Soccer

Safety on Brandi Chastain's mind before Orlando Pride NWSL withdrawal

Safety on Brandi Chastain's mind before Orlando Pride NWSL withdrawal

Programming note: Watch the REACH Scholarship Awards hosted by Ronnie Lott and Brandi Chastain on Tuesday, June 23 at 5 p.m. on NBC Sports Bay Area and streaming here.

Soccer legend Brandi Chastain said she felt two competing instincts about the NWSL's scheduled return to the pitch later this week, which would make them the first professional team sports league in North America to begin or resume its season during the coronavirus pandemic.

As a former player, the longtime United States Women's National Team star said she'd be "chomping at the bit" to get back on the field if she was active.

As a parent and grandparent, she's concerned about safety.

"I'm thinking, 'Are we safe enough?' " Chastain, who will host the 24th annual REACH Youth Scholarship Awards on Tuesday at 5 p.m. on NBC Sports Bay Area, said in a video call Monday morning. "Like, I just want to be safe. I want to make sure that the players are safe. If we've taken the necessary precautions? Awesome. Let's go."

Safety was at the forefront of the league's mind Monday. Chastain spoke with NBC Sports Bay Area hours before NWSL announced that its Challenge Cup won't include Orlando Pride after six players and four staff members tested positive for the coronavirus. All 10 people were asymptomatic, the Pride said.

Orlando canceled training and began contact tracing after NWSL announced on June 18 that a player had tested positive for the virus, The Athletic's Meg Linehan reported Monday. Multiple Pride players visited an Orlando bar, sources told Linehan, and one of those players was the team's first to test positive. Orlando is in Phase 2 of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis' re-opening plan, which allows for bars to open with 50 percent indoor seating capacity and full seating capacity outdoors. Orange County issued an executive order Saturday requiring face coverings, and Florida officially became one of seven states with over 100,000 infections on Monday.

The NWSL announced Tuesday that the Challenge Cup now is an eight-team tournament following Orlando's withdrawal. The tournament begins June 27, with empty-stadium matches at two venues near Salt Lake City. Teams will stay in area hotels and apartments, and NWSL commissioner Lisa Baird said last month that the league didn't want the players to be in an environment that felt "like a restriction."

Men's soccer leagues in Europe have resumed largely without incident over the last month, but the United States has more reported cases -- total and per 100,000 people -- than Germany, Spain, Italy and the United Kingdom. Chastain said she has watched many of the games overseas, often at "too early of an hour," but the inherent risk the virus poses still resides in the back of her mind.

"We don't know who's going to be safe, and we don't know who's going to be susceptible and no matter how many precautions we take, no one's going to be perfect," Chastain said Monday, hours before the Pride withdrew from the Challenge Cup. "And life has inherent risks, and if we are really attempting to be as diligent as we can be and go through all the protocols and the players are adhering to those protocols ... then I think we have a chance.

"But, that's hard because then you put human nature into the equation, and we all have different objectives and we all have different needs. It's not easy. It's not easy, but I'm hoping that these women will be great examples of how we could potentially do it in a way that can make us feel secure, and not only for the game itself as a greater good but also for the players themselves."

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Coronavirus cases continue to climb in Utah, where the Challenge Cup is supposed to be held. Gov. Gary Herbert loosened statewide restrictions earlier this month, but health officials are urging the governor to reinstitute previous measures if the state fails to lower its daily average of new cases to 200 by July 1. Utah reported an increase of 444 new cases Monday.

Chastain told NBC Sports Bay Area that it would be fitting for NWSL to be the first professional league to return, considering that women were the first Americans to win a World Cup and an Olympic Gold Medal in soccer. Yet the players' health and well-being was her biggest concern, even before Orlando backed out of the tournament.

"I'm looking forward to celebrating them being back on the field," Chastain said of NWSL, "but I'm also praying that they'll be safe."

Download the REACH program right here.

Premier League table: Relegation, Champions League places on final day

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Premier League table: Relegation, Champions League places on final day

Bournemouth and Watford must say their good-byes to the Premier League, while Chelsea and Manchester United can say hello to the UEFA Champions League.

