2020 NWSL Challenge Cup

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2020 NWSL Challenge Cup
2020 National Women's Soccer League Challenge Cup presented by P&G and Secret
2020 NWSL Challenge Cup logo.png
CountryUnited States
DatesJune 27 – July 26
Championship venueRio Tinto Stadium
Sandy, Utah
ChampionsHouston Dash (1st title)
Runners-upChicago Red Stars
Championship match score2–0
Matches played23
Goals scored36 (1.57 per match)
Top goal scorer(s)Rachel Daly
Shea Groom
Lynn Williams (3)
MVPRachel Daly

The 2020 NWSL Challenge Cup was a tournament during the 2020 National Women's Soccer League season to mark the league's return to action from the COVID-19 pandemic.[1] It was the first professional team sports event to return to play in United States.[2]

Originally planned as a one-off tournament, the NWSL announced that the Challenge Cup would return in the 2021 NWSL season as a league cup competition.[3]


The Challenge Cup was originally planned as a 25-game tournament featuring all nine NWSL clubs. However, on June 22, the Orlando Pride withdrew following six positive COVID-19 tests among players and four more among non-playing staff.[4] On June 23, the NWSL released the revised schedule of an 8-team, 23-game tournament.[5]

On June 22, the NWSL announced the full rules and regulations for the tournament.[6][7] Each team would play four games in a preliminary round, with eight teams advancing to a single-elimination knockout bracket.[1] Teams would be ranked by points in the preliminary round, with three points for a win and one for a draw, and the rankings used to determine seeding in the knockout bracket.

Effects of the COVID-19 pandemic[edit]

To lessen the impact of fixture congestion caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, NWSL clubs were permitted to roster up to 28 players (a temporary increase by two), to have the full roster available for substitutions during a game, and to make up to five substitutions in accordance with temporary rules and regulations from the International Football Association Board.[7] There would be no extra time; any games in the knockout round that were tied after regulation would go straight to a penalty shoot-out. Final tournament rosters had to be submitted by June 21.[8]

In order to hold the tournament as safely as possible, all games were held behind closed doors in two stadiums near Salt Lake City, Utah. All teams were quarantined during the entirety of the tournament in a so-called "NWSL village" with all housing provided by Dell Loy Hansen, owner of Utah Royals FC.[1] All players, officials, and essential staff members were tested for the coronavirus 48 hours before departure for Utah and remained subject to regular testing, temperature reading, and symptom review throughout the tournament.[1][9]


NWSL teams were required to submit finalized rosters to participate in the 2020 NWSL Challenge Cup on June 21. Roster sizes were required to be a minimum of 22 players and maximum of 28 players (24 senior players + 4 supplemental players) and contain at least three goalkeepers. Only players listed on that final roster are permitted to participate in the tournament. International players already under contract by NWSL teams but not participating in the tournament do not count towards the roster limit. Furthermore, teams could sign a maximum of 4 players they had the rights to but were not yet under contract to short-term contracts lasting the duration of the tournament. Short-term loans from teams outside the NWSL were also permissible.[10]

Player participation for the tournament was optional. The league allowed players to opt out without being in breach of contract, keeping all contracts, housing, insurance and other benefits guaranteed regardless of participation in the tournament.[11]

Squads were announced on June 23.[5] OL Reign announced that United States international Megan Rapinoe had decided to opt out, while Julia Ashley and Leah Pruitt were unavailable due to long-term injuries.[12] Two more U.S. internationals, Tobin Heath (Portland Thorns FC) and Christen Press (Utah Royals FC), announced their decisions to opt out.[13] Sky Blue FC omitted U.S. internationals Carli Lloyd and Mallory Pugh, as well as Caprice Dydasco, all recovering from injuries.[14] Merritt Mathias was unavailable due to a long-term injury for the North Carolina Courage,[15] while Chicago Red Stars were missing Alyssa Mautz and Arin Wright due to a long-term injury and maternity leave respectively.[16] All of the remaining teams — including the Orlando Pride, who withdrew from the tournament — named their full rosters.

