20210205 nwsl match ball
Craig Mitchelldyer-Portland Thorns

International breaks, tournaments, and the rest of the dates of know for Thorns FC (and the NWSL) in 2021

For such a simple game, soccer can be a little difficult to follow at the professional level. At least, it can be difficult to follow once the games stop. Overlapping competitions, international breaks — knowing which leagues have playoffs and which don't? The oddities are so ingrained in a soccer fan's life, they don't even feel like oddities anymore. Of course, if you ask a hardcore soccer fan the date of the next international break or when this year's Olympic tournaments start, the look you get back will say, "whenever."

It's difficult to keep track of everything, so we tried to put together a simple timeline for the 2021 National Women's Soccer League season. The campaign began in one sense on February 1, when teams were allowed to start their regular season. At the other end of the calendar is November 20, when the two teams that make the final will play in the NWSL's Championship game. In between, though, are the obstacles.

Here are some of those obstacles in chronological order: all the need-to-know breaks, along with the benchmarks of the coming NWSL season.

(This page was last updated on February 8, 2021.)

Date Why

February 15-24

International break

The United States, Canada, Brazil and Argentina internationals will leave preseason for the 2021 SheBelieves Cup, while European internationals will join their countries for the latest rounds of Euro 2022 qualifying. Rocky Rodríguez and Costa Rica will also be playing matches during the February break.

April 5-13

International break

April 9

2021 Challenge Cup begins

Preliminary-round play starts as Challenge Cup returns for a second season.

May 15

NWSL regular season begins

24-game schedule takes league's ninth season from Challenge Cup to playoffs.

June 7-16

International break

July 21-August 6

Olympic tournament

Players named to their national teams will depart prior to the tournament's July 21st start, with the NWSL scheduled to play through the two-week competition.

September 13-25

International break

Player participating in confederation qualification tournaments will be on international duty through Sept. 25; others will be on break through Sept. 21.

October 18-26

International break

October 30

Last day of the NWSL regular season

November 6

NWSL playoffs begin

Six teams qualify for the three-round postseason, with the league's top two regular-season finishers earning a buy into the semifinals.

November 20

NWSL Championship game

November 22-December 1

International break

December 16

NWSL expansion draft

Angel City FC and the expansion team in Sacramento will add their first players as the league grows to 12 teams.