The National Women’s Soccer League announced formation of a 25-game tournament Wednesday. The Olympic-style competition will be played in June and July at three stadiums in Utah and air on CBS.
The 2020 NWSL Challenge Cup marks the return for all nine teams in the league, which was scheduled to start its season April 18, but was suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The tournament will begin June 27 at Zions Bank Stadium in Herriman, Utah. The final will be July 26 at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy, Utah. Games will also be played at America First Credit Union Field in Sandy.
No fans will be allowed to attend the games. Each team will play four games in the preliminary rounds to determine seeding. The top eight teams will advance to knockout-round play in the quarterfinals.
“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,” 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 2020 NWSL Challenge Cup tournament opener and championship will air on CBS. All other matches will air on CBS All Access. Games will re-air on CBS Sports Network.
The United States Women’s National Team Players Association and United States Soccer Federation also agreed to give national team players the option to decide if they want to participate in the tournament.
“The [players association] and [the federation] will provide support to each player in whatever decision she makes,” the players association said.
It remained unclear, as of Wednesday afternoon, how many members of the United States Women’s National Team will participate in the tournament.
Former national team star Julie Foudy told ESPN last week that some players on the current squad are “hesitant” to return to the field because of possible injury risk and potential exposure to the coronavirus. A source also told the Washington Post last week that some players from the national team haven’t decided if they will play.
Each player, official and staff member in the tournament will be tested 48 hours before they depart for Utah and when they arrive. They will also be tested, have their temperatures taken and receive symptom reviews throughout their stay in Utah.
NWSL clubs were allowed to resume training in small groups on Monday. Teams can progress to full team training on Saturday if they have completed five days of small group training and were not in violation of state and local laws related to the pandemic.
The NWSL also listed extensive guidelines and protocols on their website for positive tests, cleaning standards, disinfection and sanitation.
Major League Soccer’s season has also been suspended since March. The league has not announced an official return date.