NWSL Challenge Cup: What to know about each team playing on Saturday

    The 2020 NWSL Challenge Cup will get underway this weekend with two intriguing matchups on Saturday. North Carolina Courage and Portland Thorns FC will kick off the tournament at 12:30 p.m. ET and Chicago Red Stars and Washington Spirit will close out the opening matchday at 10 p.m. ET. You can catch all of the action this Saturday on CBS and CBS All Access

    For more on the complete schedule and start times, click here. For more on how to watch every game, click here.  

    So who wins the NWSL Challenge Cup? And which long shot could stun the soccer world? Visit SportsLine now to see the model’s picks for the NWSL Challenge Cup, all from the proprietary European soccer model that’s up an eye-popping 13,800 percent!  

    Let’s take a look at one thing every viewer should know about each team stepping on the field this Saturday.

    North Carolina Courage

    The Courage are coming off back-to-back NWSL titles, which makes them the clear-cut team to beat in Utah, especially after keeping much of their 2019 squad together. Head coach Paul Riley also has young talents in Hallie Mace and Ally Watt as additions to the squad. Their box midfield and experience has been proven tough to break down, even with every team having five subs per match.

    Portland Thorns FC

    A late knee injury to starting goalkeeper Adrianna Franch just ahead of the tournament could be viewed as a setback for the team, however, backup Britt Eckerstrom has taken her place between the pipes when needed and is a suitable fill-in moving forward. The absence of Tobin Heath and offseason departures (Hayley Raso, Midge Purce, Emily Sonnett, Andressinha to name a few) could prove to be worrisome, but Rocky Rodriguez, who they acquired via trade, has the potential to soften that blow.

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    Chicago Red Stars

    Outside of the Courage, the Red Stars are the only other team to have multiple U.S. national team players return to play. That said, look for head coach Rory Dames to mix in young prospects to get experience with the USWNT players during the Challenge Cup. Longtime veteran Vanessa DiBernardo will play a role in leadership, while Japanese international Yuki Nagasato will likely make everyone on the pitch instantly better.

    Washington Spirit

    The Spirit are poised to make a run this tournament after a season that saw them go on an impressive run during the summer over the Women’s World Cup in France. Thanks to a strong 2019 rookie draft class, the return of Rose Lavelle and the arrival of 2020 draftee Ashley Sanchez, the Spirit have all the makings of a potential cup contender. Lavelle will get all of the attention, but it’s players like central defender Paige Nielsen you will want to keep an eye on. 

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