Preliminary round[edit]


The draw for the preliminary round was held on June 1, 2020, 12:00 ET, and streamed live on CBS Sports HQ.[17] The nine NWSL teams were drawn randomly into nine slots, which determined each team's four-game schedule for the preliminary round.[18] After the draw concluded, the NWSL released the full schedule of the preliminary round to be played at Zions Bank Stadium.[19]

Slot Team
1 Chicago Red Stars
2 Washington Spirit
3 Houston Dash
4 Utah Royals FC (H)
5 North Carolina Courage
6 Sky Blue FC
7 Portland Thorns FC
8 OL Reign
9 Orlando Pride (W)

The Orlando Pride withdrew from the tournament on June 22, 2020, after receiving multiple positive COVID-19 test results among the team's players and staff.[4] One day later, the NWSL accordingly released a revised tournament schedule.[5]


Pos Team Pld W D L GF GA GD Pts
1 North Carolina Courage 4 4 0 0 7 1 +6 12
2 Washington Spirit 4 2 1 1 4 4 0 7
3 OL Reign 4 1 2 1 1 2 −1 5
4 Houston Dash 4 1 1 2 5 6 −1 4
5 Utah Royals FC (H) 4 1 1 2 4 5 −1 4
6 Chicago Red Stars 4 1 1 2 2 3 −1 4[a]
7 Sky Blue FC 4 1 1 2 2 3 −1 4[a]
8 Portland Thorns FC 4 0 3 1 2 3 −1 3
Source: NWSL
Rules for classification: Tiebreakers
(H) Host
  1. ^ a b Chicago Red Stars won the tiebreaker against Sky Blue FC on fewer yellow cards (1 to 4).


The initial determining factor for a team's position in the standings is most points earned, with three points earned for a win, one point for a draw, and zero points for a loss. If two or more teams are equal on points after completion of the preliminary round, the following criteria shall be applied to determine team rankings:[6]

  1. Head-to-Head (only if two teams are tied and they've played each other).
  2. Superior goal difference in all preliminary matches.
  3. Greatest number of goals scored in all preliminary matches.
  4. Lowest team conduct score relating to the number of yellow and red cards obtained, where only one of the below point totals shall be applied to a player in a single match:
    1. yellow card: 1 point;
    2. indirect red card (as a result of two yellow cards): 3 points;
    3. direct red card: 4 points;
    4. yellow card and direct red card: 5 points.
  5. Drawing of lots by the NWSL.


All game times are listed in MDT.

Matchday 1[edit]

North Carolina Courage2–1Portland Thorns FC
  • Debinha 75'
  • L. Williams 90+4'
Referee: Lukasz Szpala

Matchday 2[edit]

Houston Dash3–3Utah Royals FC

OL Reign0–0Sky Blue FC
Referee: Michael Radchuk

Matchday 3[edit]

Portland Thorns FC0–0Chicago Red Stars
Referee: Danielle Chesky

Washington Spirit0–2North Carolina Courage
Referee: Lukasz Szpala

Matchday 4[edit]

Houston Dash2–0OL Reign
Referee: Lukasz Szpala

Matchday 5[edit]

Portland Thorns FC1–1Washington Spirit

Matchday 6[edit]

Utah Royals FC0–1OL Reign
Referee: Danielle Chesky

Sky Blue FC2–0Houston Dash

Matchday 7[edit]

Chicago Red Stars1–0Utah Royals FC
Referee: Michael Radchuk

Matchday 8[edit]

OL Reign0–0Portland Thorns FC

Sky Blue FC0–2North Carolina Courage
Referee: Lukasz Szpala

Knockout round[edit]

In the knockout round, if a game was level at the end of 90 minutes of normal playing time, there would be no extra time and the winners would be determined by a penalty shoot-out.[6]


July 17 – Zions Bank Stadium
Q1 North Carolina Courage 0
July 22 – Rio Tinto Stadium
Q8 Portland Thorns FC 1
Portland Thorns FC 0
July 17 – Zions Bank Stadium
Houston Dash 1
Q4 Houston Dash (p) 0 (3)
July 26 – Rio Tinto Stadium
Q5 Utah Royals FC 0 (2)
Houston Dash 2
July 18 – Zions Bank Stadium
Chicago Red Stars 0
Q3 OL Reign 0 (3)
July 22 – Rio Tinto Stadium
Q6 Chicago Red Stars (p) 0 (4)
Chicago Red Stars 3
July 18 – Zions Bank Stadium
Sky Blue FC 2
Q2 Washington Spirit 0 (3)
Q7 Sky Blue FC (p) 0 (4)

All game times are listed in MDT.




