(Reuters) - The National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) will return to action in late June with a 25-game tournament in Utah that will be played in empty stadiums due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The NWSL, which delayed the start of its season because of the coronavirus, said it has worked with team doctors and public health officials to develop testing protocols to ensure a safe environment for its nine teams during the month-long tournament.
“As our country begins to safely reopen and adjust to our collective new reality, and with the enthusiastic support of our players, owners, ... the NWSL is thrilled to bring professional soccer back to the United States,” NWSL Commissioner Lisa Baird said in a statement.
“This exciting month-long tournament will showcase our league’s talented players and provide our fans the type of world-class entertainment they’ve come to expect from the NWSL.”
The NWSL said each player, official and essential staff member will be tested 48 hours prior to departure for Utah and will be subject to consistent testing, temperature readings and symptom review throughout the tournament.
Dell Loy Hansen, owner of the NWSL’s Utah Royals FC, will host the tournament and accommodate all housing, training and competition needs for the teams and create an “NWSL Village” to control as much of the environment as possible.
The tournament will feature all nine NWSL clubs each playing four games in the preliminary rounds to determine seeding. The top eight teams will advance to the quarter-finals, when the tournament becomes a knockout competition.
Earlier this week the NWSL said its teams could begin small group training sessions as long as they observe local and state government safety requirements put in place to block the spread of COVID-19.
The NWSL, which is the top U.S. women’s soccer league, was originally scheduled to kick off its 2020 season in mid-April but was delayed because of the coronavirus.
Reporting by Frank Pingue in Toronto, editing by Pritha Sarkar
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