The National Women’s Soccer League announced Wednesday its return to play with the creation of the NWSL Challenge Cup which is expected to kick off on June 27 in Utah.
The Orlando Pride along with the eight other NWSL teams will participate in the 25-game tournament which is expected to end on July 26 at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy, Utah.
“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. “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 Pride were expected to kick off their 2020 NWSL season on April 19 against Sky Blue FC at Exploria Stadium, but the season never got a chance to start because of the coronavirus pandemic, which stopped team sports from taking place for nearly two months.
The tournament format is rather simple. All nine teams will each play four games in a preliminary round to determine the seeding. Of those nine teams competing, the top eight will qualify to the knockout stage of the tournament starting with the quarterfinals — all those games will be played at Zions Bank Stadium in Herriman, Utah.
The semifinals and final will be played at Rio Tinto Stadium, home of the Utah Royals.
A full schedule is expected to be released soon and all games will be closed-door.
The tournament will stream with a subscription from CBS All Access, however the tournament opener and final will be televised on CBS.
Medical protocols regarding COVID-19 testing for players were questions being raised before the tournament was announced, but the league may have answered it on Wednesday.
“Each player, official and essential staff member will be tested 48 hours prior to departure for Utah and upon arrival and will be subject to consistent testing, temperature readings and symptom review throughout their stay in Utah,” according to the news release the NWSL sent out Wednesday morning.
The Orlando Sentinel’s Julia Poe has more details on the safety protocols the league plans to follow once the tournament kicks off.
The Orlando Pride will begin small group training on Monday at Sylvan Lake Park.
For more soccer news, follow the Orlando Soccer Journal on Twitter: @OSJSoccer