The much-anticipated UKG NWSL Challenge Cup returns for 2023! Okay, maybe much-anticipated may be a stretch to describe the excitement of the Challenge Cup, but the tournament is back for 2023. This time title sponsor UKG has doubled the prize pool to $1 million for the tournament championship.
About the Challenge Cup
2023 marks the fourth year of the Challenge Cup. For the first time since its inception in 2020, the Cup will run concurrently with the regular season, featuring three groups of four teams playing double round-robin matches for a total of six contests. Following group play, the top team from each group, plus the division runner-up with the most points, will advance to the semifinal stage on Wednesday, September 6 ahead of the UKG NWSL Challenge Cup Final on Saturday, September 9. The Current are in the Central Division with the Houston Dash, Chicago Red Stars, and Racing Louisville.
Up first for Kansas City: @ Houston Dash
When: Wednesday, April 19
Where: Shell Energy Stadium | Houston, Texas
Time: 6:30 PM CT
Stream: CBS Sports Network
Radio: KC Current Radio on Kansas City Current app, featuring Dave Borchardt and Jillian Carroll-Letrinko
What to Expect
It’s a pause on the 2023 NWSL season, but it’s also an opportunity to continue building on the year. For the Dash, they are unbeaten in the regular season, with draws against Racing Louisville and Portland and a win over Chicago. For the Current, they have found themselves in a winless stretch, having lost all three regular season matches against North Carolina, Portland, and Chicago. Much of that has to with the current state of the injury report each week as key players continue to be unavailable due to injuries, and it will be the same storyline heading into game one of the tournament.
Elizabeth Ball (hamstring), Morgan Gautrat (calf), Hanna Glas (knee), Kristen Hamilton (knee), Claire Lavogez (SEI – knee)
Alex Loera (foot), Sam Mewis (SEI – knee), Desiree Scott (knee)
Mallory Weber (knee), Mimmi Larsson (hamstring)
This is the first meeting between the Current and the Dash since Kansas City eliminated Houston from the 2022 NWSL playoffs with a 2-1 win last October. Kansas City has won five of its last six meetings with the Dash, outscoring Houston by a 12-5 margin.
Players to Watch:
Debinha (KC): The Brazilian midfielder has been named Challenge Cup MVP the last two years, leading her former team, the North Carolina Courage, to a championship win in 2022. She has nine all-time goals in the Challenge Cup, two more than any other player. She scored her first goal of 2023 last Saturday against Chicago.
María Sánchez (HOU): Sánchez could very well be a candidate to be Houston’s MVP at the end of the season. She has scored a goal in the last two games for the Dash.
The Current’s Chances in the Challenge Cup
While Kansas City is in a winless streak and continue to deal with injuries, the tournament is a new focus with the same preparation.
“Well, preparation, there’s nothing new for us. We have the processes that are in place and they’re all about building a good feeling towards the game day experience. I’m sure with the new sponsorship, players are motivated a bit more, but overall the processes don’t change,” head coach Matt Potter said in the Current’s press release
In the 2022 Challenge Cup, Kansas City won four of its six group stage games, advancing to the semifinals rounds where they lost to the North Carolina Courage.
Predicted Score @ Houston: 2-2