NWSL Challenge Cup provides a good look at the future of the USWNT

On Saturday, the National Women’s Soccer League will become the first American team sport to return to action amid the coronavirus pandemic. The league isn’t attempting a full season, instead aiming for the NWSL Challenge Cup.

Eight league teams — a ninth, the Orlando Pride, has withdrawn because of a run of positive coronavirus tests — are scheduled to play four regular-season matches each, then play in a seeded, single-elimination championship tournament.

Headlines heading into the monthlong event have mostly been centered around who isn’t playing. Not only did Orlando withdraw, but quite a few big-name American stars — OL Reign’s Megan Rapinoe, Portland Thorns FC’s Tobin Heath, Utah Royals FC’s Christen Press and Sky Blue FC’s Carli Lloyd and Mallory Pugh — are also sitting out the tournament due to injury or other concerns. Thirteen Australian national team members who played in the NWSL last season are out as well. All-world Australian forward Sam Kerr left the Chicago Red Stars for Chelsea last November.

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