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Man Up! National Women's Soccer League Becomes First League to Resume Play

Written by:
Alistair Prescott
Published on:
May/27/2020

The National Women's Soccer League (NWSL) on Wednesday announced its plan to return to action, with a 25-game tournament beginning on June 27 in Salt Lake City, Utah. 


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The news comes as at a time when their male counterparts are attempting to restart as well.

The coronavirus pandemic has shuttered most sports globally.  A few European soccer teams are either already resuming play or preparing to do so in June.  These include La Liga and Serie A.  Germany's Bundesliga League is already playing without spectators. 

"The United States Women's National Team Players Association's (USWNTPA) top priority is player health and safety -- both physical and mental," a USWNTPA statement read. 

"Consistent with that value, the USWNTPA and the USSF (United States Soccer Federation) have agreed that each WNT (Women's National Team) Player may choose for herself whether to participate in the NWSL 2020 Challenge Cup, and the USWNTPA and the USSF will provide support to each Player in whatever decision she makes. 

"The USWNTPA will continue to work with the USSF, the NWSL, and the NWSLPA to minimize the risk of injury and exposure to COVID-19 for those Players participating in the tournament." 

The new tournament, which the league is calling the NWSL Challenge Cup, will involve all nine of the league's teams. Each team will play four games in a preliminary round, with the top eight finishers advancing to a knockout round. The final will be played on July 26. 

Games will be played at Zions Bank Stadium in Herriman, Utah, and Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy, Utah. Rio Tinto Stadium is home to the NWSL's Utah Royals, as well as the MLS' Real Salt Lake.

Fans will not be allowed at any of the games.

"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 in a statement.

The NWSL did not clarify whether the tournament would take the place of the 2020 season or serve as prelude to a modified regular season.

Among other questions unanswered is the participation of members of the United States women's national team. One source close to the national team players confirmed to ESPN multiple reports that there is a lack of unanimity among the players about participating. 

Possible concerns, especially with the rescheduled Olympics in 2021, include playing a large number of games in a relatively short time after having little access to training for most of the past three months. Some of the games also would be on artificial turf. 

"U.S. Soccer is supportive of the NWSL's decision to bring professional women's soccer back to the field," the federation said in a statement. "Throughout the collaborative planning process, U.S. Soccer has worked closely with the NWSL and the USWNT Players Association to focus on the health and safety of the players, both regarding COVID-19 and the physical aspects of the players returning to a preseason and tournament competition, and ensure that each player would have the option of participating in the event." 

- ESPN was used for this story, Gambling911.com Alistair Prescott reporting

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