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The NWSL is reportedly working to finalize a month-long tournament that would make it the first professional team sport in the United States to return to play since the COVID-19 crisis started.
The league is finalizing a tournament in Salt Lake City, per the Washington Post, that would begin in late June. It would serve as a precursor to the regular season that was slated to begin April 18.
What is the NWSL tournament?
The tournament would take place from June 29 through July 22 at two sites near Salt Lake City, according to the Salt Lake Tribune. Rio Tinto Stadium is home to the Utah Royals and Major League Soccer’s Real Salt Lake. Zions Bank Stadium is home to the Real Monarchs of the USL, a second-division men’s club. The squads would stay in dorms near RSL’s training facility.
The nine teams would reportedly be split into three three-team groups, with teams playing each other two times apiece. All but one team would move ahead to the quarterfinals.
A group of previously selected fans will hopefully be able to attend the first sets of games, per the Tribune, with numbers growing as restrictions are lifted in the area. The games will be televised on CBS Sports as part of the league’s new multi-year TV deal.
The details could be announced this week, though the Post reports that not all members of the United States women’s national team are on board with the decision. The NWSL is reportedly so close it has asked for rosters and lists of essential staff that would travel to Utah.
How will NWSL ensure COVID-19 safety?
Players and the rest of the team personnel will be regularly tested for the coronavirus beginning this week, per the Post. The Tribune adds they will not be quarantined, but will face restrictions to what they can do off the field. It will be a “controlled environment,” according the reports.
Teams from the hardest-hit areas of the country, such as Sky Blue FC in New Jersey and the Chicago Red Stars, would arrive first in Utah. Presumably that would give them time to self-quarantine after coming from a higher-risk area.
Utah was downgraded to a lower risk level by Gov. Gary R. Herbert last week. The state has 7,384 reported cases of the coronavirus as of Wednesday afternoon and 80 deaths. It is one of the few states with fewer than 100 deaths.
NWSL looks to capitalize on sports void
It’s been a tough two months and counting without sports, and people are finding a way to feed their appetite for it. The sport that finds a way to come back safely during a time of lockdown will reap the benefits of it, and women’s leagues could use it the most.
The league’s objective, people close to the situation said, is to restart the league during a void in the sports landscape and, if health conditions allow, begin scheduling regular season matches in home markets later this summer or in the fall.
Single-site seasons have been proposed in nearly every major professional sport. The NBA has reportedly made Orlando/Disney World as a “clear front runner” for resuming its 2019-20 season. MLB owners and the players association are negotiating an agreement to return and what that would look like.
And while those leagues hold discussions, governors are beginning to open their states to professional sports without fans. California Gov. Gavin Newsom says by early June they should be ready and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo pledged state partnership to teams looking to return safely.
Women’s Bundesliga returning May 29
More good news on the women’s soccer front: The Frauen-Bundesliga is set for a May 29 return.
The German Football Association (or DFB) made the announcement on Wednesday after a meeting with clubs, according to Reuters. VFL Wolfsburg, one of women’s soccer’s international power clubs, was leading Bayern Munich by eight points when the league was suspended with six games remaining.
Wolfsburg is led by Danish striker Pernille Harder, and several other stars of last summer’s Women’s World Cup play in the league. The only American is goalkeeper Bryane Heaberlin of FFC Frankfurt, who appeared for the USWNT at the youth levels.
The men’s Bundesliga resumed over the weekend without much of a hitch, which helped clear the way for the Frauen-Bundesliga’s return.
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