The National Women’s Soccer League announced the “2020 NWSL Challenge Cup” on Wednesday, which will see the league return to the field from June 27-July 26 in Utah. There are many details which have been worked out, and many questions which still remains. Here’s what we know:
What is the Challenge Cup?
A 25-game tournament featuring all nine teams. Each team will play four preliminary games and eight of the nine will advance to a single-elimination tournament. The preliminary games and quarterfinals will be played on artificial turf at Zions Bank Stadium in Herriman, Utah. The semifinals and final will be played on natural grass at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy, Utah.
What’s the schedule?
UPDATE: Here’s the full schedule.
How is the NWSL keeping players and staff safe?
The league’s protocols can be found here.
Are players required to play?
No. Participation is optional, and sources say that many players are still undecided. There will certainly be players who decline to play, including some who are U.S. women’s national team players.
Will players breach their contract if they don’t play?
No. All player contracts, housing, insurance and benefits are guaranteed by the league regardless of participation in the tournament.
Challenge Cup highlights the different labor interests in the NWSL
Will players have their families with them?
Players who are moms will be allowed to have their children and their caregiver with them. Otherwise, each player will have her own room for lodging.
Are players fully quarantined?
Unclear. There will be an athlete village for players, staff and administrators that is meant to minimize exposure to the outside world. At the moment, it’s unclear whether players can leave that bubble or if teams can even socially interact with each other. Utah Royals owner Dell Loy Hansen, who is picking up a lot of the tab for hosting, said each team would have its own floor in a hotel.
How do I watch the games?
The opening game and championship will be on CBS and CBS All-Access. All other games will stream on CBS All-Access and be replayed on CBS Sports Network.
Can fans attend games?
No. Not as of now, and that seems unlikely to change.
Utah has a relatively low number of COVID-19 cases and is among the states with the fewest deaths due to the virus. Also, Hansen’s significant real estate assets, including equity in some hotels being used, made for a cost-effective solution.
Why Utah, starting late June, was the NWSL’s choice for the 2020 Challenge Cup
Will the NWSL take away needed testing from locals?
Hansen says the significant number of tests will be coming from outside the area, and that not taking any local testing away was part of his bid. NWSL commissioner Lisa Baird said the league’s insurance policy is paying for the testing.
There were bids?
Baird said there were four bids to host the tournament.
Will there be more NWSL soccer in the fall?
Doubtful. Truthfully, nobody knows, but the league is focused on getting through this tournament safely and anything after that is a guess. The better guess right now is that this will be the only NWSL competition in 2020.
Any rule changes?
Per IFAB temporary changes, teams can make five substitutions per match but only at three different stoppages. Gameday rosters will be 20 players instead of 18, with maximum tournament roster sizes of 28.
Why do eight of nine teams advance?
Per OL Reign CEO Bill Predmore, the league discussed going right to a semifinal round but felt that eight teams advancing would encourage coaches to rotate players and be less worried about getting knocked out in the preliminary round.
What about that one team left out?
That’s gonna sting.
Will there be a better trophy than the usual?
Here is more from Baird’s appearance on the EQZ co-produced show, NWSL Live:
NWSL LIVEFeaturing Lori Lindsey and Jeff KassoufHosted by Jordan AngeliOn today's show:SPECIAL EDITION We talk live and in depth with NWSL Commissioner Lisa Baird about the 2020 Challenge Cup NWSL Veteran and member of the NWSLPA Tori Huster joins us for our 'Why You Play" segmentWe take questions and look into what is happening around NWSLMake sure to comment and ask questions because your comments could be used on the stream!
Posted by National Women's Soccer League on Thursday, May 28, 2020
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