The sports world has been put on hold since mid-March, but optimism of returns for many professional leagues in America is growing. The first one to officially announce the dates of a return was the NWSL.
The league announced a month-long tournament set to start on June 27 on Wednesday. The tournament, dubbed the NWSL Challenge Cup, features all nine teams heading to Utah to play at the Real Monarchs' Zions Bank Stadium in suburban Salt Lake City.
Seeing the German Bundesliga return has been a fun return to live sports and seeing live sports from American clubs would be a big step. The NWSL is hoping to get extra attention as the first American league to return. Commissioner Lisa Baird has been bullish as she has made the media rounds following the announcement.
Baird signed on as NWSL commissioner on Feb. 27. She was really thrown into the fire with a crisis scenario in her first month on the job. Making this tournament happen will be a feather in her cap if it materializes as planned.
Being the first American pro sports league to start up is going to be a nice boost, although the soccer world will be humming along before the NWSL starts up. Not only will the Bundesliga be wrapping up its season, but La Liga is planning to come back around June 11, the Premier League is set for June 17 and Serie A is on track for a June 20 return.
The soccer calendar will be packed by the time the NWSL returns on June 27. While they will be the only game in town as far as American pro team sports and the only major women's league to return, soccer fans won't be short on options. How much of a boost the NWSL will get from being relatively early to return remains to be seen.
One main factor in how the league was able to start quickly is that there are just nine teams. It's a smaller operation, which means fewer housing options and training facilities were necessary, among other things.
The tournament format includes a four-game "regular season" to seed teams for an eight-team playoff. That means every team is guaranteed four games and only the last place team won't make the playoffs. The final is set for July 26, which means the finalists will play seven matches in about a month. That's going to test the depth and fitness of these teams. Maintaining fitness during this stoppage won't have been easy.
It should be fun to watch, even if just for the World Cup-like format.
On the less serious side, let's start the Sam Kerr to the Red Stars loan push now. Kerr left the Red Stars after the 2019 season to join Chelsea. The Women's Super League in England canceled the rest of its season and wouldn't start back up until September under a normal schedule.
Let's get Kerr back on the Red Stars for the month-long tournament. She's probably anxious to get playing and the Red Stars would surely have her. Plus, she can be back to Chelsea by the start of training camp, and potentially be in better shape for the start of the next WSL season. Just sayin'...
For that matter, if there are players who opt out of the NWSL tournament for whatever reason, let's seek out some notable internationals who want to play. Let's get some ringers in here.
Filed under: NWSL