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NWSL Challenge Cup opener is most-watched game in league history

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The opening game of the National Women’s Soccer League Challenge Cup was the most-watched match in league history, with an average of 572,000 viewers on the main CBS television network.

North Carolina Courage defeated Portland Thorns 2-1 in the quarantined tournament opener at Zions Bank Stadium in Herriman, Utah, on June 27.

The game generated a 201-per-cent increase on the previous record: 190,000 viewers for Portland Thorns v Houston Dash in August 2014. The 2019 NWSL championship game on ESPN drew 166,000 viewers.

There were 178,000 viewers in the coveted age 18-49 demographic, while the leading local market was Portland, Oregon.

It was also the most-watched soccer game on US television last week, ahead of the English Premier League game between Manchester City and Chelsea on cable network NBCSN (511,000), which resulted in Liverpool securing the title.

The NWSL is staging a month-long tournament in Utah in lieu of a traditional season in the wake of the global Covid-19 pandemic. All games are being held without spectators while the Orlando Pride were forced to pull out after a number of positive coronavirus tests.

All games will be aired on CBS’ streaming service CBS All Access, with the opener and championship game airing live on the main CBS network. The NWSL signed a new three-year broadcast deal with CBS in March. Fans outside the United States and Canada can stream the full tournament on Twitch.

The NWSL is allowing players to remain in the locker room during the playing of the national anthem following some controversy over some players standing during the Chicago Red Stars and Washington Spirit game at the weekend.