The National Women’s Soccer League has announced a two-week extension to the season calendar today. While the NWSL clubs will play 24 games for the third consecutive season, the schedule will take place over a period of 33 weeks, kicking off the 2019 season on the weekend of April 13th. The league will take a twelve-day break in early June to account for the 2019 Women’s World Cup group stage.
“This move will allow the league’s clubs more Saturday night home games during a season in which women’s soccer and NWSL’s players will be on the world’s biggest stage with the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup,” said NWSL Managing Director Amanda Duffy. NWSL clubs, including the Washington Spirit, have long emphasized the higher attendance and revenue that comes when they host Saturday night games.
The calendar change comes at both ends of the season. Whereas the 2018 season kicked off on March 24, this year’s season will start three weeks later in mid-April. The 2019 season will run until mid-October, with the NWSL championship game scheduled for Saturday, October 26. In 2018, the regular season ended on September 8, and the league final took place on September 22.
The league’s World Cup break will not cover the entire group stage, which runs from June 7 to June 20. If the United States finds themselves playing in the final (July 7), NWSL clubs will potentially be missing star players for two months. That does not account for any victory tour US Soccer opts to put on.
The NWSL draft takes place on January 10, and the changed calendar means a significant gap between then and the start of preseason. Per the NWSL announcement, teams will open preseason training camp on March 4, over seven weeks after the college draft takes place in Chicago. The change may also complicate players going on loan to the Australian W-League. This year, the W-League season kicked off on October 28, which would leave less than two weeks for players on non-playoff teams to recover from their season and get down there.