Wins by the latter two clubs clinched their third and fourth place, respectively, and spots in Europe's top club competition, while Aston Villa's 1-0 win over West Ham United sealed the Cherries and Hornets' spots in the Championship next season. Leicester City and Tottenham Hotspur finished fifth and sixth after losing to Manchester United and drawing Crystal Palace, respectively, and both clubs thus sealed spots in the Europa League.

While Liverpool clinched the title over a month ago, there was plenty at stake on the final day of the Premier League season. Watford needed to better Aston Villa's performance in order to avoid relegation, while Bournemouth needed a win and some help. The Cherries did all they could, beating Everton 3-1 at Goodison Park. A Villa defeat would've been enough for Bournemouth's safety, but a draw at the London Stadium ensured the Cherries will drop down a division.

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With the 38th and final set of fixtures in the rearview mirror, here's what the Premier League table looks like to end the season:

  1. Liverpool (32-3-3, 99 points, Plus-52 Goal Differential [GD])
  2. Manchester City (26-3-9, 81 points, Plus-67 GD)
  3. Manchester United (18-12-8, 66 points, Plus-30 GD)
  4. Chelsea (20-6-12, 66 points, Plus-15 GD)
  5. Leicester City (18-8-11, 62 points, Plus-26 GD)
  6. Tottenham Hotspur (16-11-11, 59 points, Plus-14 GD)
  7. Wolves* (15-14-9, 59 points, Plus-11 GD)
  8. Arsenal* (14-14-10, 56 points, Plus-8 GD)
  9. Sheffield United (14-12-12, 54 points, Plus-0 GD)
  10. Burnley (15-9-14, 54 points, Minus-7 GD)
  11. Southampton (15-7-16, 52 points, Minus-9 GD)
  12. Everton (13-10-15, 49 points, Minus-12 GD)
  13. Newcastle United (11-11-16, 44 points, Minus-20 GD)
  14. Crystal Palace (11-10-17, 43 points, Minus-19 GD)
  15. Brighton (9-14-15, 41 points, Minus-15 GD)
  16. West Ham United (10-9-19, 39 points, Minus-13 GD)
  17. Aston Villa (9-8-21, 35 points, Minus-26 GD)
  18. Bournemouth (9-7-22, 34 points, Minus-25 GD)
  19. Watford (8-10-20, 34 points, Minus-28 GD)
  20. Norwich City (5-6-217, 21 points, Minus-49 GD)

Key: Bold means Champions League qualification, Underline means Europa League qualification, and Italics means relegation. An asterisk indicates the club could qualify for the Europa League, depending upon the results of the FA Cup on Aug. 1.

Premier League scores: Highlights, stats, updates from final matches

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Premier League scores: Highlights, stats, updates from final matches

A month after Liverpool clinched the title, there's still plenty to play for on the last day of the Premier League season.

Two UEFA Champions League places, up to two Europa League spots and as many as two positions in the dreaded relegation zone are up for grabs heading into every club's 38th and final match of the campaign. The ending arrives over two months later than expected as a result of the season's suspension due to the coronavirus, but there's a lot left on the line.

Follow along here for all the goals, controversies and other can't-miss moments from the long-awaited final day of the 2019-20 Premier League campaign.

10:01 a.m. PT: With the Premier League season officially over, the following clubs will play in Europe next season:

  • Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United and Chelsea secured Champions League qualification.
  • Leicester City and Tottenham Hotspur secured Europa League qualification.

Arsenal can clinch a spot in the Europa League with a win in the FA Cup next Saturday, while seventh-place Wolves will play in the Europa League if Chelsea beats Arsenal at Wembley.

10:00 a.m. PT: Aston Villa hang on! Watford and Bournemouth officially are relegated to the Championship, thanks to Jack Grealish's late goal.

That tally is one Villa supporters won't forget anytime soon.

9:47 a.m. PT: Who else but Jack Grealish? Aston Villa are on the verge of safety, thanks to the captain's late goal against West Ham United.

