The wait is finally over. Professional soccer is returning to the field and the National Women’s Soccer League will take the field on June 27 as the first professional sports league to return to play since the COVID-19 pandemic halted sports seasons around the country.
The 2020 NWSL Challenge Cup presented by P&G and Secret kicks off on Saturday with back-to-back defending champion North Carolina Courage facing the Portland Thorns at 10:30 a.m. MT and will be broadcast nationally on CBS. The match will be the first time professional women’s club soccer will be carried live on a broadcast network in the United States. In addition to the opening match being broadcast nationally, the tournament final on July 27 will also be carried on CBS, with all matches in between being streamed on the CBS All Access platform.
Utah Royals FC will play host to seven other NWSL clubs for the four-week tournament that will culminate on July 27 with the championship match held at Rio Tinto Stadium. The group stage matches along with the quarterfinal matches will be played at Zions Bank Stadium in Herriman – home to the defending USL Championship title-winning Real Monarchs – before the semifinals and final move to Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy, Utah. Rio Tinto Stadium is home to URFC and Major League Soccer’s Real Salt Lake.
Each team will compete in four group-stage matches to determine seeding for the quarterfinal round in which all teams will advance to, seeing each team play a minimum of five matches.
While nine total clubs reside in the NWSL, the Orlando Pride will not be participating in the tournament due to COVID-19 restrictions.
The schedule of matches is as follows:
June 27: Group Stage begins
July 17: Quarterfinal round begins
July 22: Semifinal round begins
July 27: NWSL Challenge Cup Final
The tournament’s full list of rules and regulations can be found here.
Away from the field of competition, the NWSL will be holding the safety and health of all players, staff and broadcast partners in the highest regard during the tournament. The full list of health and safety protocols can be accessed here.
After an adjustment to the schedule for all teams, Utah Royals FC now faces the Houston Dash to open their tournament venture on Tuesday, June 30 at 10:30 a.m. MT at Zions Bank Stadium. In the third round of match play, a repeat of the 2019 NWSL Championship will ensue when Chicago faces back-to-back defending champion North Carolina Courage on Sunday, July 5 at 10:30 a.m. MT.
Highlighting the final day of group play matches is a matchup of regional rivals OL Reign and Portland Thorns FC who feature on July 13, just one day after URFC takes on the Chicago Red Stars in a long-distance rivalry.