NWSL announce 2023 schedule; Challenge Cup format updated

The National Women's Soccer League (NWSL) announced that the 2023 campaign will begin on March 25 with the new format for this year's UKG NWSL Challenge Cup set to start on April 19.

Champions Portland Thorns will kick off their NWSL title defence on March 26 against Orlando Pride at Providence Park as Mike Norris marks his first match in charge of the club following his promotion from assistant coach in January.

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Despite OL Reign winning the shield after topping the standings, Thorns prevailed in last season's championship playoffs against Kansas Current to clinch their third NWSL title last season with 2022 U.S. Soccer Female Player of the Year Sophia Smith starring a key role under previous head coach Rhian Wilkinson.

The league schedule commences with North Carolina Courage's clash against Current on March 25 before a night fixture between Alex Morgan's San Diego Wave and Chicago Red Stars at the Snapdragon Stadium.

Just a week later, Thorns and Kansas will meet on April 1. for their first rematch since Portland's 2-0 victory in the 2022 NWSL Championship finale in October.

There are scheduled to be four meetings between last season's top two, Portland and Reign, across the league and Challenge Cup. The first will take place on June 3.

Last season's match between Wave and Angel City FC attracted the league's record crowd of 32,000 in September. They will meet for the first time in the new season on April 23 at the BMO Stadium, Los Angeles.

For the first time in NWSL history, the league will have a blockbuster final day with all 12 sides competing.