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What the NWSL Challenge Cup Indicates for the League's Regular Season

The 2021 NWSL Challenge Cup is over, with the Thorns taking home the trophy after edging Gotham FC in penalties in Saturday’s championship game. Portland and New Jersey/New York earned their spots in the final by winning their respective divisions, making the tournament a condensed version of last summer’s Challenge Cup but still a worthwhile endeavor.

While this year’s event didn’t carry quite the weight of the 2020 one in Utah—serving this time more as a preseason booster that partly took place during an international window, with key absences for certain group-round games—it was a chance for teams to make an early statement or get a jump on incorporating new pieces heading into the regular season.