NWSL schedule: 3 intriguing storylines heading into week 18

The NWSL may be one of the most unpredictable leagues in the sports world, here are three enticing storylines with week 18 on the horizon.

Racing Louisville FC v NJ/NY Gotham FC
Racing Louisville FC v NJ/NY Gotham FC / Ira L. Black - Corbis/GettyImages
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There is nothing like the final weeks of the National Women's Soccer League's regular season. When you think you know the outcome, something completely different becomes the reality. Five points separate sixth position from the current top-seeded Portland Thorns on 29 points.

Mike Norris' Thorns may be leading the race for the NWSL Shield after just missing out last season, but last week raised even more questions after Sophia Smith went down. In other women's football leagues around the world like the Women's Super League, the title race is between three teams by the sixth week of the campaign. That is not the case in the NWSL. Week 18 features a top-four showdown and a road test for the league's top side. There are only going to continue to be shakeups until match week 22 comes to a close. Six spots. Five weeks. Buckle up, and be prepared for the unexpected.

Here are three storylines that every fan should keep in the back of their minds before the week kicks off.

Storylines heading into week 18 of the NWSL schedule:

3. Will NJ/NY Gotham FC remain unbeaten vs. Courage or will North Carolina continue home dominance?

Two of the league's top-three defenses meet on Saturday night in Cary, North Carolina. Sean Nahas' side is winless in its three league games, and Gotham is not the side he wants to see as he aims to break this streak. The home team is going to have to do it without USWNT international Emily Fox flying down the left flank with her being given a red card last week against Chicago Red Stars. Mille Gejl is the only player who has managed to find the back of the net for NC against this New Jersey/New York side this campaign.

In three matches across all competitions, Juan Carlos Amorós' Gotham FC is unbeaten, coming out on top in two of them. In the last league fixture back in April, Lynn Williams netted an 80' goal to seal a narrow 1-0 victory at home for the northeast outfit. On the other end of the spectrum, NC has its mind set on extending its home unbeaten run to an astounding 11 contests.

A single point separates the two clubs in the table, and with just a few weeks left, this could have a significant impact on potential playoff seeding. In the Challenge Cup last time out against Gotham, the Courage dominated possession, owning 64 percent of the ball. The only issue was the team only mustered two shots on goal en route to a two-goal defeat in early August. Nahas is one of the most intelligent coaches in the league. If anyone can come up with creative solutions, it is going to be him.