U.S. soccer icons play for first NWSL Championship in their final game
U.S. soccer legends and World Cup champions Megan Rapinoe and Ali Krieger will play their final game Saturday, but their legacies on and off the field will be felt for generations.
Driving the news: The stage is set for a historic 2023 National Women's Soccer League Championship as Rapinoe and the OL Reign face Krieger and NJ/NY Gotham FC at San Diego's Snapdragon Stadium.
Why it matters: Rapinoe and Krieger are retiring, marking an end to their legendary careers.
- They both leave the game better than they found it, using their platforms as openly gay female athletes to advocate for equality and inspire future players.
- In 2022, the team's gender-based pay discrimination lawsuit was settled for $24 million, prompting the U.S. Soccer Federation to equalize pay with identical economic terms, including commercial revenue sharing and World Cup prize money, through 2028.
- President Biden awarded Rapinoe a Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2022 for her advocacy of gender pay equality, racial justice and LGBTQI+ rights.
State of play: While Rapinoe and Krieger have two World Cup medals and several other accolades, neither player (nor team) has won an NWSL Championship.
- Seattle's OL Reign have been a powerhouse in the league for years, making the playoffs every year since 2019 and the finals twice before. The team has won multiple regular season titles, but been unable to secure the NWSL Championship trophy.
- Meanwhile, Gotham FC enters the match as the underdog, ready for another upset in its first-ever final. The team went from last place in the league in 2022 to this year's NWSL finals after knocking out reigning champion Portland Thorns in the semis.
- Gotham's coach Juan Carlos Amorós was voted NWSL Coach of the Year earlier this week, while Seattle's Laura Harvey earned the award for a third time in 2021.
Between the lines: Both teams are stacked with U.S. national team players.
- The Reign sent more players to compete in the 2023 Women's World Cup than any other franchise, including Rapinoe, Rose Lavelle, Alana Cook, Emily Sonnett and Sofia Huerta.
- Gotham's Lynn Williams, Kristie Mewis and Kelley O'Hara also made the roster.
The bottom line: The primetime match is destined for a storybook ending for one of these iconic players.
What's next: Kick off is at 8pm ET Saturday. The game will be aired across both CBS and Paramount+. International fans can watch it on the NWSL website.