The NWSL today announced several important dates for its 2021 schedule, including a start date for the Challenge Cup, start and end dates for the regular season, and more details on the overall schedule (though not the actual schedule itself).
The 2021 Challenge Cup will kick off on April 9, and the league’s Medical Task Force has signed off on teams playing in home markets. For the Washington Spirit, that would likely mean Audi Field in the District, or Segra Field in Leesburg. When reached by Black and Red United for comment, a Spirit spokesperson said that a decision on that front has not been made at this time.
The April start date for the Challenge Cup will conflict somewhat with a FIFA window that runs from April 5-13, but ultimately internationals from around the league will be present for the large majority of the preseason and Challenge Cup itself. There is also a window from February 15-24, but with a preseason that will run over two months long, there should be no issues with national team players being involved with their club’s plans.
The league’s announcement also detailed regular season plans. All ten clubs will participate in a 24-game slate, with that portion of the season beginning on May 15. The regular season will conclude on October 30, and there will be no break built into the schedule for the Olympics.
More details are still to come as far as the Challenge Cup format and the complete schedule, but the league reiterated that six teams will make the playoffs, with the NWSL Championship set for November 20. That effectively seals playoff games on the weekends of November 6 (first round) and 13 (semifinals), though the exact dates are not yet set.