Finally, the preseason tournament that began March 18 and has extended into week 2 of the regular season, is at its conclusion. The Washington Spirit head down to Cary, NC to play the North Carolina Courage at 1pm ET, airing on big CBS, Paramount+ and Twitch (internationally). As circuitous and ridiculous the route, the NWSL should end this tournament with a banger of a matchup.
The Spirit entered the Challenge Cup as 2021 NWSL Champions and have had strong showings throughout the tournament. North Carolina and Washington played in the East division and are both yet to lose in the tournament. The two clubs faced one another in group play with each contest ending in a 2-2 draw.
A recently announced ‘mystery sponsor’ of the 2022 NWSL Challenge Cup was finally unveiled, a day before the final. Human resources and workforce management company UKG has signed a multi-year sponsorship deal for the Challenge Cup. Their stated aim is to address the gender pay gap by focusing on monetary bonuses for the Challenge Cup.
UKG, a leading provider of HR, payroll, and workforce management solutions for all people, and the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) today announced a historic, multi-year partnership, making UKG the first-ever title sponsor of the NWSL Challenge Cup, increasing the Cup bonus pool tenfold in 2022, and the total pool will more than double again in 2023.’ -source: NWSL
While we’ll have to wait to see how (or, even if) that changes the timing of the tournament, what it means in the immediate is that triumph, a trophy, bragging rights and money is on the line. Go get it Spirits.
Location: WakeMed Soccer Park; Cary, NC
Kickoff time: 1:00pm Eastern
Referee: Katja Koroleva
Available TV: Big CBS, Paramount+
Available streaming: Twitch (global)
North Carolina team news: OUT - Kiki Pickett (right knee); QUESTIONABLE - Casey Murphy (right knee), Carson Pickett (right lower leg), Havana Solaun (right knee)
Just eight games into new coach Sean Nahas’ tenure, North Carolina has looked as determined and, at times, overwhelming as previous iterations. Despite losing Crystal Dunn, Lynn Williams and Sam Mewis, the additions of Kerolin, Taylor Smith, Kiki Pickett, Emily Gray and Diana Ordoñez has helped the club maintain their high standards.
Washington Spirit team news: OUT - Averie Collins (knee), Tori Huster (SEI), Tara McKeown (foot), Gaby Vincent (calf); QUESTIONABLE - Andi Sullivan (calf)
Spirit supporters may have been holding out hope that star midfielder Andi Sullivan would see an improvement in her status ahead of the final but that doesn’t seem to have happened (at least on paper/PDF). The short turnaround probably has a lot to do with that, but on the other side of things, it’s encouraging that the two games versus OL Reign in such a short period of time hasn’t added anyone else to the official availability report.
However, Trinity Rodman, Camryn Biegalksi and Sam Staab already have 180 match minutes in their legs since Sunday. Ashley Hatch is at 176 minutes, Taylor Aylmer is at 156 and Julia Roddar is on 149. While NWSL scheduling clownery prevented the Spirit from having to take a cross country trip between their regular season opener and Challenge Cup semifinal games versus OL Reign, that’s still a lot of minutes played heading into an early Saturday kickoff.