Professional soccer is coming back to the United States.
The National Women’s Soccer League season, which was scheduled to start April 18 and proceed through October 18, has announced plans to return to action with a tournament that will kick off June 27.
The 2020 Challenge Cup will be a 25-game tournament where all nine teams partake in a four-game preliminary round to determine seeding. Eight teams then will move on to quarterfinals like a smaller, international knockout format with single-elimination. The championship game currently is scheduled for July 26.
“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 in the NWSL’s statement.
“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.”
To this point, women’s soccer has struggled at the club level to capture a huge audience or a lot of media coverage, despite its teams being comprised of the U.S. Women’s National Team stars that captivate the country every four years for the Women’s World Cup.
Now, it has the opportunity to be the only show in town — or more accurately, the only team sport commencing in the country, with CBS getting the television and streaming rights.
It also appears to be the only league thus for to collaborate with its players’ association in such a timely manager.
“The NWSLPA, working closely alongside NWSL, is excited to provide players the opportunity to return to sport, while also securing compensation and other necessities to make sure players’ concerns, feedback and safety are at the forefront of all conversations,” said NWSLPA Executive Directors Yael Averbuch and Brooke Elby, via the league’s statement. “As the plans for the tournament unfolded, it was our priority as the NWSLPA to protect our players, and we feel that NWSL shares those values.”
Granted, the NWSL is much smaller than other North American sports leagues, but it will be interesting to see if others take anything from its plan to return.
Thumbnail photo via Michael Chow/USA TODAY Sports Images