OL Reign players are expected to report to training camp in February 2021 for another modified season due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The National Women’s Soccer League announced Wednesday a framework for competition in 2021, which includes a return of the Challenge Cup followed by each of the 10 teams playing a 24-game regular season.
After postponing its 2020 season last spring, the NWSL was the first of the U.S. professional sports leagues to sequester its clubs in one location to resume play. The inaugural Challenge Cup was played in Utah with the Houston Dash winning the title and the Reign dropping out in the quarterfinals. No positive cases of COVID-19 were reported during the summer event.
The 2021 version, which would begin mid-April, could take place in multiple bubble environments, team markets or a combination of both. NWSL stated its medical taskforce and public health authorities will determine the best option to keep all involved safe from the virus.
“Bringing back the Challenge Cup is an opportunity for our league to continue growing our fan base and showcase our world class players with an exciting and competitive tournament,” said NWSL’s chief revenue officer Mitch Poll in a released statement. “We’re focused on continuing to build opportunities to expand our reach, expose a global audience to the best women’s club soccer in the world, and provide meaningful opportunities for our teams and players to perform.”
The NWSL regular season, which will include new expansion team Racing Louisville, would begin mid-May. NWSL plans to have a six-team playoff beginning in November 2021 with a championship match the weekend of Nov. 20.
Full schedule details will be released at a later date.
Plugged into the middle of the NWSL’s plans are the Tokyo Olympic Games, slated to run July 23-August 8. Needing to gear up for the Olympics has NWSL clubs hopeful their U.S. Women’s National Team stars will report to camp, including Reign forward Megan Rapinoe.
Rapinoe opted out of all competition this past season due to the pandemic and other pursuits.
“I always have irons in the fire. With soccer, it is very up in the air,” Rapinoe told The Seattle Times in a recent interview. “We’re working nonstop on figuring out ways to come together and at least have training camps and maybe some sorts of games, but just as everything with COVID, it’s a very uncertain time. But in the meantime I have a lot more time to do other stuff as well, which is exciting.
“My other mission is to make politics cool and get more people involved. Not just politics in the traditional sense, but actually getting people to understand that politics is engaging with you, whether you’re engaging with it or not.”
The NWSL held its expansion draft for Louisville last week. The Reign lost goalkeeper Michelle Betos and defender Julia Ashley. CEO Bill Predmore said filling the keeper position is a high priority this offseason.