NWSL announces return to field in June with 2020 Challenge Cup

Ashley Hatch Washington Spirit Morgan Andrews Reign FC

The National Women's Soccer League has announced it will return to the field with the 2020 NWSL Challenge Cup, which will kick off on June 27 in Utah. 

The league's 2020 campaign was set to begin in April but has not yet gotten underway due to the coronavirus pandemic. 

With its return to the pitch, the NWSL is set to become the first major American sports league to resume play after the pandemic began devastating the country in March. 

All nine of the league's teams will partake in the month-long tournament, with each side playing four preliminary-round matches before eight teams advance to the tournament's knockout phase. The final is scheduled for July 26.

Games will take place at Zions Bank Stadium in Herriman and Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy, with no fans allowed to attend the matches. 

“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 a league release.

“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.”

In order to hold the event as safely as possible, all nine teams will be quarantined in a so-called "NWSL village" with all housing provided by Dell Loy Hansen, owner of Utah Royals FC.

Every player, official, and essential staff member will be tested for the coronavirus 48 hours prior to departure for Utah and the league says that while in Utah, players and staff will be subject to "consistent testing, temperature readings, and symptom review".

Working together with the league, the NWSL Players Association announced that it has secured contract guarantees for all players

“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.

“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.”