NWSL set to become the first U.S. pro league to return from the COVID-19 shutdown

The NWSL is set to become the first U.S. pro league to return from the COVID-19 shutdown, with the NWSL Challenge Cup, a 25-game tournament to be played June 27-July 26 behind closed doors at two soccer facilities operated by Dell Loy Hansen, the owner of the NWSL's Utah Royals as well as MLS's Real Salt Lake and reigning USL Championship champion Real Monarchs.

Format. The NWSL's nine teams will play four games each in the preliminary rounds to determine seeding. The top eight teams will advance to the quarterfinals, where the tournament will enter the knockout phase with three rounds consisting of single games.

Setup. The 5,000-seat Zions Bank Stadium, the artificial turf field at the Zions Bank Training Center that serves as the home of the RSL academy and residency program in Herriman, will be the site of all games through the quarterfinals. The semifinals and final will be played at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy. No spectators will be allowed at the games. Teams will practice at fields at the Zions Bank Real Academy and America First Field, the Royals’ practice facility located in Sandy.

Housing. As part of the NWSL Village, Hansen, who is a real-estate developer with extensive holdings in the Salt Lake City area, will house everyone in properties he owns -- including an entire Embassy Suites hotel (192 rooms). The NWSL is working with players who are mothers to have their children (and care-givers) join them on site in Utah.

Participation. As part of the participation of players in the Challenge Cup, the NWSL Players Association secured an agreement with the NWSL covering four points:

1. Contract guarantees for all contracted NWSL players — including salary, housing, and benefits;
2. Insurance coverage for the entire 2020 calendar year;
3. Accommodations for players with children during the tournament (including plans for both the parent and children’s health and safety);
4. Input on tournament procedures and structure to ensure player safety and well-being.

Players who do not wish to participate in the tournament will no be required to and it will not penalized for that decision. Rosters must be submitted by June 21, the days teams are first allowed to arrive in Utah for pre-tournament training.

Testing. Players and staff traveling to the Challenge Cup will be tested weekly before arriving in Utah and then again upon arrival. They will also be tested within 24-48 hours before each game.

NWSL Challenge Cup: Protocols

Television. The NWSL reached a three-year agreement with CBS Sports and Twitch on a new national television deal on March 11, one day before the NWSL preseason was shut down because of the emerging pandemic. CBS will carry the Challenge Cup's opener and championship game, and all games will air via on CBS All Access, its pay streaming service.

Sponsors. The NWSL announced P&G and Secret as presenting sponsors of the tournament. Budweiser will be presenting sponsor of the semifinals and final and the tournament MVP award. (Only Budweiser was an existing NWSL sponsor.)  It also announced a new multi-year partnership with Verizon.

Next story loading loading..

Discover Our Publications