With the 2021 NWSL Playoffs kicking off this weekend, we get you prepped in a bit of a different way — a playlist that represents each of the six clubs that reached the postseason.
The 2021 NWSL season has been a roller coaster. But not one of those polished, thrilling feats of engineering that you’d find at Disneyland or Six Flags, more like the rusted, rickety ramshackles that get packed up and delivered from local county fair to local county fair.
Sure there’s been the highs — the celebration of Carli Lloyd’s career, Caprice Dydasco’s breakout season, and the introduction of Trinity Rodman — but the lows have been devastating. Multiple scandals involving the mistreatment of players and staff by coaches have spread across the league, most notably surrounding the Washington Spirit’s Richie Burke and North Carolina Courage’s Paul Riley.
However, the show must go on, and the stage is set for the playoffs, which kick off this weekend. After the pandemic-altered 2020 season that saw just a Challenge Cup and Fall Series, the NWSL has expanded its postseason to six teams in 2021, with the top two seeds getting a bye and the remaining four facing off in the quarterfinals.
The Portland Thorns won the NWSL Shield with the best regular season record in the league and received the top seed followed by their PNW neighbors OL Reign, while the Courage snuck into the bracket, beating out the Houston Dash for the last spot in the postseason to join the Chicago Red Stars, NJ/NY Gotham FC, and the Spirit.
But instead of giving you a traditional playoff preview, we thought we’d put together a playlist that is fitting for the six squads vying for the elusive NWSL title. From regional stalwarts to pump-up jams selected by the teams themselves, allow us to present the Urban Pitch NWSL Playoffs Playlist.
North Carolina Courage: “Serena” — Rapsody
The last traditional NWSL champions, the North Carolina Courage are looking to make it three in a row in 2021. One of the most dominant clubs in the league over the past five years, it wasn’t as easy for the Courage this season, as they snagged the sixth and final playoff spot. That tends to happen when you lose Crystal Dunn. However, there is still plenty of talent on the Courage roster, including goalie Casey Murphy, whose 96 saves are tied for most in the league, and the always dangerous Lynn Williams and Debinha.
North Carolina’s shining star Rapsody released “Serena” as part of her Eve album in 2019. The fierce tribute to the trailblazing tennis star interpolates Uncle Luke’s “I Wanna Rock” with lyrics like “If it’s God-given, it can’t be destroyed.” It’s sure to get the blood pumping when the Courage take the pitch against the Washington Spirit in a win-or-go-home game.
NJ/NY Gotham FC: “No Matter What They Say” — Lil’ Kim
NJ/NY Gotham FC brings a high-powered offense into the NWSL playoffs with an emphasis on teamwork. They lead the league in assists with 22 on 29 total goals. Midge Purce led the way with nine scores, tied for the league’s second-highest mark, and Caprice Dydasco’s five assists are also tied for second-most in the NWSL. The team has tied its last three games and could tap into its rich heritage on the East Coast to get back to its winning ways.
A song from New York legend Lil’ Kim could give Gotham FC a boost into the championship game. “No Matter What They Say” is a classic message to the haters that would hype the team up to outperform the Chicago Red Stars and glide into the semifinals against the Portland Thorns. It’s also a celebration of camaraderie as Kim talks about bringing her girls along with her on the journey of stardom, and Mary J. Blige and Missy Elliott appear in the video. Lil’ Kim is preparing for the release of her biography, The Queen Bee, maybe she can give Gotham FC their own storyline worth being remembered in the history books.
We reached out to Gotham FC keeper DiDi Haracic to give us a few songs the team gets hyped to, and she hit us back with a couple of anthems.
The first, Cardi B’s “Bodak Yellow,” dominated airwaves upon its release in 2017. Like other similar transcendent singles — including 50 Cent’s “In Da Club,” Lil’ Wayne’s “A Milli,” and Travis Scott’s “Sicko Mode,” you couldn’t go outside without hearing it blaring from someone’s car.
If country is more your thing, Gotham FC also gets pumped up by Florida Georgia Line and Nelly’s “Lil Bit.” The track is the second collab between the Nashville, Tennessee-based group and St. Louis icon — and while many country purists would be loath to consider FGL as “real country,” it takes a pretty stone soul to not at least bob your head to “Lil Bit.”
Chicago Red Stars: “The Business” — Tiësto
The Chicago Red Stars have played tough through some key injuries to earn their slot in the NWSL playoffs. Kealia Watt and Mallory Pugh lead a high-powered offense, while Casey Kreuger and Tierna Davidson anchor the defensive line that has played strong even with the absence of key members Julie Ertz and Alyssa Naher.
The Red Stars are headed into their sixth straight playoff appearance, an NWSL record. Pugh’s boyfriend, Dansby Swanson, just won the World Series with the Atlanta Braves, so maybe she can help the Red Stars channel their winning ways.
We learned from attacker Katie Johnson that Tiësto’s “The Business” has has motivated the Red Stars throughout the 2021 season. The snappy EDM track declares that there’s no room for excuses with a beat that entrances the listener to intense focus.
“It became our song at the beginning of the year,” Johnson shared. “We mean business when we step on the field and that song always gets us going.”
Washington Spirit: “Countin Up” — Rico Nasty
Despite the turmoil surrounding former head coach Richie Burke, the Washington Spirit have played inspired soccer that has guaranteed them a home playoff game and dashed the Houston Dash’s playoff hopes in the last match of the season. Standout rookie 19-year-old Trinity Rodman is second in the league with six assists. Ashley Hatch, 26, is the NWSL’s leading scorer with 10 goals in 20 appearances.
Rico Nasty’s “Countin Up” is the perfect motivational track for the Spirit as the DMV rapper spits with authority over frenetic Neptunes-inspired production from Kenny Beats. The song was written while Rico Nasty was literally counting up some paper after she won thousands of dollars in a slot machine. With lines like, “I’m the real deal, shawty, and you just a knock off,” the good juju might rub off on the Spirit with this track off her debut project, 2018’s Nasty.
OL Reign: “Pedi” — Baby Tate
OL Reign have played strong all season and lead the NWSL in goals with 34 heading into the playoffs. Bethany Balcer has played with incredible consistency and has nine goals on the season. Megan Rapinoe also continues to remind everyone why she’s soccer royalty and has come in clutch for the team with six scores of her own.
The Reign will be powered by Baby Tate’s new song “Pedi,” a fun little bop with wordplay on looking good and being petty at the same time. As they wait to see who their opponent will be in the semifinals, “Calm down ’cause a queen get deadly” is a line that can rally the team to keep striking on the pitch. Don’t try them.
Portland Thorns: “God’s Favorite” — Megan Thee Stallion
Portland Thorns FC has been dominant all year (that tends to happen when you add Crystal Dunn). They won the NWSL Shield for best regular-season record and clinched the top seed two weeks ago. The Thorns will be playing for their third-ever NWSL title, which would give them the most championships in league history. Along with Dunn, rising star Sophia Smith has led the way for the Thorns, who also have the most dedicated fan base across the league.
The hottest team in the country deserves a song from the Hottie leader herself, Megan Thee Stallion. “God’s Favorite” is a slapper off the Houston superstar’s latest project, Something for Thee Hotties, and clocks in at a quick 1:30, but has boss bars like “I bought a crib next to my crib ’cause I don’t want no neighbors,” and “My favorite drink my haters’ tears, a cause for celebration.” The Thorns have a week to scout their competition, which gives them time to have this on repeat before they take the pitch and march into history.