The NWSL today announced what has been reported, that the NWSL will return-to-play with a 25-game tournament that will kick off on June 27, 2020 at Zions Bank Stadium in Herriman, Utah. It is the first time the NWSL competes in 2020 after COVID-19 postponed the start of the season. The 2020 Challenge Cup will be presented by Secret and P&G.
Of note, and assumed, is that no fans will be allowed to attend the tournament. However, fans can catch all the action via CBS All Access with the opener and championship game also airing live on CBS.
The tournament is similar to the World Cup, with group stage games where each team plays four games. After the conclusion of group play, only the last-place team would be eliminated. The remaining eight teams advance to play in a knockout-style tournament to begin Saturday, July 19. The semifinals and Final, presented by Budweiser, will be played at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy, Utah with the Championship match on July 26, 2020. The league plans to announce the complete schedule in days to come.
The nine NWSL teams will train at the Zions Bank Training Center in Herriman and America First Credit Union Field in Sandy.
The plan is for the tournament in Utah to take place in a controlled environment, where players are tested regularly and with social distancing protocols. According to The Athletic, players and staff would be tested for COVID-19 and the presence of antibodies associated with past infection upon arrival. Testing will be conducted weekly and before each game. Referees and broadcast partners and other staff will also be tested.
Also of importance is how involved the NWSL Players Association was a part of the planning process.
“The NWSLPA, working closely alongside NWSL, is excited to provide players the opportunity to return to sport, while also securing compensation and other necessities to make sure players’ concerns, feedback and safety are at the forefront of all conversations,” said NWSLPA Executive Directors Yael Averbuch and Brooke Elby. “As the plans for the tournament unfolded, it was our priority as the NWSLPA to protect our players, and we feel that NWSL shares those values.”’
Utah Royals FC Head Coach Craig Harrington also expressed his support, per the URFC press release:
“We’re really excited. It’s obviously an NWSL tournament, but it’s being hosted here in Utah. It’s a chance for our club to show off. It’s a super club – with the facilities, with the infrastructure, with the quality of people we have behind the scenes and also working on the day-to-day soccer operations level. We’ve been fortunate within the state that we’ve been less hit than other places have. We’re really excited to welcome everybody and be able to host all these world class players coming into market and put on games that hopefully the rest of the world will get some enjoyment from.”
On the same press release, Utah Royals FC Captain Amy Rodriguez commented on looking forward to have the tournament in Utah:
“I’m so excited to have this competition in my own backyard. I’ve known firsthand that we’ve had the best facilities in the league, and I think we’re excited to show those off to people. We’re hoping to provide a safe, comfortable environment for all of the players to come into this market and I’m really looking forward to it and showing off what Utah has to offer.”
The NWSL will provide more details this afternoon in a media call.