2024 NWSL Schedule: Goodbye 'Decision Day', you will be missed

We now know when matches will be played in the United States' premier women's football league. But what's different from past seasons?

2024 NWSL Schedule: Goodbye 'Decision Day', you will be missed

The 2024 NWSL Schedule is (finally) here. Hurrah! [insert it’s been 84 years ‘Titanic’ meme].

You can check out the slate at its fullest here.

With just 50 days to go until the start of the season, we finally know when matches will be played in the United States' premier women's football league.

That is a whole five days earlier than we learned the full fixture list in 2023. So perhaps a small chapeau to head office. Of course, this NEEDS to improve in future years. People want to plan their damn lives, my friends.

But beggars can’t. be choosers…

And so it begins…

The season will commence with the Challenge Cup (think community shield) matchup on Friday the 15th of March between last season’s league table winners San Diego Wave and playoff champions Gotham FC. A trophy (of sorts) is up for grabs.

Then, the season proper kicks off on Saturday the 16th of March at the KC Current’s new home the CPKC Stadium, the first-ever purpose-built soccer stadium for an independent NWSL team. They will be taking on the Portland Thorns in a rematch of the 2022 NWSL Championship Final.

With the addition of two new expansion this year (Bay FC and Utah Royals) there are four more fixtures in the 2024 NWSL schedule because every team will be playing each other home and away. Tidy.

So, that’s 26 matches per team for a grand total of 182 regular season matches played over eight and a half months. Exciting.

But wait — someone is missing?

R.I.P ‘Decision Day’. Sigh. The wonderful and incredibly necessary final day of the season where all the matches kick off at the same time on the same day.

Here is the fixture list for the final day of the season 1st - 3rd of November 2024:

Yes, for seemingly no reason the NWSL has decided to get rid of having all seven matches on the final day of the regular season being simultaneous.

And, not only are the matches not at the same time, they’re spread out over three days! That means the Royals and Gotham — who play on the Friday — could be waiting 46 hours to learn their final positions in the table when all is said and done.

Furthermore, both the integrity of match outcomes and the excitement on the pitch could suffer if prior results come in rendering a late match redundant. It’s rubbish.

This could even come down to goal difference, where a team could have the advantage of a day or two of preparation to either score or not concede a certain amount of goals.

In 2023, ‘Decision Day’ was a huge success with a live whip-around goals show keeping viewers updated as the drama unfolded. With so many teams’ fates undecided heading into the final day, the chaos was palpable as results around the country had many consequences for both the league title and playoff spots.

Most (if not all) leagues around the world and international tournaments will synchronize the final match of league or group play. For the NWSL not to do this is problematic for competition and bad for entertainment.

There’s going against the grain, and then there’s just not doing the league, the game and your fans justice.

While it is not mentioned in the press release, one can assume the logic behind the NWSL removing ‘Decision Day’ is likely due to its new broadcast partners. Last season, the league was solely broadcast on CBS networks.

The Wave captured a top spot in the 2023 NWSL table on the final day of the season, with a win over Racing Louisville combined with the Portland Thorns, who started the day top, losing away to Angel City FC. || Courtesy San Diego Wave

Now ESPN, ION, and Amazon are sharing the rights alongside CBS. The NWSL itself is also launching a direct-to-customer streaming service called NWSL+.

They all have carved-out stand-alone slots with no crossover such as ‘Friday Nights on Prime’ and thus want to hold onto their billing even on what should be a synchronized ‘Decision Day’.

So, in 2024, the final day of the season will be split across three days and four different broadcasting entities.

The $240,000,000 that the NWSL got for its broadcast rights until 2027 is an impressive sum. It cannot be argued that overall this won’t have a positive impact on the league and the players.

The NWSL could’ve offered each broadcaster “first dibs” for ‘Decision Day’ games in each of the four years of the broadcast deal. And that way there would’ve been a way for each group to get their fair share of the event.

However, if these partners cannot come together to create something as valuable as ‘Decision Day’ then they are hurting the very thing they invested in. We should demand more.

Quick notes on 2024 Schedule

  • There is an Olympic break! There will be no matches between the 7th of July and the 23rd of August. The NWSL intends to play some sort of tournament in this window. This is fun. Well done schedule makers.
  • It will be a historic day for Bay FC when they play their first-ever home match on the 30th of March against the Houston Dash at PayPal Park in San Jose. The Californians will begin their inaugural season with a tricky two-away match jaunt; in-state against Angel City and then a long trip across the country to the Washington Spirit.
  • The Utah Royals will walk out at Rio Tinto stadium to play an NWSL regular season match for the first time since 2019 when they open the year against the Chicago Red Stars on the 16th of March.
  • 121 matches are set to be shown across the new television platforms: ION, Amazon, ESPN, CBS. The remainder will be shown on NWSL+.
  • The NWSL will begin each regular season weekend with Friday night matches on Prime Video.
  • Each Saturday night that follows will include a double-header on Scripps’-owned ION network, available over-the-air in 123 million homes in the United States as well as on free-streaming platforms like Roku TV.
  • A package of regular season matches will air on The CBS Television Network and stream live on Paramount+, with additional matches airing on CBS Sports Network.
  • ESPN will air a package of matches across ABC, ESPN, ESPN2, and ESPN Deportes (Spanish). All NWSL matches on ESPN platforms and on ABC will stream live on ESPN+ in English and Spanish. The package also includes English, Spanish and Portuguese-language rights in Latin America.
  • The remaining matches will be available on NWSL+, the league’s first-ever direct-to-consumer streaming platform. NWSL+ is free to all fans tuning in to matches across the U.S. and available to download on all iOS/Android devices, as well as streaming TV distributors Apple TV, Fire TV and Roku. In addition to match coverage, highlights, select replays and additional league and club content will also be available for free on the app.