The NWSL has announced that a 2020 ‘Fall Series’ will be played in September and October, making it the second mini-tournament the league has held this year amid the coronavirus crisis, following the recent Challenge Cup in June and July that was won by Houston Dash.
The 2020 NWSL regular season and usual playoffs were cancelled because of the pandemic, with the Challenge Cup marking the league’s return. Only eight of the nine clubs were involved in the 25-game competition, however, after Orlando Pride pulled out when six players tested positive.
The Fall Series will see 18 games played over a period of seven weeks. With Orlando back involved, the nine clubs will be split into three ‘pods’ of three, playing each other once to minimise travel.
OL Reign, Portland Thorns and Utah Royals have been grouped together in the ‘West’ pod. There is a ‘Northeast’ pod made up of Chicago Red Stars, Sky Blue and Washington Spirit, and a ‘South’ pod featuring North Carolina Courage, Orlando Pride and Houston Dash.
The NWSL will release further details on the exact format and scheduling in due course, but CBS will broadcast one ‘Game of the Week’ throughout September, three more in October and exclusively stream four others on CBS All Access.
When the Challenge Cup finished in July, US-based players faced the prospect of playing no more club football until spring 2021. As such, a number of individuals have left NWSL sides in order to head to England’s WSL, where a full season will begin in three weeks.
Tottenham recently signed defenders Alanna Kennedy and Shelina Zadorsky on loan from Orlando for at least the rest of the calendar year, Claire Emslie has returned to the WSL to join Everton on loan from Orlando, with Jade Moore another to leave the club, heading to Atletico Madrid on loan.
Steph Catley won’t be returning to OL Reign this year because of her summer move to Arsenal, while there is an expectation that Manchester United could soon complete the double signing of USWNT stars Tobin Heath and Christen Press from Portland and Utah respectively.