The first U.S. team sport to return during the COVID-19 pandemic is the National Women’s Soccer League this Saturday. The NWSL Challenge Cup will feature eight of the nine NWSL franchises facing off in Sandy, Utah.
This week the Orlando Pride withdrew from the competition after six players tested positive for the coronavirus.
The tournament will have each team play four group stage games, followed by a seeded knockout tournament. Because of Orlando’s absence from the competition, no teams will get eliminated after the group stage.
All games will be played at Zions Bank Stadium until the semifinals where the tournament will move to Real Salt Lake’s home at Rio Tinto Stadium. The group stage starts Saturday and will conclude July 13th. The championship is scheduled for July 26th.
William Hill is offering futures odds in Las Vegas for the tournament:
- NC Courage +110
- Chicago Red Stars +350
- Portland Thorns +650
- Utah Royals FC 9/1
- OL Reign 10/1
- Washington Spirit 10/1
- Houston Dash 12/1
- Sky Blue FC 40/1
Notable players are missing the tournament, including Carli Lloyd, Christen Press, Tobin Heath, Adrianna Franch, Megan Rapinoe, Tierna Davidson, and Mallory Pugh.
The Challenge Cup will be a good primer for sports bettors as the NBA, NHL, and MLS have similar neutral-site tournaments coming up in July.
Who To Bet
I’m not a big fan of betting futures, but with the short tournament format, I am interested in two teams.
There is no question that North Carolina is the best team in the NWSL. The organization is the best organized, best coached, and have had tremendous success. The Courage are not missing any players for the tournament, so if their team can stay healthy, look for them to contend for the cup.
The Portland Thorns have at the top of every NWSL season, but the team has lost prominent players after being knocked out of last year’s playoffs. Nonetheless, getting +650 is very tempting for a club that has proven to be at the top of the table year-after-year. I would worry that the absence of Tobin Heath (opted out) and Adrianna Franch (injury) with the roster turnover may make Portland unstable.
NWSL Challenge Cup Rosters
CHICAGO RED STARS
Goalkeepers (3): Emily Boyd, Cassie Miller, Alyssa Naeher
Defenders (11): Camryn Biegalski, Julia Bingham, Tierna Davidson, Hannah Davison, Julie Ertz, Zoey Goralski, Sarah Gorden, Zoe Morse, Kayla Sharples, Casey Short, Bianca St. Georges
Midfielders (7): Morgan Brian, Danielle Colaprico, Vanessa DiBernardo, Savannah McCaskill, Yuki Nagasato, Cassie Rohan, Ella Stevens
Forwards (7): Makenzy Doniak, Rachel Hill, Katie Johnson, Sarah Luebbert, Zoe Redei, Michele Vasconcelos, Kealia Watt
Goalkeepers (3): Jane Campbell, Amanda Dennis, Lindsey Harris
Defenders (5): Allysha Chapman, Katie Naughton, Megan Oyster, Ally Prisock, Erin Simon
Midfielders (8): Shea Groom, Haley Hanson, Cece Kizer, Kristie Mewis, Christine Nairn, Cami Privett, Sophie Schmidt, Bri Visalli
Forward (8): Bridgette Andrzejewski, Rachel Daly, Jamia Fields, Veronica Latsko, Maegan Kelly, Kayla McCoy, Nichelle Prince, Katie Stengel
NORTH CAROLINA COURAGE
Goalkeepers (3): Stephanie Labbé, Samantha Murphy, Katelyn Rowland
Defenders (11): Lindsay Agnew, Abby Dahlkemper, Jaelene Daniels, Abby Erceg, Hailey Harbison, Kaleigh Kurtz, Hailie Mace, Merritt Mathias, Addisyn Merrick, Sinclaire Miramontez, Ryan Williams
Midfielders (7): Debinha, Crystal Dunn, Samantha Mewis, Lauren Milliet, Denise O’Sullivan, Cari Roccaro, Meredith Speck
Forwards (5): Kristen Hamilton, Jessica McDonald, McKenzie Meehan, Ally Watt, Lynn Williams
Goalkeepers (3): Michelle Betos, Casey Murphy, Carly Nelson
Defenders (10): Lauren Barnes, Amber Brooks, Alana Cook, Steph Cox, Machaela George, Madison Hammond, Celia Jiménez Delgado (INT-ESP), Adrienne Jordan, Kristen McNabb, Taylor Smith
Midfielders (8): Morgan Andrews, Shirley Cruz, Jess Fishlock, Kelcie Hedge, Allie Long, Rebecca Quinn, Dani Weatherholt, Rosie White
Forwards (7): Bethany Balcer, Sofia Huerta, Darian Jenkins, Mariah Lee, Nicole Momiki, Jasmyne Spencer, Jodie Taylor
PORTLAND THORNS FC
Goalkeepers (3): Bella Bixby, Britt Eckerstrom, Adrianna Franch
Defenders (9): Kelli Hubly, Meghan Klingenberg, Emily Menges, Meaghan Nally, Madison Pogarch, Katherine Reynolds, Becky Sauerbrunn, Autumn Smithers, Christen Westphal
Midfielders (6): Celeste Boureille, Lindsey Horan, Emily Ogle, Rocky Rodríguez Rodriguez, Angela Salem, Gabby Seiler
Forwards (7): Simone Charley, Marissa Everett, Tyler Lussi, Anika Rodriguez, Christine Sinclair, Sophia Smith, Morgan Weaver
SKY BLUE FC
Goalkeepers (4): Didi Haracic, Megan Hinz, Amanda “Mandy” McGlynn, Kailen Sheridan
Defenders (9): Jennifer Cudjoe, Sabrina Flores, Mandy Freeman, Estelle Johnson, Gina Lewandowski, Kaleigh Riehl, Domi Richardson, Erica Skroski, Chantelle Swaby
Midfielders (9): Cassidy Benintente, Nicole Baxter, Elizabeth Eddy, Naho Kawasumi, Margaret “Midge” Purce, Madison Tiernan, Sarah Woldmoe, Kenie Wright, McCall Zerboni
Forwards (5): Imani Dorsey, Paige Monaghan, Ifeoma Onumonu, Domi Richardson, Evelyne Viens
UTAH ROYALS FC
Goalkeepers (3): Nicole Barnhart, Abby Smith, Melissa Lowder
Defenders (10): Elizabeth Ball, Rachel Corsie, Taylor Leach, Gaby Vincent, Katie Bowen, Kelley O’Hara, Mallory Weber, Marissa Sheva, Michelle Maemone, Maddie Nolf
Midfielders (8): Vero Boquete, Diana Matheson, Desiree Scott, Chestley Strother, Lo’eau Labonta, Aminata Diallo, Gunny Jonsdottir, Kate Del Fava
Forwards (7): Brittany Ratcliffe, Amy Rodriguez, Arielle Ship, Tziarra King, Taylor Lytle, Holly Daugirda, Raisa Strom-Okimoto
Goalkeepers (3): Aubrey Bledsoe, Devon Kerr, Katie Lund
Defenders (8): Tegan McGrady, Sam Staab, Paige Nielsen, Jenna Hellstrom, Brooke Hendrix, Tori Huster, Kaiya McCullough, Natalie Jacobs
Midfielders (8): Dorian Bailey, Jaye Boisierre, Jordan DiBiasi, Meggie Dougherty Howard, Rose Lavelle, Meghan McCool, Jessie Scarpa, Andi Sullivan
Forwards (7): Averie Collins, Bayley Feist, Ashley Hatch, Katie McClure, Ashley Sanchez, Crystal Thomas, Kumi Yokoyama