NWSL fixes dates for Challenge Cup covid-secure openers and regular season

January 28 – The National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) in the US has released dates for the start of its season that will open April 9 with the NWSL Challenge Cup.

The dates have been set after the NWSL’s Medical Task Force approved play in home markets for the Challenge Cup set to begin on April 9, 2021. The NWSL has said players “will report to camp on February 1”.

The Challenge Cup was played for the first time to reopen the women’s league in 2020 after the first global covid shutdown in March. The format reduced the cross-country team travel required and hence expense, while at the same time enabled teams to return to play and kept the momentum of the league that was building on the success and profile of the women’s game coming out of the France 2019 Women’s World Cup.

The NWSL’s 10 teams open their 24-game 2021 regular season on May 15. The league will not break for the 2021 Olympic Games in the Summer and the regular season will conclude on Octtober 30.

The format will see six teams qualify for an expanded NWSL playoffs that will begin on November 6, with the top two seeds receiving a first-round bye. The league’s ninth season will conclude with the NWSL Championship on November 20.

In 2022 the NWSL will expand to 12 teams with the addition of Angel City FC and Sacramento. They will participate in the Expansion Draft on December 16.

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