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The National Women’s Soccer League Championship on Sunday (2:30 p.m., ESPN), between the North Carolina Courage and the Chicago Red Stars, feels more important for Chicago than for North Carolina. The Courage has been here before, but the Red Stars’ trophy case is pretty bare.

North Carolina is the unquestioned favorite and, with three consecutive NWSL Shield (regular-season title) victories, is firmly in “dynasty” mode. The Courage is the best team in women’s soccer, depending on how you feel about Lyon’s dominance in Europe. Winning a third NWSL playoff title in four years, to go with those three Shields, would only make an incremental difference to the team’s legacy.

Chicago, in its fifth consecutive playoff appearance, finally posted its first playoff victory in last week’s semifinals. For a team that’s annually been among the NWSL’s best, losing in the semifinals every year was hard to take. Sam Kerr, the league’s best-ever goal scorer, again led the league with 18 goals,

North Carolina’s league dominance is unquestioned. But Chicago won two of the three meetings between the teams this year and played to a draw in the other one. Kerr scored four goals in the three games. Now can she get her hands on the Red Stars’ first trophy?

Short takes

• Like MLS, the NWSL is getting into the expansion game. Louisville City announced that it will join the league in 2021, giving the league two teams (along with North Carolina) that have second-division men’s sides and first-division women’s sides. Sacramento Republic, which was announced as MLS’ 29th franchise, is said to be bringing a women’s team to the NWSL, possibly next season.

• The Associated Press reported that FIFA will roll out a 24-team Club World Cup in the summer of 2021, including three teams from North America. Absolutely no fans were clamoring for another international competition, but FIFA sees a dollar to be made. Three teams from CONCACAF would be invited. With the Gold Cup also set for that summer.


Bundesliga: Borussia Dortmund at Schalke, 8:30 a.m. Saturday, FS2. Schalke has recovered from a nightmare last season and the Revierderby is once again a local rivalry with national implications. Weston McKennie should return for Schalke after missing its disappointing loss to Hoffenheim last round. He and the rest of the Schalke midfield will have the task of slowing down Dortmund attacker Jaden Sancho, who scored the winner in this fixture last season.

Writer Jon Marthaler gives you a recap of recent events and previews the week ahead. E-mail: