The National Women’s Soccer League announced Wednesday a new competition framework to be debuted in 2021, expanding opportunities for the athletes of the NWSL to showcase the most exciting, most competitive women’s professional soccer league in the world.
“2021 is shaping up to be another big year for the NWSL as we continue to innovate our product, engage our incredible fans and support our players and teams,” said NWSL Director of Operations and Player Affairs Liz Dalton. “Building on what we were able to safely accomplish in 2020, we’re expanding the opportunities for our athletes and teams to thrive, and for our sponsors and partners to invest in our continued growth.”
Players will report to camp on Feb. 1, 2021, with the first competition coming in mid-April when the NWSL Challenge Cup returns after the historic inaugural edition in 2020. Based on guidance from the NWSL Medical Taskforce and public health authorities, the 2021 Challenge Cup will take place in multiple bubble environments, team markets, or some combination of the two.
“Bringing back the Challenge Cup is an opportunity for our league to continue growing our fan base and showcase our world class players with an exciting and competitive tournament ahead of the most important international tournament on the 2021 calendar, the Olympic Games,” said NWSL Chief Revenue Officer Mitch Poll. “We’re focused on continuing to build opportunities to expand our reach, expose a global audience to the best women’s club soccer in the world, and provide meaningful opportunities for our teams and players to perform.”
Following the 2021 Challenge Cup, the NWSL’s 2021 regular season will kick off in mid-May, with each team scheduled to play 24 matches. The full league schedule will be released at a later date.
Six teams will qualify for an expanded NWSL playoffs set to take place beginning in November 2021, with the top two seeds receiving a first-round bye.
The 2021 campaign will end with the NWSL Championship the weekend of Nov. 20 before beginning another exciting offseason ahead of the NWSL’s 10th anniversary season.