there WILL be a COVID-19 Cup in July

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.

John Lawes
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15 thoughts on “there WILL be a COVID-19 Cup in July

  1. It doesn’t seem to have controls in place. I think it is risky and likely won’t go to a game until there is a vaccine unfortunately. I have a lot of money in my Ticketmaster accounts

    1. I think they think they are going to have control. I think they’re wrong, and I hope that the players squash this before it becomes a thing.

  2. I agree this makes no sense.

    And, if it were to make sense, which it doesn’t, groups will be double round robin so 4 games for 1 team, 5 games for 4 teams, 6 games for 2 teams and 7 games for finalists. Still doesn’t make sense but slightly better than what you’re saying here.

    1. In the initial description I said something about “four games if they play each other twice”, but, honestly, I don’t see the extra two games as being such of a muchness. How much “better” will it be for the “champions” to have played seven instead of five? Especially given the level of risk involved…

  3. My perspective is each team should play 8 other teams once. The top 4 records play in a playoff ideally with a consolation game.

    1. That’s not how they’re planning to do this, if everything coming out of NWSL HQ is semi-accurate.

      And for the record I’d argue that one match is a coin flip. If you’re Paul Riley and you get handed the “we score three and lose” freak result? You’d scream like a wounded eagle and you’d be absolutely correct.

      Which, FWIW, just emphasizes one of the many issues with even floating this idea.

  4. That is if they do it at all. My perspective is an agreement has to be done with the players association with strong controls. This is tough. I want to see the NWSL survive

    1. Me, too. I’m not sure that this is how to do it. But, then again, I’m not sure how to do it at all.

  5. How do they determine the initial seedlings? I was hoping that they’d use last years standings at a minimum.

    1, 4, 5, 8,

    2, 3, 6, 7, 9

    How do they get to 4 games without someone playing twice? Trying to figure that one out.

    1. The “group stage” is three groups of three. Each team in the group plays each other twice; four games in the group stage.

      I’m guessing that the groups will be decided by a draw just like the WC groups. We’d better hope we don’t draw Tacoma and The Damned or we might only HAVE four games…

  6. It’s easy with an 8 team league to play no repeats. I am assuming 9 would be fairly easy as well.

  7. I have agreed that this idea seemed really iffy, but now it is more or less done and dusted. So from there if many of the national team players decide not to play (don’t blame them if they do or don’t), that would really take some of any luster off this tournament. And that is assuming there is any luster.

    I am taking COVID seriously because I am over 70, but they are all young and healthy, so whatever they choose to do I will understand. For the youngest players, I think they will be gung-ho and lets play. I also hope the coaches liberally substitute so that a lot of players get a chance to show their stuff. To me win or lose is not important. The biggest upside is the league will have the sporting spot light to themselves and be able to cash in on the World Cup afterglow. The downside will be if a player(s) gets seriously sick.
    I am really bummed that this season and the Olympics will not be happening, but cancelling the games and delaying or cancelling the season were the right decisions.

    I am also wondering when I will feel comfortable going to a game at Providence Park.

    1. I will say that the plans they put out there look more well thought out than I would have anticipated. Wasatch and Delroy Hansen appear to be stepping up to enable this as a viable option. I appreciate that they are guaranteeing salaries regardless. Not everyone will be up for this and that shouldn’t be held against anyone. I’m looking forward to watching it

      1. After reading comments your comments, and those of Emily Menges and Paul Riley I feel better about this. Today seeing photos and videos of the girls out there playing convinces me that these kids want to play, have some fun and are willing to take the risk that they would catch the virus and even smaller risk they would get seriously sick.
        I am one of those people that is fine with a 1 – 1 tie as a good result when you are playing a team that might be better and especially when the games in Utah will be a gigantic friendly. Let them all play. I see Marissa Everett out there practicing I hope she gets to play. Morgan Weaver looked really amped, lets see watch she has got. I am looking forward to watching it too.


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