Houston Dash2–0Chicago Red Stars



There were 36 goals scored in 23 matches, for an average of 1.57 goals per match.

3 goals

1 goal

1 own goal

Source: NWSL


2 assists

1 assist

Source: NWSL


A player would be automatically suspended for the next match for the following offences:[7]

  • Receiving a red card (red card suspensions may be extended for serious offences);
  • Receiving two yellow cards in two matches; yellow cards expire after the completion of the quarter-finals;
  • Direct red card suspensions are carried forward to future NWSL regular season matches, but indirect red card suspensions will not be carried forward to any future matches.

No suspensions were served during the tournament.


The following awards were given at the conclusion of the tournament:[6] The MVP (most outstanding player as voted by the media and sponsored by Budweiser), Golden Boot (top scorer), Golden Glove (best goalkeeper as voted by the media and sponsored by Verizon), NWSL Future Legend (the top-performing player in their first season with the NWSL), and Best XI (the best 11-players as voted by the players, media, fans, and GMs/coaches, and presented by Google[20]).

MVP[21] Golden Boot[22] Golden Glove[23] Future Legend[24]
Rachel Daly, HOU
(3 G, 2 A)
Kailen Sheridan, NJ
(21 SV, 3 SO, 1.00 GAA)
Ashley Sanchez, WAS
(1 A, 4 SOG)

Best XI[edit]

Goalkeeper Defenders Midfielders Forwards
Britt Eckerstrom, POR Julie Ertz, CHI
Abby Erceg, NC
Casey Short, CHI
Jaelene Daniels, NC
Rachel Daly, HOU
Shea Groom, HOU
Rose Lavelle, WAS
Debinha, NC
Lynn Williams, NC
Lindsey Horan, POR


Fan-voted awards[edit]


In accordance with the broadcast deals signed by the NWSL at the start of the 2020 season,[28] both the tournament opener and final aired on CBS. All other games were broadcast live on the CBS All Access subscription service in the U.S. and Canada and re-aired on CBS Sports Network. International fans were able to stream the full tournament on Twitch.[1]


