The National Women’s Soccer League revealed the schedule for the 2020 Challenge Cup this afternoon. All nine teams will head to Utah for a tournament that will stretch from late June to late July, making NWSL the first pro team sport in the United States to return to play after the coronavirus pandemic took hold.
The Washington Spirit will depart for Utah on June 21 before beginning play on June 30 against Utah Royals FC. That game, and all preliminary round matches, will take place at Zions Bank Stadium in Herriman, UT. All Spirit games (save possibly the final) will stream live on CBS All Access in the U.S. and Canada, while international viewers can watch on the league’s Twitch channels. Games will also be re-aired on television on the CBS Sports Network.
All things considered, the Spirit’s schedule is somewhat favorable if last year’s standings are any indicator. After opening against a Utah team that finished one spot behind Washington in last year’s table, the Spirit will play OL Reign — a team in flux due to a new coach and some player departures — on July 4. Last year, the Reign finished one spot above Washington, taking the final playoff spot, but since then they’ve seen former coach Vlatko Andonovski take over the USWNT job, while also recently announcing that outstanding left back Steph Catley will not be returning to the club.
Washington’s toughest match on paper is game 3, as they’ll face the Portland Thorns on July 8. Portland considers last year, finishing 3rd in the regular season standings and losing a semifinal, to be a big letdown, and they’ve acquired USWNT legend Becky Sauerbrunn and central midfielder Raquel Rodriguez during the offseason.
The Spirit will wrap up the preliminary round on its final day with a game against the Houston Dash. Last year, the Dash finished in 7th place and struggled to find any sort of form, but Houston did manage a road win and two draws against Washington, frustrating the Spirit in every single meeting. They’ve also upgraded their defense significantly, with former Spirit defender Megan Oyster and ex-Red Stars center back Katie Naughton both moving to Texas this offseason. The Dash currently have five former Spirit players on their books, with Oyster joined by Meg Crosson, Kristie Mewis, Christine Nairn, and Katie Stengel.
Times for all games have not yet been announced. After holding the draw live on the CBS Sports website, only the first set of games was confirmed. OL Reign tweeted out their own schedule, and eventually the Orlando Pride shared the full set of preliminary games. The knockout rounds will take place across four matchdays, with two doubleheaders for the quarterfinal on July 17 and 18, then a semifinal doubleheader on July 22 before the final on July 26.
Washington Spirit Challenge Cup schedule
|Sunday, June 21||Spirit travel to Utah|
|Tuesday, June 30||12:30 PM||Washington Spirit vs. Utah Royals FC||Zions Bank Stadium|
|Saturday, July 4||12:30 PM||Washington Spirit "at" OL Reign||Zions Bank Stadium|
|Wednesday, July 8||10:00 PM||Washington Spirit vs. Portland Thorns FC||Zions Bank Stadium|
|Monday, July 13||10:00 PM||Washington Spirit "at" Houston Dash||Zions Bank Stadium|
|Friday, July 17||12:30 PM/10:00PM||Quarterfinal day 1||Zions Bank Stadium|
|Saturday, July 18||12:30 PM/10:00PM||Quarterfinal day 2||Zions Bank Stadium|
|Wednesday, July 22||12:30 PM||Semifinal 1||Rio Tinto Stadium|
|Wednesday, July 22||10:00 PM||Semifinal 2||Rio Tinto Stadium|
|Sunday, July 26||12:30 PM||Final||Rio Tinto Stadium|
This article initially stated that OL Reign had deleted a tweet containing their schedule. This was false, and has been corrected.