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NWSL suffers major blow as Megan Rapinoe opts out of summer tournament

Megan Rapinoe (Credit: Getty Images)

The 2020 NWSL Challenge Cup will miss some significant pulling power after United States women’s national team superstar Megan Rapinoe decided to skip the summer tournament.

Rapinoe, along with other USWNT members, are expected to miss the National Women’s Soccer League event in Utah due to concerns over the Covid-19 pandemic, as well as increased risk of injury due to the compressed schedule.

The OL Reign forward is arguably the most recognizable women’s soccer player on the planet, as well as one of the most famous female athletes in all sports. As such, the politically-minded Rapinoe will be noted for her absence as she will have drawn in a significant number of casual fans both in the United States and internationally.

“I understand her motivations, but I am disappointed and frustrated that she is not with us to compete in this tournament. Megan is important to the group and we could have accomplished something important with the club, if she had joined the rest of the group,” OL Reign head coach Farid Benstiti told French outlet Le Progres. “She will be greatly missed by the team and also by women’s football.”

The 2020 NWSL Challenge Cup will take place from June 27-July 26, with initial games at Zions Bank Stadium in Herriman and the semifinals and finals at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy.

The 20,000-capacity Rio Tinto Stadium is the home of NWSL team Utah Royals – as well as Major League Soccer’s Real Salt Lake – while the 5,000-capacity Zions Bank Stadium is home to the Real Monarchs of the United Soccer League Championship. All three teams are part of the same corporate organization.

The tournament will mark the return of professional soccer in North America, with Major League Soccer and other leagues still postponed due to the ongoing health crisis, though MLS is beginning to move closer toward resumption.

Utah Royals owner Dell Loy Hansen will be the tournament’s host and, as such, help secure all housing, training, and competition needs for the league’s nine teams and create an “NWSL Village” to control as much of the environment as possible amid the health crisis. The league plans to partner with two area hotels, including an Embassy Suites hotel, to house all nine teams and their staff members.

Players, officials, and essential staff members will be tested for coronavirus 48 hours prior to departure for Utah and upon arrival and will be subject to consistent testing, temperature readings, and symptom review throughout their stay in Utah. Spectators will not be allowed at games.

Each team will play four games in the preliminary stages with the top eight advancing to the quarter-finals, when the tournament will become a single-game elimination competition.

All games will be aired on CBS’ streaming service CBS All Access, with the opener and championship game airing live on on the main CBS network. Fans outside the United States and Canada can stream the full tournament on Twitch.

The tournament has presenting sponsors in Proctor & Gamble and its Secret deodorant brand, while Budweiser will sponsor the semifinals and final, as well as the tournament’s Most Valuable Player.

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