Soccer will return to the United States next month. The National Women’s Soccer League, which was unable to kick off its 2020 campaign due to the COVID-19 pandemic, will head to Utah for a 25-game tournament beginning on June 27. The league announced the news of the 2020 NWSL Challenge Cup in a release.
“As our country begins to safely reopen and adjust to our collective new reality, and with the enthusiastic support of our players, owners, as well as our new and current commercial partners, the NWSL is thrilled to bring professional soccer back to the United States,” NWSL commissioner Lisa Baird said in a statement. “This exciting month-long tournament will showcase our league’s talented players and provide our fans the type of world-class entertainment they’ve come to expect from the NWSL.”
The league’s nine clubs will each play four matches, which will serve to sort out seeding for an eight-club, single-elimination knockout tournament. Unsurprisingly, the matches will be played in stadiums without fans, something we have seen in Germany’s Bundesliga in the weeks since it returned to play. It is, however, unclear how many members of the World Cup-winning United States Women’s National Team will participate — according to the New York Times, players from the national side are “split” on taking the pitch, with some “wary of the health and injury risks of a compressed season played — except for the semifinals and final — on artificial turf and during a pandemic.”
As the release explained, the tournament will be hosted by the Utah Royals, which will offer up its various facilities to make sure players are able to participate in a safe and controlled environment. All personnel heading to Utah for the tournament will undergo a COVID-19 test 48 hours before they make their way to the Beehive State, and upon arrival, they “will be subject to consistent testing, temperature readings, and symptom review” until they leave.
This “international-style” tournament allows the league to safely return to the pitch and will be hosted by Dell Loy Hansen, owner of Utah Royals FC, who will accommodate all housing, training, and competition needs for the league’s nine teams and create an “NWSL Village” to control as much of the environment as possible.
“With the efforts of our frontline workers, our state’s early adoption of preventative measures, and our facilities at Zions Bank Real Academy, Rio Tinto Stadium, and America First Credit Union Field, Utah is uniquely prepared to host the nine teams in the NWSL and put on a tremendous tournament,” said Hansen. “With the full support of the Governor and the medical experts in our community, we are thrilled to bring the tournament to Utah.”
The tournament’s schedule is still to be determined, but it will be broadcast on CBS — the first match and the final will air on the main network, while the rest will air live on CBS All Access and via replays on CBS Sports Network.