Update 5/27: It’s official: the “NWSL Challenge Cup” is on for July:
“The 25-game tournament will kick off on June 27, 2020 at Zions Bank Stadium in Herriman, Utah. While spectators will not be in attendance, fans can catch all the action via CBS All Access with the opener and championship game also airing live on CBS.
The format of the tournament will feature the league’s nine clubs each playing four games in the preliminary rounds to determine seeding. The top eight teams will advance to the quarterfinals, when the tournament becomes a knockout competition.”
In the original preview the Salt Lake City Tribune said:
“The tournament will go from June 29 to around July 22 and be played at Rio Tinto Stadium and Zions Bank Stadium in Sandy and Herriman, respectively. Rio Tinto is home to RSL and the Utah Royals FC, while Zions Bank Stadium is where the Real Monarchs play their home games.
The plan is for the first three games to occur at Zions Bank Stadium, while the semifinal and final rounds of the tournament will be at Rio Tinto, per a source with knowledge of the plan. The source requested anonymity to discuss details not yet announced.”
To me the real question is – will THIS still be true:
“Players and staff won’t be quarantined, but will have restrictions on what they do off the field.“
Because, if so, I stand by what I said:
“I’m not an epidemiologist. But I was an Army medic, and one thing armies throughout history have had to deal with is epidemic disease. And as an old medic I will tell you straight out: there is no fucking way that this happens and nobody gets infected. There’s no way you can do this, in this country, under the conditions that will be present in Salt Lake City in July, and not have someone contract an airborne pathogen. Not if they do it this way.
If this “tournament” isn’t going to lock down the teams, how will they lock down the cooks and drivers and maintenance people and laundry team and the delivery drivers? All those people are gonna leave the RSL Academy dorms and the hotels and go home and to the gas station and the Safeway and – gawdhelpus – the tattoo place and the stop-n-rob.
None of them is immune to getting this stuff and returning, asymptomatic, to the team quarters and passing it to a player or players. Who pass it to an opponent. Who pass it to a referee, or a trainer, or a camera operator.”
Here’s the other thing.
Let’s assume the best – the teams somehow manage to go to full-contact scrimmage this coming weekend. That will give them nearly exactly a month to get to full individual and team match fitness.
Color me skeptical.
I’m going to bet that the games we’ll see in July will be pretty ugly. Not U-12 ugly, but maybe U-23 ugly; lots of hacking, lots of misplayed passes and turnovers, lots of brutal misses, lots of goalkeeper errors. The players haven’t been in full workout mode for months, the teams will have maybe two weeks to work out the tactical bugs
I understand the “why”. I do. The league and the teams – ALL sports leagues and teams – are like sharks; they have to keep swimming (that is, generating revenue) or die. There’s got to be some way for the NWSL to make some money before the Plague can be bulldogged to the ground some time in the next several years.
I still love this game. I still love this league. I still love our Thorns.
I still think this is crazy risky; a hell of a difficult thing to manage safely for a tiny dollop of what will be probably pretty clunky-looking soccer.
But it doesn’t matter, in the end, whether I think this “Challenge Cup” is worth the risk or not.
Because it’s going to happen. Now all we have to hope is that our Thorns stay safe, do well, and beat the ever-lovin’ tails off the Damned Courage.