  1. ^ a b c d e Levine, Matthew (2020-05-27). "NWSL announces 2020 Challenge Cup presented by P&G and Secret". National Women's Soccer League. Retrieved 2020-07-22.
  2. ^ "NWSL Challenge Cup: From zero COVID-19 cases to a first-time champ, here's what we learned from the bubble". CBSSports.com. Retrieved 2021-03-04.
  3. ^ "NWSL Announces Innovative 2021 Competition Framework". NWSL. 18 November 2020. Retrieved 18 November 2020.
  4. ^ a b "Six Orlando Pride players test positive for COVID-19". NWSL. 22 June 2020. Retrieved 23 June 2020.
  5. ^ a b c Levine, Matthew (23 June 2020). "NWSL announces updated 2020 NWSL Challenge Cup presented by P&G and Secret schedule and releases full rosters". NWSL. Retrieved 23 June 2020.
  6. ^ a b c d Levine, Matthew (22 June 2020). "NWSL announces 2020 NWSL Challenge Cup presented by P&G and Secret rules and regulations and awards". NWSL. Retrieved 22 June 2020.
  8. ^ Voght, Steve; Rantz, Susie (May 28, 2020). "More details emerge about the 2020 NWSL Challenge Cup". Sounder at Heart. Retrieved May 28, 2020.
  9. ^ "NWSL announces return to field in June with 2020 Challenge Cup | Goal.com". www.goal.com.
  10. ^ "2020 NWSL Challenge Cup roster rules" (PDF). NWSL.
  11. ^ Kassouf, Jeff (May 29, 2020). "Questions and answers about the 2020 NWSL Challenge Cup". The Equalizer. Retrieved 2020-07-06.
  12. ^ "OL REIGN ANNOUNCE 28-PLAYER ROSTER FOR NWSL CHALLENGE CUP" (Press release). OL Reign. June 23, 2020.
  13. ^ Garson, Aria (June 23, 2020). "Megan Rapinoe, Tobin Heath, Christen Press opt out of NWSL Challenge Cup". USAToday.com. Retrieved 2020-07-06.
  14. ^ "Sky Blue FC Announces 2020 NWSL Challenge Cup Roster". Sky Blue FC. June 23, 2020. Archived from the original on 26 June 2020. Retrieved 7 July 2020.
  15. ^ Brown, Morgan (June 23, 2020). "NC COURAGE ANNOUNCES 2020 ROSTER". North Carolina Courage. Retrieved 7 July 2020.
  16. ^ Halloran, John D. (June 23, 2020). "NWSL Challenge Cup Team Preview: Chicago Red Stars". The Equalizer. Retrieved 7 July 2020.
  17. ^ "NWSL Challenge Cup Tournament Draw Live at 12 p.m. ET Today on CBS Sports HQ". NWSL. June 1, 2020. Retrieved 2 June 2020.
  18. ^ McCauley, Kim (June 1, 2020). "NWSL Challenge Cup schedule partially revealed, with Thorns facing Courage". All for XI. Retrieved June 1, 2020.
  19. ^ Levine, Matthew (June 1, 2020). "NWSL reveals full preliminary round schedule for 2020 NWSL Challenge Cup". NWSL. Retrieved 2 June 2020.
  20. ^ Levine, Matthew (26 June 2020). "NWSL adds Google to growing list of partners". NWSL. Retrieved 26 June 2020.
  21. ^ NWSL [@NWSL] (July 25, 2020). "A @Lionesses that has roared loud since the very first minute of play in Utah 🦁 @RachelDaly3 is the Most Valuable Player, presented by @budweiserusa, award winner. #NWSLChallengeCup t.co/xUFg9p99tY" (Tweet). Retrieved December 24, 2020 – via Twitter.
  22. ^ NWSL [@NWSL] (July 26, 2020). "Heading back to H-Town with a few 🏆 Congratulations to @RachelDaly3 on capturing the #NWSLChallengeCup Golden Boot! t.co/WVZk1OWM1W" (Tweet). Retrieved December 24, 2020 – via Twitter.
  23. ^ NWSL [@NWSL] (July 25, 2020). "🔝 class saves are synonymous with this 🇨🇦 goalkeeper 🧤 @Kailen_Sheridan is the Golden Glove, presented by @Verizon, award winner. #NWSLChallengeCup t.co/WkYNExDkVQ" (Tweet). Retrieved December 24, 2020 – via Twitter.
  24. ^ NWSL [@NWSL] (July 25, 2020). "A young player that played well beyond her years ✨ @ashleynsanchezz is the Future Legend award recipient. #NWSLChallengeCup t.co/x4v7UIRlwy" (Tweet). Retrieved December 24, 2020 – via Twitter.
  25. ^ NWSL [@NWSL] (July 26, 2020). "The league's 🔝 talent has been on display all summer. Introducing your #NWSLChallengeCup Best XI, Presented by @Google! t.co/BWgSviin7d" (Tweet). Retrieved December 24, 2020 – via Twitter.
  26. ^ NWSL [@NWSL] (July 26, 2020). "Death. Taxes. @LindseyHoran headers. The @ThornsFC's midfielder's diving header was voted as the @SecretDeodorant No Sweat Play of the Tournament. #NWSLChallengeCup t.co/F8dT6aToHj" (Tweet). Retrieved December 24, 2020 – via Twitter.
  27. ^ NWSL [@NWSL] (July 26, 2020). "Absolutely majestic 🦅 @Breck28's top-shelf save on a free kick was voted as the @Verizon Save of the Tournament. #NWSLChallengeCup t.co/jm699i5RHt" (Tweet). Retrieved December 24, 2020 – via Twitter.
  28. ^ "NWSL agrees three-year broadcast deal with CBS Sports and Twitch". SportBusiness. March 11, 2020.

External links[edit]