Louisville’s NWSL franchise hosts first game Saturday. Here’s what you need to know.

·3 min read

Kentucky is known for its high-level Thoroughbred racing and its major college sports teams. For a decade, sports fans in our state were even able to enjoy big-time NASCAR racing. Professional golf and minor league baseball have had their moments, too.

However, those craving major league team sports such as the NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL or MLS have had to attach their fandom to another state’s franchise.

That changes Saturday when Racing Louisville Football Club takes the field for its first game in the National Women’s Soccer League, America’s — and, at this point, the world’s — premier showcase for the top athletes in the sport.

Racing Louisville debuts as the NWSL’s 10th franchise, joining teams in Chicago, Houston, Kansas City, New York/New Jersey, North Carolina, Orlando, Portland, Tacoma and Washington, D.C. The league will expand to 12 teams in 2022 with the additions of teams in Los Angeles and Sacramento.

The 2021 NWSL Challenge Cup is the league’s season-opening event, a 21-game tournament that was to start Friday night and end May 8.

Racing Louisville’s inaugural game takes place Saturday at 7 p.m. at Lynn Family Stadium in Louisville against the Orlando Pride. The match will be televised on the new Paramount Plus Network, as will most of the Challenge Cup matches. Four matches will be shown on CBS Sports Network with the championship game on the main CBS channel.

Racing Louisville’s other Challenge Cup matches are at Washington on April 15, at home vs. North Carolina on April 26 and at New York/New Jersey on May 2.

The Challenge Cup serves as a regular-season tune-up for Racing Louisville as it does not count toward the regular-season standings. Racing Louisville’s 24-match regular season starts May 15 and runs through Oct. 30. The top six teams will make the playoffs, and the league’s ninth season will conclude with the NWSL Championship on Nov. 20.

Christy Holly, a native of Ireland, is Racing Louisville’s first head coach.
Christy Holly, a native of Ireland, is Racing Louisville’s first head coach.

Need to know

Many of the league’s top stars will be involved in international play and won’t partake in the Challenge Cup. For example, Orlando’s Alex Morgan will not be with the Pride in Louisville as she’s taking part in a U.S. Women’s National Team match against Sweden on Saturday. The Pride will still bringing a ton of talent to Lynn Family Stadium though, including Brazilian superstar Marta, U.S. defender Ali Krieger and American goalkeeper Ashlyn Harris.

As an expansion franchise, Racing Louisville’s lineup is an open book at this point. The team boasts lots of young talent at forward including Savannah McCaskill, Cece Kizer, Katie McClure and Emina Ekic, a rookie from the University of Louisville.

Racing Louisville also boasts the No. 1 overall pick in the 2021 NWSL Draft — defender Emily Fox out of the University of North Carolina.

Racing Louisville is coached by Christy Holly, a native of Ireland who previously coached Sky Blue FC in the NWSL and has served in a variety of assistant’s roles for the U.S. Women’s National Team.

Lynn Family Stadium has 11,700 permanent seats with an overall capacity of 15,304 but attendance will be limited — at least in the early going this season — because of COVID-19. Single-game and season tickets are available at Racingloufc.com.

Saturday

Orlando Pride at Racing Louisville FC

What: 2021 NWSL Challenge Cup

Where: Lynn Family Stadium in Louisville

When: 7 p.m.

TV: Paramount Plus

Tickets: Available at RacingLouisvilleFC.com/tickets