Racing Louisville controls their playoff destiny heading into Sunday’s Decision Day finale at San Diego (5 PM ET/4 PM CT, Paramount+). But they must win and get some help to qualify for the postseason for the first time ever.
With eight teams still in contention for the four remaining playoff berths, this shapes up as the most chaotic and thrilling Decision Day in NWSL history. Racing sits 9th, two points outside the playoff places, but could finish as high as 4th or as low as 11th depending on results.
“This team has never been better,” said coach Kim Björkegren. “It’s really fun for the fans with the league being so close that more or less all the teams can make the top six.”
A victory over 2nd-place San Diego paired with specific outcomes elsewhere would see Louisville clinch a playoff spot. But Step 1 is getting all three points on the road, whereas Racing boasts just one win-all campaign.
“When we win on Sunday and wait on other teams, it’s going to be big for Racing,” noted forward Thembi Kgatlana. “This season was great from all the other years that the club has built.”
Kgatlana is no stranger to crunch time, having just led South Africa to the World Cup knockout stage for the first time. Her experience in big moments will prove invaluable.
Racing has already made history this season with a club record six wins and their first-ever cup final appearance. Now they aim to cap it off by crashing the playoff party.
“It just goes to show how competitive the league is that it’s coming down to the last weekend,” said Kirsten Davis after Louisville’s comeback win over Orlando kept hopes alive.
While a win is non-negotiable, Racing will also need assistance. Any combination of draws or losses by Orlando, Washington, OL Reign, Gotham, or the LA teams would do the trick.
Racing fans should root against those clubs specifically on Sunday. Their best playoff path involves Reign and Orlando dropping points while also getting help from Gotham or Washington loses.
But again, it starts with Racing holding up their end. A loss or draw would abruptly end Louisville’s season. This group must empty the tank against a San Diego side chasing the NWSL Shield.
Qualifying would mark another milestone for Racing’s rapid rise. Competing for titles is becoming a regular occurrence under Björkegren’s leadership.
The steady maturation of this hungry squad is clear to see. After two years of building a foundation, now is the time for Racing to join the playoff picture.
One inspired, focused effort is all that stands between Louisville and its first postseason. Destiny awaits at Snapdragon Stadium on Sunday night.
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(Photo: David Mucker)