Women’s World Cup Champions Cite Coronavirus as Reason Not To Play
Concerned about their safety amidst the uncertain and unprecedented environment of the Coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic, several FIFA World Cup Stars do not want to play with their teammates in the inaugural National Women’s Soccer League‘s NWSL 2020 Challange Cup starting this weekend in Utah.
2020 NWSL Challenge Cup presented by P&G and Secret has already suffered a major blow when Orlando Pride had to withdrawal earlier this week due to players and staff testing positive for the Coronavirus COVID-19.
The 2020 NWSL Challenge Cup is still continuing and the opening match between North Carolina Courage and Portland Thorns FC on June 27 will air on CBS. The championship final is on July 26, 2020.
The full tournament will be streamed live on CBS All Access in the U.S. and Canada and will re-air on CBS Sports Network. Fans outside the U.S. and Canada can stream the full tournament on Twitch.
When the NWSL kicks off as the first professional team sports league to return to action in the U.S., the defending champion North Carolina Courage will take the pitch with key members from the United States women’s national team’s World Cup victory in 2019 including defender Abby Dahlkempher, midfielders Crystal Dunn and Sam Mewis as well as forward Jess McDonald. The Chicago Red Stars will be led by a strong backline of Julie Ertz, Casey Short, and goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher.
International stars include the Courage’s Brazilian star Debinha, international goalscoring record holder and Portland Thorns FC forward Christine Sinclair, and England and Houston Dash forward Rachel Daly.
However, Portland Thorns FC and U.S Women’s National Team midfielder Tobin Heath will not be part of the roster for the tournament. Utah Royals FC‘s Christen Press also will not be joining the 2020 NWSL Challenge Cup.
Nor will OL Reign‘s Megan Rapinoe be seen on the field.
The most famous star in women’s soccer has decided to opt out.
Rapinoe’s decision was made public by coach Farid Benstiti in the French newspaper Le Progrès.
Rapinoe is one of the highest-profile and most outspoken players of the game and her refusal to participate mark serious doubts on the intelligence of defying what many see as the common sense approach to waiting to play until the pandemic’s rate of infection and death have slowed and reduced.
Others share concerns for playing as the numbers of the pandemic spike across the USA.
Forward Press released this statement through Utah Royals:.
“It is deeply painful not to be able to play the game I love, and to watch the broader effects of the global pandemic on our league, sports, and our world,” Press said. “Regrettably, given the uncertainty created by COVID-19, I must elect not to participate in this tournament. I know how fortunate I am to be able to make this choice. I have enormous respect and gratitude for those who do not have the luxury to choose whether to report to work, including our selfless and heroic first responders. I look forward to supporting my teammates during the tournament in Utah.”
“We will miss Christen’s presence at the tournament both on and off the field,” URFC General Manager Stephanie Lee said. “Regardless, we respect her decision.”
“Although I want to be on the field with my teammates doing what I love because of the uncertainty and risks created by COVID-19, I have chosen not to participate in the NWSL Challenge Cup,” said Heath. “I can’t even express how much I am looking forward to my next game in Providence Park.”
“We support and respect Tobin’s decision regarding the tournament,” said Gavin Wilkinson, general manager and president of soccer for Thorns FC. “Tobin has been an integral part of this club since day one and we have no doubt she will continue to support her teammates during their time in Utah.”
In addition, Wolrd Cup star and Sky Blue FC midfielder Carli Lloyd will miss the 2020 NWSL Challenge Cup because of a minor injury on her left knee.
“I am disappointed I will not be able to compete with my teammates, but I will be cheering them on! The NWSL Challenge Cup is going to be an exciting tournament,” said Lloyd.
“One thing we do know about Carli is that if she was physically able to get on the pitch, there’s nothing that would hold her back,” said General Manager Alyse LaHue. “This setback will require more time than we had hoped, but we are here to support her swift and safe return to playing again.”
Mallory Pugh also will not play because of a hip injury.
Without so many World Cup stars the action may be less thrilling but their unused time on the field will benefit some of the lesser known and newer players participating in the 2020 NWSL Challenge Cup.
Fans will see the long-awaited debuts of the top 2020 draft picks.
Portland selected teenager Sophia Smith with the number one overall selection and she’ll be joined by fellow rookie Morgan Weaver, who was drafted number two overall. Forward Tziarra King looks to make her debut with the tournament host, Utah Royals FC.