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2023 NWSL Challenge Cup Final: North Carolina Courage defeats Racing Louisville

North Carolina Courage forward Kerolin slides a shot past Racing Louisville goalkeeper Katie Lund at the near post.
(Photo Copyright Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports)

The 2023 NWSL UKG Challenge Cup Final between the North Carolina Courage and Racing Louisville was slated to kick off at 12:30 p.m. ET on Saturday. After a 2-hour, 19-minute weather delay, the game restarted in the 11th minute, and North Carolina came away with a 2-0 win.

Couldn’t watch and need to catch up on what was likely the last Challenge Cup as we know it? This is what happened in the 2023 Challenge Cup Final.

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North Carolina Courage 2, Racing Louisville 0

The big story: North Carolina dictated the tempo of the match through possession. Louisville goalkeeper Katie Lund kept the score limited, but Racing struggled to be dangerous in front of goal.

The big moment: Kerolin, at an almost impossible angle, found the netting in the 28th minute to score the game-winning goal for North Carolina.

What it means: North Carolina now has back-to-back NWSL UKG Challenge Cup Championships, and the Courage players will get a nice payday from the $1 million prize pool for the tournament. The Courage held the majority of the possession and finished with 11 shots on target, making Lund work between the pipes. The Courage doubled their lead in the 54th minute on an absolutely clinical finish by Manaka Matsukubo. Racing had its moments in the second half and ended with an expected goals (xG) over 1.0, but Courage goalkeeper Casey Murphy only had to make one save.

The big delay: One of the positives from the NWSL’s broadcast deal with CBS was the fact that the Challenge Cup Final was going to be on the CBS main channel. However, the game was allotted only a two-hour timeslot, so when the rain delay occurred, there was no leeway on the primetime channel. Minutes before the timeslot ended, the announcers told the fans the new restart time (over 30 minutes away), and the broadcast switched to a college football show. Fans were left confused for almost 15 minutes on where the game would be resumed and how to watch until league social media accounts posted an update. The communication needs to be better in the future.

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Next up: After a lot of cross-country travel for Racing this week, they return home for an important regular-season match against the Houston Dash on Sept. 15. Louisville currently sits in seventh place in the NWSL standings, two points behind the Washington Spirit with four games left.

North Carolina will have a couple more days to recover before they travel to play the Orlando Pride on Sept. 17. The Courage are only two points behind the first-place San Diego Wave.

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