NWSL to Return in June with the Challenge Cup

Guess what, ladies. Women’s sports are back! Sort of! But we’ll take it! The NWSL has announced a month long tournament, the Challenge Cup, lasting from June 27 to July 26. If you, like me, have resorted to sports announcers commentating on penguins running across a beach, then this is welcome news. But, it doesn’t come without concerns.

So What Is It?

The Challenge Cup with be an international play style tournament featuring all nine NWSL teams. Think the World Cup but with only nine teams. The 25-game tournament will be played in Utah, with most games taking place in Zions Bank Stadium while the semifinals and final will be held in Rio Tinto Stadium. And due to the ongoing COVID crisis, there will be no spectators in attendance. The games will be streamed on CBS All Access and the final will be broadcast live on CBS. According to a statement released by the Utah Royals, all teams will train and reside in something of an athlete’s village for the duration of the tournament. If all goes to plan, the NWSL could be the first US sports league to return to live matches since the beginning of the pandemic.

https://twitter.com/UtahRoyalsFC/status/1265617884325097472?s=20

Safety Concerns

While we’re all excited to see our favorite soccer lesbians in action, we still don’t have a vaccine for COVID-19 and it’s impossible to play soccer while staying six feet apart. It’s hard to forget about the Bundesliga players who tested positive within the second week of the German league’s return. While players and fans alike were reassured that there would be rigorous testing, it does little to ease minds when you remember the amount of people involved. It’s more than just the players, it’s coaching staff, medical staff, support staff, and maintenance staff. It would require a herculean effort to ensure everyone is regularly tested and that anyone who tests positive will he quarantined and receive the proper medical care. Having said that, USWNT players can opt out of the tournament without worrying about pay cuts or loss of health insurance. 

NWSL players who are not on the national team may also opt out.

On the one hand, it’s great that we’ll have some new women’s sports to watch. But, on the other hand all the safety concerns make it difficult to truly be excited about the tournament. Is it worth risking the health and safety of so many people? Maybe going a year without live sports is just one of the sacrifices we need to make right now. And despite my whole livelihood depending on sports, I’m okay with that. No amount of money or entertainment is worth risking someone’s life. How do you feel about it?