Prelude

The North Carolina Courage (4-1-0, 12 points) will host Sky Blue FC (2-2-1, 7 points) for the first Wednesday game of the season this week, meaning that both teams will be playing three times in the span of seven days. This arrangement won’t be unusual, of course; each team will play two Tuesday or Wednesday night games throughout the season, but this being the first one will answer a lot of questions. Most players in the NWSL have not played with their respective national teams in major tournaments where three games in a week is common (but nonetheless taxing) for the players. Wednesday night games did occur last season, but they seem much more regulated and evenly spread this season. While that is a step in the right direction, there are still major imbalances between how the Wednesday night games were allotted for each team. In the space below we will rank the Wednesday night schedule for each NWSL team this season.

Rankings (from Easiest to Hardest Scheduling)

10. Washington Spirit (A 8/4, A 8/8, H 8/12) and (H 8/26, H 8/30, A 9/2)

The Spirit nabbed the easiest schedule amongst the full weeks of play. They got the latest pair of weeks, and their first set of games is spread over 8 days. They will have the benefit of being in top game shape and seeing how the short weeks affect other teams. The icing on this cake schedule is that the first of their two short weeks comes on the tail of a two-week break for international games. Add it all together and you have the easiest set of difficult games the league provides…and the Spirit need as much help as they can get as they look up from the bottom of the table.

9. Orlando Pride (H 6/24, A 6/28, H 7/1) and (H 8/5, H 8/8, H 8/12)

The Pride earn this slot because they have the benefit of 5 home games in their 6 possible short-week games. Additionally, they have the same benefit as the Spirit with their second run of games coming after an international 2-week break. Alex Morgan, who would have been back for later games, tore her hamstring and could miss considerable time. Without this injury the Pride would have had the easiest schedule, but those June games threaten if the tear is as bad as anticipated.

8. Chicago Red Stars (H 6/25, A 6/28, A 7/1) and (H 8/12, H 8/16, H 8/20)

The Red Stars benefit from an extremely favorable second set of games. Three home games spread over 8 days will hardly feel out of the ordinary. Both sets of games are also on the common dates, so the majority of other teams will be going through the exact same thing as the Red Stars but with more travel and less rest.

7. Seattle Reign (H 6/24, H 6/28, H 7/1) and (H 8/13, A 8/16, A 8/19)

Like the Red Stars, the Reign are fortunate enough to have three consecutive home games and both of their busy weeks are the same as the rest of the league. The only problem with the Reign’s schedule is that the second batch of games occurs over 6 days instead of a full week. The first set of three home games should still give them an upper-hand over the competition.

6. Boston Breakers (H 6/24, A 6/28, H 7/1) and (A 8/12, H 8/16, H 8/19)

Boston is afforded four home games of six possible games, with the last two coming back to back. This means that they will benefit from a relatively small amount of travel, friendly fans, and familiar training facilities during their short weeks. Neither of the weeks is 6 days long, and both of the weeks occur concurrently with the majority of the other teams.

5. FC Kansas City (A 6/24, A 6/28, H 7/2) and (A 8/13, H 8/16. A 8/20)

We’ve reached the turn, where schedules change from easier-than-average to harder-than-average. FCKC has a reduced number of home games, and even with their home games they will be travelling each night. The one relief is that the first set of games comes over 8 days and the second set comes over 7. That said, at least the games come concurrently with the rest of the league, so other teams will be in similar boats, although they will likely be travelling less.

4. Houston Dash (A 6/24, H 6/28, A 7/2) and (H 8/13, A 8/16, A 8/19)

Like FCKC above, the Dash are at a deficit in regards to home games and travel. During both weeks they will be on the road after each game, and while their first week covers a generous 8 days, the second week covers just 6. Those 6 days will seem even shorter when they have to spend two consecutive games away from their home fans.

3. Sky Blue FC (H 5/20, A 5/24, H 5/27) and (A 6/25, H 6/28, A 7/1)

Sky Blue is matched up against the Courage in the first set of short-week games this coming Wednesday, but they do get to start and end their week at home. The travel down to NC from NJ isn’t a fun one, but it also doesn’t compare to playing somewhere like Portland or Seattle. The second set of games is more hostile, occuring on a short week, but at least it occurs at the same time as the rest of the league. They will be travelling constantly, but other teams will be in the same boat.

2. Portland Thorns (A 6/24, H 6/28, A 7/1) and (A 8/12, A 8/16, H 8/19)

The Thorns are faced with just two home games and constant travel during the two congested weeks they have. The second batch of games is especially brutal, with trips to Washington DC and Kansas City before they return home to face the rival Reign. It’s hard enough to go on the road without having to do it multiple times in a 4-day stretch.

1. North Carolina Courage (H 5/21, H 5/24, A 5/27) and (A 8/27, A 8/30, A 9/3)

The most brutal scheduling imaginable befalls our North Carolina Courage ladies. I hadn’t done the research before writing this, and while I knew we would be towards the bottom because of our upcoming 3-game, 6-day week, the three consecutive away games on the last possible cramped week set the Courage apart. The Courage face a tough, but not insurmountable, first week. The two consecutive home games are a luxury, but travelling to Chicago (who didn’t play a game on Wednesday) is going to be brutal. The second batch is even worse, as the Courage travel to Houston on Sunday, Washington on Wednesday, then Chicago on Sunday. The bus or plane better have a nice relaxing hot tub or ice bath because our ladies will be sore after those three games.

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