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National Women’s Soccer League Moves Championship Match Out of Portland

The NWSL release blamed the 9 am game time—deemed necessary for a championship held in the Pacific Timezone. In Louisville, the game will start at noon.

A Wednesday, Oct. 13 joint statement from the National Women’s Soccer League and the Players’ Association—who represent the athletes themselves—announced that the league’s championship game, planned for Saturday, Nov. 20, would be moved from Portland’s Providence Park to Lynn Family Stadium in Louisville.

“We hope that our fans will understand that this move is made with the support of the NWSL, the Players Association, the Portland Thorns, and Racing Louisville,” a joint statement from the National Women’s Soccer League and the players’ association read. “Portland understood the importance of listening to the players, and Louisville stepped up to host.”

The NWSL has been in flux since an exposé by The Athletic revealed abuse allegations against a former Thorns coach Paul Riley. In response to the allegations, the Players Association set forth a list of demands from the league, with an emphasis on protecting players and increasing transparency.

The Oct. 13 release mentions that the league and the players’ association have “worked to come to an agreement on several of the demands set forth by the PA last week,” and it’s possible that the championship move was a bargaining chip in those negotiations.

The necessary 9 am game time for a championship held in the Pacific Time Zone was a point of contention with the players, and the release mentioned that the noon game time, which would be planned for Kentucky, was something “players embraced.”

The release did not mention the ongoing, tense atmosphere in Portland, surrounding Thorns games.

A fan boycott of Portland Thorns Football Club concessions and merchandise continues, currently entering its second week after two soccer matches that felt more like collective mourning.

On Oct. 5, the Rose City Riveters and Timbers Army declared they would stop spending money on Thorns products until the front office met their demands for greater accountability and transparency in the wake of allegations that a former male coach sexually harassed women players.

“Our hearts and our actions are with Portland’s players—one hundred percent,” the groups announced. “Our trust, however, is utterly shattered, and it cannot be repaired until significant changes take place across all levels of the PTFC organization.”

Team owner Merritt Paulson responded by placing Thorns general manager Gavin Wilkinson on leave—but only from his Thorns gig, not his Timbers management.

Few fans were mollified. “I don’t think Wilkinson losing his job and being replaced by another person that Paulson wants is going to help anything,” said Emma, a Thorns fan who asked to go by her first name only.

Further reading: The Portland Thorns Front Office Suddenly Has a Lot to Answer For