The NWSL to Return amid Positive COVID-19 Tests

Sports fans rejoice! The restart of the American professional sports scene commences in three days. The National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) will return to action June 27, 2020 at Zions Bank Stadium in Herriman, Utah for the 2020 NWSL Challenge Cup.

The league kicks off its first action of 2020 with an International-style round-robin tournament with all nine teams. The month-long event will be will be live on CBS All Access in the U.S. and Canada and will re-air on CBS Sports Network. Fans outside of the U.S. and Canada, can stream the tournament on Twitch.

After a month, a Challenge Cup Champion will be crowned July 26. The draw results were as follows:

  • Team 1: Chicago Red Stars
  • Team 2: Washington Spirit
  • Team 3: Houston Dash
  • Team 4: Utah Royals FC
  • Team 5: North Carolina Courage
  • Team 6: Sky Blue FC
  • Team 7: Portland Thorns FC
  • Team 8: OL Reign
  • Team 9: Orlando Pride

The two previous NWSL championships have been won by the North Carolina Courage.

As teams ramp up to defeat the Courage, one hiccup has brought up cause for concern. Six Orlando Pride players and four staff members have tested positive for COVID-19 while training for the challenge cup. Due to the number of positive tests, and the timeline necessary before returning to training and competition, Orlando has withdrawn from the Challenge Cup.

“The health and safety of our players and staff is our number one priority and our thoughts are with those players and staff fighting this infection, as well as the entire club in Orlando that have been impacted as a result,” said NWSL Commissioner Lisa Baird. “We’re all obviously disappointed, but in the current environment, this is a situation that we have prepared for and we will now adjust our plans and schedules to reflect the circumstances.”

Losing six players is a logistical nightmare for any professional team. Orlando made the right call in swiftly removing the team from the tournament but we have to feel bad for the players who took precautions and were looking forward to the season like Sydney Leroux Dwyer, who was going to return to soccer after giving birth to her second child last July.

This situation raises many questions about the resumption of sports over the next month and a half. If what happened to the Pride happens to other teams across other sports, in short, we are screwed. The lack of control over the virus will continue all shutdowns until there is a vaccine. A-symptomatic athletes is our biggest fear in a return to sports.

What is most important though is the health and safety of people. The NWSL has had an outbreak before all teams are in their “bubble” but what happens when teams are in Utah? Or what happens when the NBA starts up in Orlando? There are serious ramifications to actions taken before the resumption of sports. Potentially, the decisions of a select few, could alter an entire league – not because someone was knowingly unsafe but they were exposed in a seemingly ‘safe environment.’

I hope the NWSL gets to complete it tournament and I hope another team does not have to withdraw for the sake of people and the rest of professional sports.

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