The National Women’s Soccer League will kick off its 25-game Challenge Cup tournament starting on June 27. The NWSL’s tournament will take place in Utah without fans, and possibly, without some key players.
Saturday is the first day that NWSL teams are able to conduct full team practices, according to their preseason training protocol. Like all sports leagues, the NWSL has worked hard to craft a plan that gets them back on the field in the wake of the global pandemic.
Not all leagues, however, have their ducks lined up in a row. The MLB, for instance, is still struggling to devise a salary structure that meets with the MLB Player Association’s approval. But that hasn’t been a problem for the NWSL.
League and Players in Lockstep
Compared to other major league sports, the NWSL has been lucky. It was able to finish its 2019 season, and was also able to hold its college draft in January. The NWSL, however, missed its April 18 season start date due to the coronavirus outbreak.
The National Women’s Soccer League’s tournament may be the first major league team sporting event in the US since the shutdown. While the Challenge Cup won’t guarantee a subsequent start of the 2020 regular season, it is a huge leap forward. And it wouldn’t have come without the complete cooperation between the league and its players’ association.
Clearly, concessions were made to get this NWSL tournament in motion. Perhaps the most unusual arrangement for the tournament is its opt-out provision. Players can choose not to play in the Challenge Cup and still receive compensation. With the Olympics a year away, the opt-out provision may have been an accommodation designed for members of the US Women’s National Team (USWNT).
In reaching to secure the tournament, the league did receive the full-throated support of the National Women’s Soccer League Players Association.
— NWSLPA (@nwsl_players) May 27, 2020
Along with the players and the league, the tournament’s sponsors also have a lot to gain. With few sports in play, ratings for the Challenge Cup could be significant. P & G and Secret are the official presenting sponsors, while Budweiser — a longtime NWSL sponsor — will present the tournament’s MVP award.
NWSL Tournament Details and Viewing Options
A detailed tournament schedule is still pending, but the Challenge Cup will start on June 27 and finish on July 26. All nine NWSL teams will play four games in the tournament’s preliminary rounds. Eight teams will advance to the quarterfinals, which begin the knockout phase of the competition.
The early rounds will take place at the Zions Bank Stadium in Herriman, Utah. The semifinals and finals will be played at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy, Utah — home of NWSL Utah Royals.
The NWSL’s tournament opener and championship final will air on CBS and the CBS All Access subscription service. All other games will stream live on CBS All Access in the US and Canada, and will re-air on CBS. Outside the US and Canada, the entire tournament can be seen on Twitch.