The National Women’s Soccer League will become the first U.S. team sport to resume play June 27 with a month-long tournament in suburban Salt Lake City, and the rebuilding Houston Dash hope the unique format will give them a chance to succeed against more established rosters.
Wednesday’s announcement of the NWSL Challenge Cup gives teams four weeks to reconvene and resume training after the COVID-19 shutdown. Each of the nine teams will play four games, leading to quarterfinals, semifinals and a July 26 championship game at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy, Utah.
“It’s very exciting to be the first and really important that we showcase the league and the players to the highest levels,” Dash coach James Clarkson said. “The safety of everyone is the most important thing.”
While the league will be among the first pro team sports to resume play since the coronavirus pandemic stopped games in mid-March, it could be without some high-profile players from the U.S. Soccer’s women’s national team.
At least seven players on the 23-member national team roster have said they will not participate, the Washington Post reported. Others were said to be awaiting word on testing and safety issues before committing to the tournament.
Games in Utah will be played without fans present and will be streamed on the CBS All Access subscription service. The tournament opener June 27 at Zions Bank Stadium in Herriman, Utah, and the July 26 championship game will air on CBS Sports.
The host Utah Royals FC will provide housing, training and game site needs for all nine teams and will create what it described as an “NWSL Village” in an effort to assure players’ health and safety.
With only nine teams, the logistics for the NWSL are a little easier than for other leagues, just because there will be fewer people involved. This is a great opportunity for the NWSL, as they will have the sports landscape to themselves for a brief period, but it’s also obviously a risk, as they could easily be the first league to then have to deal with a new coronavirus outbreak among their active players. Like it or not, by virtue of being first up, they get to be a test case for everyone else. I wish them luck. ESPN and Deadline have more.