29 May 2020

Everything you need to know about NWSL's proposed one-month season

The National Women’s Soccer League is aiming to be one of the first sports to come back in North America as it targets a June 27 start to the season.

The league’s commissioner, Lisa Baird, announced this week they will be attempting to complete the entire season in just one month with the final scheduled for July 26.

The event, dubbed the NWSL Challenge Cup, would see 25 games played over 30 days. It is being proposed to be held in Utah and the players would have to stay in an athletes’ village with extensive testing protocols being put in place.

But how will this all work? And what steps has the league taken so far to get players back in training?

Here’s everything you need to know 

Steps taken to start the league so far

Rapinoe could be back in action for OL Reign next month (Zuma Press/PA Images)

The NWSL was supposed to begin on April 18 and finish in October. However, due to the coronavirus pandemic, the league was suspended indefinitely before the first game could begin.

Players were unable to train, except individually at home, until May 6 when the first phase of getting the league underway was introduced.

The first phase meant players could return to their clubs but training would be individual, with one player allowed on one half of the soccer field at a time.

The second phase was introduced on Monday. It allowed players to return to small group training, with no more than eight players.

And the third phase, which will begin tomorrow, states that once five days of small group training takes places then full team training can resume.

All of these phases have the caveat of adhering to local and state authority, as well as league protocols. 

And the NWSL now believes it will be able to begin and complete its season - in just one month.

How will the NWSL Challenge Cup work?

Lisa Baird has said the NWSL is aiming to come back at the end of June (Twitter: NWSL)

On Wednesday, Baird announced the league’s ambition to complete their season. All nine teams would be included in the 25-game event which will be held in Utah.

The event will mimic the Olympics with group stages. Each team will play four games and the top eight from these will progress to knock-out rounds. 

Both the semi-finals and final are scheduled for July 26 but this will all depend on testing.

The event, which will be streamed by American broadcaster CBS, will be behind-closed-doors.

And while Baird hopes players will participate, there is no obligation for them to play.

She said: “Each player will have her own decision to make. We will not require anybody to play in the tournament.”

If players choose not to play they will still receive their salary and full medical and housing benefits from the 2020 season, Yael Averbuch, the executive director of the NWSL Players Association told The New York Times.

It remains unclear if players who play in the league, but are currently in different countries, will be able to take part.

However, a report from the Philadelphia Inquirer suggested foreign players in both the NWSL and the US men’s soccer league would be exempt from immigration laws preventing them to return - meaning they could travel to the US to play.

The Utah Royals owner, Dell Loy Hansen, will be the host. He runs the NWSL team and owns two stadiums in the state, Zions Bank Stadium and Rio Tinto Stadium, which will host all of the matches.

In a similar move to England’s Premier League, the NWSL is increasing the amount of substitutions a team can make in a game. 

Five will now be allowed instead of three, with the aim of lowering fatigue in players and reducing the risk of them becoming injured.

The roster for the event will be finalised by June 21 - the date teams will be able to travel to Utah before it begins on June 27.

How will they test everyone?

Rose Lavelle, along with the rest of the NWSL players, will be able to choose if she wants to play (Zuma Press/PA Images)

The league has put together a 15-person taskforce in charge of testing, tracing and health and safety of the proposed event.

Extensive testing protocols have been published on the NWSL’s website which covers pre-tournament and in-tournament testing and wellness checks.

In addition, players will undergo Covid-19 tests as well as antibody tests. 

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