The NWSL Weather Woes: Playoff Edition

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The National Women’s Soccer League 2018 season will be remembered for the extremes of the standings with the dominance of the North Carolina Courage and the woes in New Jersey both on and off the field with Sky Blue FC. Among the lesser stories which will be nothing more than footnotes in the season, will be the impact of the weather in the season.

Unlike the increased risk of heat which had to be dealt with in 2017 by the league with a change to the extreme heat policy and hydration breaks mid-season, this year the league’s weather bone of contention was lighting delays. Multiple matches throughout the season had to be rescheduled, most notably was Sky Blue’s match against the Washington Spirit on Sunday, September 2nd which caused the side from the Garden State to play the Chicago Red Stars the very next Tuesday with less than 48-hours of rest.

Fast forward to the star of the post season and the playoff games scheduled for this weekend where North Carolina is scheduled to host Chicago in the second playoff game on Sunday, September 16.

However, the league is going to face a unique weather related situation, Hurricane Florence is projected on making landfall as a major hurricane somewhere along the coast in the days leading up to the match. The same time the Red Stars will be looking to fly in to North Carolina and the same time fans will be looking to head toward Cary. 

The Saffir-Simpson scale is a wind rating from category one, being the weakest, to category five, the strongest winds causing catastrophic damage. A major hurricane would be a category three or higher. The current projections put Hurricane Florence at a category four. 

Several factors to consider is this storm will bring a large amount of rain to the area, and potentially flooding to parts of the state. Tornadoes can potentially occur even several hundred miles away from the center of the hurricane. This isn’t going to be an ideal situation to host a playoff game even with Cary being much further inland that it would be spared much of the initial impacts.

The league should already be working on getting ahead of the situation since the threat is real even with the high level of uncertainty.  Last season, the league moved up the game in Orlando from Saturday to Thursday when the Pride hosted Seattle due to Hurricane Irma. The NWSL could do this as well, but since it is a scheduled televised game that may not work out. That option may be too soon, and not logistically wise since the storm would arrive by the end of the week which could push up the Courage playoff game too early for anyone to travel into North Carolina. Additionally, the teams would have to leave quickly, so they wouldn’t feel the impact of Florence.

The North Carolina Courage have issued a statement advising they are monitoring the situation. 

The North Carolina Football Club is closely monitoring the forecast for Hurricane Florence related to potential impacts on the upcoming home NC Courage NWSL Semifinal on Sunday September 16, as well as travel for NCFC as they visit Penn FC on Sunday evening.

Specific to the NC Courage NWSL Semifinal against the Chicago Red Stars on Sunday, September 16 at 3:00 p.m., at Shalen’s Stadium,  the club is in contact with the League and the visiting team. The safety and well-being of fans, players and event staff is the club’s priority.

Any updates will be posted on NorthCarolinaFC.com and NCCourage.com, as well as shared with fans via email, social media and other communications channels. 

The NWSL needs to act swiftly by coordinating with both teams to move the venue for the playoff game to Chicago or a neutral city since the Chicago Fire will actually host Orlando City on Sunday at Toyota Park.. It will be an unfortunate situation since this will impact attendance and cause North Carolina to travel when they have obviously earned the right to host the playoff match. The prospect for this situation to create another black eye for the league is extremely likely especially if it doesn’t get ahead of this possible weather woe.

Images courtesy of Leanne Keator and Chart Source: NOAA