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NWSL denies Portland Thorns’ appeal of Sophia Smith red card

Sophia Smith playing against the Seattle Reign on June 8. (Photo credit: Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports)

The NWSL handed down a punishment on Tuesday in response to the Portland Thorns’ appeal of red card issued to forward Sophia Smith.

Smith missed the Thorns’ 0-0 draw against Seattle after receiving a red card late in the team’s June 8 matchup against the North Carolina Courage. Already on the bench with a yellow card, Smith was assessed a second yellow card and an automatic red card after she appeared to hide the ball under the bench.

Referee Danielle Chesky determined that Smith was attempting to waste time and assessed the Golden Boot leader the foul. It was Smith’s second yellow card for time-wasting after she was booked for a different moment in the 89th minute.

As Smith served her one-game suspension, the Thorns appealed the red card. On Tuesday, the NWSL announced the results of the appeal, which, under league policy, allows teams to make their case to an independent review panel.

Per the league, that panel, “unanimously (i) denied the appeal, and (ii) determined the appeal was frivolous.”

Under the league’s operations manual, a “frivolous” appeal comes with certain punishment: Portland will lose a $10,000 bond as well as the right to appeal any further suspensions until 2026. That means they have lost their right to an appeal through the end of the 2024 season and the entirety of next season. 

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League rules also dictate that the discipline related to the appeal be doubled, which meant the NWSL initially extended Smith’s suspension to two games and increased her fine. However, the NWSL Players Association (NWSLPA) appealed that discipline as per the NWSLPA’s rights in the collective bargaining agreement. 

“The NWSL Review Committee unanimously upheld the NWSLPA appeal resulting in the league rescinding the additional one game suspension and associated incremental fine for Smith,” the league wrote in a release.

Smith, the NWSL’s leading goalscorer with nine goals, will make her return to the pitch on Sunday against the Kansas City Current. 

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