Even though Utah Royals FC was just beginning its inaugural season, there was optimism in the spring that the team could make the National Women’s Soccer League playoffs this year given the good level of talent on the roster.
As the 2018 campaign enters its final stages, URFC’s postseason hopes are hanging by a few final threads. With one game remaining, URFC is fifth in a race that will see just four teams qualify for the postseason (NC Courage, Seattle Reign FC and Portland Thorns FC have already clinched berths). Only Utah and the Chicago Red Stars are still alive for that final spot.
Two points behind the Red Stars, URFC needs two things to happen in order to extend its season. Tops on the list, URFC needs winless Sky Blue FC to come up with its first victory of the season Sept. 4 against Chicago. If the Red Stars win that contest or the teams play to a draw, URFC is eliminated from playoff contention.
Both teams will be without numerous players because of international duty that night. SBFC will be on short rest, having played the Washington Spirit on Sept. 1, while Chicago hasn’t played since Aug. 25.
If SBFC takes all three points from the Red Stars, it will set up a showdown in the regular-season finale Sept. 8 at Rio Tinto Stadium between URFC and Chicago. The winner of the game would go to the postseason, and the loser would see its season end. The Red Stars would advance to the playoffs if the teams play to a draw.
Chicago has beaten URFC in both of the teams’ previous meetings this season. It won 1-0 in URFC’s home opener on April 14 and 2-0 on June 23 in the Windy City.