Wednesday, April 19 will see the start of the 2023 Challenge Cup. The tournament is an annual competition separate from the NWSL regular season that features all twelve of the league’s teams. This year will mark some significant changes to the format, schedule, and prize money. Here is the 2023 Challenge Cup preview.
UKG is bringing the first-ever million-dollar prize pool to women’s soccer in the U.S. Learn about the work we’re doing to achieve equity, and tune in to the UKG @NWSL Challenge Cup, kicking off on 4/19! #ChallengeAccepted #UKGCloseTheGap @sydneyleroux @ChristenPress pic.twitter.com/VAumF4eNfc
— UKG (@UKGInc) April 13, 2023
Challenge Cup History
The first challenge cup was played in May 2020. The tournament was a way to return to action for the league during the Covid-19 pandemic. With the Challenge Cup, the NWSL became the first top-tier professional league in the United States to resume play during the pandemic. The first annual tournament was won by the Houston Dash. As they continued to make it an annual tradition, the tournament was later won by the Portland Thorns in 2021 and the North Carolina Courage in 2022.
2023 Challenge Cup Rule Changes
For the fourth year of the competition, the Challenge Cup has made significant changes to the overall structure of the tournament. As with previous years, all twelve NWSL clubs will be divided into three groups of four. The clubs will play each of their three opponents in the group twice for a total of six matches in group play. Unlike previous years, the 2023 Challenge Cup will be concurrent with regular season play. Group play will run from April 19 to August 6. The three clubs atop their groups will move on to a four-team single-elimination tournament. The championship game will be on September 9.
The other big change comes in the form of prize money. The tournament’s sponsor UKG is helping make a million-dollar prize pool. This increase in winnings will bring parity with other men’s tournaments in the United States like the US Open Cup.
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When and Where to Watch the 2023 Challenge Cup
The 2023 Challenge Cup begins Wednesday, April 19. Fans can watch the tournaments group stage on both Paramount Plus and CBS Sports Network until its conclusion on August 6. Afterward, there will be two semifinal matches on September 6, followed by the championship match on September 9.
Photo Credit: Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports on May 7, 2022, of the North Carolina Courage Headshot.