The National Women’s Soccer League could be among the first U.S. pro sports to successfully find a way to hold a season amid the coronavirus pandemic, according to multiple reports.
The league is reportedly planning a tournament for its nine teams to be held in Utah from June 29-July 22, according to The Salt Lake Tribune and Washington Post. CBS, which announced in March a three-year deal to exclusively broadcast NWSL matches, would likely carry the tournament.
The OL Reign, Sky Blue FC and Chicago Red Stars are planning to arrive in Utah early next week, according to The Salt Lake Tribune.
Members of the OL Reign declined to comment. But an official announcement could be made this week, according to The Post.
Men’s pro leagues from Major League Baseball to Major League Soccer have floated ideas similar to NWSL in ways to hold seasons despite multiple states being under some form of a stay-at-home order or under strict social distancing guidelines in an effort to slow the spread of COVID-19. But details of those plans haven’t been finalized.
The Salt Lake Tribune reported the NWSL would regularly test its players and staff, but players and staff won’t be quarantined, and only restricted to what they can do off the field. Whether or not the matches will have spectators has yet to be determined, according to the report.
Teams would likely stay in dormitories and hotels near Real Salt Lake’s training facility in Herriman, Utah.
There are 4,019 confirmed COVID-19 cases in Salt Lake County with 61 deaths, according to tracking by John Hopkins University.
OL Reign was set to begin its season on April 18, but the league announced March 20 its season would be delayed due to the virus outbreak. Although the league permitted teams to hold voluntary, individualized trainings beginning May 6, Reign players have not participated because of Gov. Jay Inslee’s stay-at-home order that was extended through May 31.
Reign players are also scattered throughout the U.S.
The charter team rebranded itself during the offseason after being purchased in November 2019 by France’s OL Groupe. Former French midfielder Farid Benstiti was named coach in January and in March, the majority owners unveiled a new badge and colors. Tacoma remains the team’s base and Cheney Stadium is the home field.
The Reign advanced to the league’s four-team playoff last season. The club lost in the semifinals to the eventual champion North Carolina Courage.