NWSL: First American Pro Sports League Running Again


The NWSL, National Women’s Soccer League, was very vocal about wanting to get their players back on the pitch as soon as possible. It was announced on May 27 that a tournament, deemed the Challenge Cup, would be taking place in Utah starting on June 27. A lot of fans speculated if it was worth it to host this tournament, especially when COVID worries are still high. However, Commissioner of the league, Lisa Baird, reassured everyone that at the core everyone’s safety is the most important. The event is hosted by Secret, the deodorant brand, and P&G. To ensure the safety of the players and staff, only essential personnel will be allowed to be in Utah for the tournament. All nine teams are only allowed 35 people at most, a roster of 28 and then seven staff members. It makes it a bit more tricky to manage the player’s minutes and ensure no one gets hurt because there are fewer players in attendance. 

In a press release, the NWSL announced that “The format of the tournament will feature the league’s nine clubs each playing four games in the preliminary rounds to determine seeding. The top eight teams will advance to the quarterfinals, when the tournament becomes a knockout competition.” The Semi-Final and Final will be played at Rio-Tinto Stadium and will be hosted by Budweiser, one of the league’s newser sponsors but a long time supporter of women’s sports. The final game is expected to be played on July 26, a month after the tournament kicks off. 

The tournament was cleared by the Utah Governor, Gary Herbert, and many people who live in Utah have nothing but praise for the tournament occurs. It is a great way to draw attention to women’s soccer and really sports in general as sports slowly begin to come back. The NWSL owners and commissioner worked closely with the players association to make sure that everyone was happy with the way the tournament was being run as well as that they felt safe. However, the most important thing is that players feel safe which is why they can opt-out if they really want to. Along with that, the mothers in the league are being provided with child care in Utah so that they don’t have to leave their kids home if they don’t have someone to watch them. For those that choose to opt-out because of the health risk, having children, or even just not wanting to play right now, they will still be compensated and provided with their in-season homes that are often paid for by the teams. When in Utah all team members and staff will be supplied with a living space, transportation to training, and other costs they need to be covered. Commissioner Baird stated that they will get whatever the players need because their comfort is essential. 

As for the safety aspect of things, the NWSL began again in a series of phases as most institutes have. Phase one included individual training at facilities. For most teams, time slots were filled in with when they came in and players were assigned a quadrant on the field. The only people were medical professionals and the players. Along with that players were required to bring their own equipment to play with. Phase two was unique to each team in regards to when it would happen. It introduced small group training, no more than 8 players, however, coaches were also allowed to be there to advise. Before this was allowed each player was tested to ensure no one was positive for the virus. Once that went smoothly for a week the teams could then slowly shift into full team practices with all essential staff there as well.

Each team member and staff were required to be tested before full team training could take place and if all tested back negative they were good to go. Most teams are back to full team training now with most players saying they are happy to be back on the field. Players and staff are required to show up to training with a mask on, they are checked for fever by a medical professional and are required to remain a bit distanced in the locker rooms, however, things are on a much better track than they were a month ago. Phase four of this plan is the tournament. Two days before the team depart for Utah they are to be tested for the virus. As well as that, teams are also taking chartered flights to Utah and using team vans in Utah to ensure that everyone is kept secluded mostly to their team. Each team will be staying in an apartment complex where they will be provided with everything they need as well as a means to stay busy since they are being encouraged to not leave unless for training or games. 

Overall the players seem excited to be training again and ready to get back on the field with their teammates. The first game kicks off on June 27, 2020, at Zions Bank Stadium in Herriman, Utah. The teams were drawn for their seed on CBS sports live stream to determine who would play who. The first game of the 25 game series will be between NC Courage v. Portland Thorns FC and can be watched on CBS. The rest of the games will be available on CBS All Access which is six dollars a month and would cover the whole tournament. The championship game will also be aired on CBS. For more information and the playing schedule head over to nwslsoccer.com.