The National Women’s Soccer League announced a tournament today to kickstart the 2020 season. With the Novel Coronavirus pandemic hampering sports leagues across the country and around the world, the NWSL will take the opportunity to resume their season in a controlled enviroment.
As previously indicated, the 25-game tournament will kick off on June 27, 2020 at Zions Bank Stadium in Herriman, Utah. The Salt Lake City suburb is home to the Real Monarchs of the USL, a reserve team for Major League Soccer’s Real Salt Lake. Dell Loy Hansen, owner of Utah Royals FC, is the official host of the event.
Format and Broadcast Details
In order to create a balanced bracket, each of the league’s nine clubs will play four games in preliminary rounds. The top eight teams will be seeded by their preliminary round performance and advance to the quarterfinals. The tournament will then switch to a knockout competition. The semifinals and Final will be played at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy, Utah, home to the NWSL’s Royals FC and Real Salt Lake. The Championship match is scheduled for July 26, 2020.
Thanks to the recent agreement between the NWSL and CBS, the tournament opener and the Final will air on CBS. All the games will be available on CBS All Access, the network’s paid subscription service. Replays will be available on CBS Sports Network for fans who do not use streaming services. Fans outside the U.S. and Canada can stream the full tournament on Twitch. In order to ensure player and staff safety, spectators will not be permitted in the venue. According to the state government website, certain areas of Salt Lake County are listed as ‘Orange,’ or moderate risk.
Soccer in a Pandemic
Player safety is a priority going into this tournament event. The NWSL Player’s Association fully supports the 2020 Challenge Cup. NWSLPA Executive Directors Yael Averbuch and Brooke Elby made a statement at the announcement. “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.” Hansen and Utah Royals FC will create an “NWSL Village” to control as much of the environment as possible. They will arrange all housing, training and competition needs for the league’s nine teams.
In a supporting statement, US Soccer made clear that “each player would have the option of participating in the event.” It was not immediately clear whether this meant all players or only those on the Women’s National Team. Stay tuned for updates as more details become available.