will be in each game, but whatever it is, you’re going to want to see it. Not just on television, but if you can, live and in person. The NWSL is an ultra rare collection of some of the most dominant and talented assortment of players on the planet, and they’re all spread between just 12 teams. Whatever the match, you’re guaranteed to see multiple rare talents, and now, as full playoff intensity ramps up, is one of the very best times to watch.

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