SALT LAKE CITY — Game times and viewing information for the National Women’s Soccer League’s Challenge Cup became available Tuesday as the league gets set to become the first one in the United States to return to play during the coronavirus pandemic.
While dates and matchups for the preliminary round of the nine-team tournament to be held in Utah were previously announced, game times were unveiled Tuesday. All contests will be played at either 10:30 a.m. or 8 p.m. MT, with one in each time slot on each day of play.
“Now you have real specific targets and something to look forward to, and I think as athletes, that’s what we all love and need,” Utah Royals FC center back Rachel Corsie said during a Zoom meeting with reporters on Tuesday. “Now it’s exciting but scary to think that games start in two weeks’ time.”
The first game of the tournament will be on June 27 at 10:30 a.m. between the two-time reigning league champion North Carolina Courage and the Portland Thorns, and the Chicago Red Stars and Orlando Pride will play in the nightcap.
The Courage-Thorns game will be televised on CBS, marking the first time professional women’s club soccer will be seen live on a national broadcast network in the United States, as will the tournament’s championship game on July 26 (10:30 a.m. start time).
Those two games, as well as all others in the tournament, can be streamed in the United States and Canada on CBS All Access (subscription required). They can be streamed on Twitch outside of those two countries.
All games will re-air on CBS Sports Network.
URFC will open its tournament on June 30, the second day of play, against the Washington Spirit, with the start time set for the 10:30 a.m. slot. URFC will face the Red Stars on July 4 at 8 p.m., Washington-based OL Reign on July 8 at 10:30 a.m. and the Courage on July 12 at 10:30 a.m.
Mid-morning might seem like a difficult time to gear up for a game, but both URFC head coach Craig Harrington and Corsie noted that 10:30 a.m. is when the team trains each day, so they’re not expecting it to be too much of an adjustment.
“I think it’s different from what the league is used to, however, I think as players, it is what it is,” Corsie said. “You can’t think too much about it. It’s when we practice. Our bodies are certainly used to training at that time. Hopefully that’s something that is a positive.”
Actually, Corsie said she’ll prefer playing in the morning. A Scotland native (she’s the captain of the national team), she’s used to getting up early to catch up with family given the seven-hour time difference between there and Utah.
“For me, I think evening games, I find the long days harder, so for me, I’m looking forward to the morning games,” she said. “We just need to prepare appropriately. Probably need to get up a little early, but that suits me.”
Harrington quipped that, “I think ultimately we’re going to be so excited for that first game that we could play it at 4 o’clock in the morning and we’d be there, ready.”
All games will be played without fans in attendance. The preliminary round, which will see all teams play four games, and the quarterfinals will take place at Zions Bank Stadium in Herriman, and the semifinals and final will be played at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy.
Eight teams will advance past through the preliminary round to the quarterfinals, meaning one will be eliminated. All teams will stay in a “village” of sorts to help limit the chances of anyone involved contracting the novel coronavirus.
“Personally, I feel really comfortable and confident over the protocols that are in place and the medical care we’ve been provided so far,” Corsie said. “There’s so many procedures in place.
There’s going to be an element that relies on every single player being responsible, but I also feel like the information, the communication channels that have come from the league, the players’ association, each individual club, I think the parameters are very concise and clear, and if we follow those, then I feel confident that we can make this a successful tournament.”
2020 NWSL Challenge Cup broadcast schedule
- June 27, NC Courage vs. Portland Thorns FC, 10:30 a.m. MT, Platform: CBS and CBS All Access
- June 27, Orlando Pride vs. Chicago Red Stars, 8 p.m., CBS All Access
- June 30, Washington Spirit vs. Utah Royals FC, 10:30 a.m., CBS All Access
- June 30, OL Reign vs. Sky Blue FC, 8 p.m., CBS All Access
- July 1, Portland Thorns FC vs. Orlando Pride, 10:30 a.m., CBS All Access
- July 1, NC Courage vs. Houston Dash, 8 p.m., CBS All Access
- July 4, OL Reign vs. Washington Spirit, 10:30 a.m., CBS All Access
- July 4, Chicago Red Stars vs. Utah Royals FC, 8 p.m., CBS All Access
- July 5, Sky Blue FC vs. Houston Dash, 10:30 a.m., CBS All Access
- July 5, Orlando Pride vs. NC Courage, 8 p.m., CBS All Access
- July 8, Utah Royals FC vs. OL Reign, 10:30 a.m., CBS All Access
- July 8, Washington Spirit vs. Portland Thorns FC, 8 p.m., CBS All Access
- July 9, Houston Dash vs. Chicago Red Stars, 10:30 a.m., CBS All Access
- July 9, Sky Blue FC vs. Orlando Pride, 8 p.m., CBS All Access
- July 12, Utah Royals FC vs. NC Courage, 10:30 a.m., CBS All Access
- July 12, Portland Thorns FC vs. OL Reign, 8 p.m., CBS All Access
- July 13, Chicago Red Stars vs. Sky Blue FC, 10:30 a.m., CBS All Access
- July 13, Houston Dash vs. Washington Spirit, 8 p.m., CBS All Access
- July 17, Quarterfinal 1, 10:30 a.m., CBS All Access
- July 17, Quarterfinal 2, 8 p.m., CBS All Access
- July 18, Quarterfinal 3, 10:30 a.m., CBS All Access
- July 18, Quarterfinal 4, 8 p.m., CBS All Access
- July 22, Semifinal 1, 10:30 a.m., CBS All Access
- July 22, Semifinal 2, 8 p.m., CBS All Access
- July 26, Championship, 10:30 a.m., CBS and CBS All Access