The jubilation didn't last long, as Andriy Yarmolenko equalized 1:46 after Grealish's goal.

Can West Ham do Bournemouth a solid?

9:42 a.m. PT: Bournemouth have done all they can to stay up, earning a 3-1 lead at Goodison Park over Everton.

The Cherries need some help, however. Aston Villa only need a draw in order to avoid relegation to the Championship, and they are currently level at 0-0 with West Ham United.

9:28 a.m. PT: Former Manchester United defender Johnny Evans earned a yellow card and the Red Devils converted a vital penalty just ahead of the drinks break.

Bruno Fernandes sent United into the lead and, possibly, next season's Champions League.

Leicester City now need two goals in the final 20 minutes or so to keep their Champions League dreams alive.

Watford, meanwhile, still have a faint glimmer of hope.

8:51 a.m. PT: Chelsea's Champions League quest got a big boost just before halftime, thanks to Mason Mount and Olivier Giroud scoring just before halftime.

After Everton equalized, Bournemouth regained the lead thanks to Dominic Solanke's third goal in his last four matches.

As everything stands at this moment, Chelsea and Manchester United qualify for the Champions League, Leicester City and Tottenham Hotspur make the Europa League and Aston Villa stay up with Bournemouth and Watford going down to the Championship.

How much will change over the next 45 minutes? We're about to find out.

8:46 a.m. PT: Watford got one back, but they'll need three more to stay up.

8:37 a.m. PT: The race for the Premier League's safe place is down to Aston Villa and Bournemouth, as Watford trail 3-0 to Arsenal before halftime.

So long, Hornets!

8:25 a.m. PT: The hits keep coming for Watford, who are now down 2-0 to Arsenal.

From firing their manager to this, the Hornets couldn't have had a more disastrous finish to the season.

8:18 a.m. PT: Everything's coming up Bournemouth on the final day of the season. Minutes after Watford fell into an early hole, Bournemouth got a vital goal from Josh King in their bid to stay up.

If Aston Villa fall behind at West Ham, celebrations might be in order on England's south coast.

8:12 a.m. PT: Watford's quest to stay up took an early setback, thanks to Pierre-Emerick Aubamaeyang's early penalty.

The goal is good news for Aston Villa, who would stay up in the Premier League if results hold.

7:26 a.m. PT: Fans aren't allowed inside Premier League grounds due to the coronavirus pandemic, but one famous face will be on hand to watch Chelsea play at Stamford Bridge today.

Timo Werner, who will join the Blues next season after his transfer from RB Leipzig was agreed to last month, was spotted heading into the stadium.

It seems Chelsea have an embarrassment of attacking riches on the pitch and in the stands.

7:17 a.m. PT: In layman's terms, here's what's on the line in the race for Champions League spots and to avoid relegation.

Got all that?

7:00 a.m. PT: Christian Pulisic starts for Chelsea against Wolves with a Champions League place on the line. Oft-criticized goalkeeper Kepa will not, however.

Adama Traoré, meanwhile, will have to make an impact off the bench for Wolves.

In the other match with Champions League ramifications, here's how Leicester City and Manchester United will line up.

Relegation battlers Aston Villa, Bournemouth and Watford all need wins -- at the very least -- in order to avoid the drop on Sunday, and each club's Starting XI reflects the urgency of the day.

6:54 a.m. PT: Here are Sunday's must-watch matches, with their implications for the Premier League table.

  • Chelsea vs. Wolves (11:00 a.m. ET/8:00 a.m. PT on USA): Chelsea clinch a UEFA Champions League place with a win or draw; Wolves clinch a Europa League place with a win.
  • Leicester City vs. Manchester United (11:00 a.m. ET/8:00 a.m. PT on NBC): Winner gets a Champions League place, regardless of Chelsea's results.
  • Crystal Palace vs. Tottenham Hotspur (11:00 a.m. ET/8:00 a.m. PT on Peacock/NBC Sports Gold): Tottenham clinch a Europa League place with a win and a Wolves loss or draw OR with any result and a Chelsea win in the FA Cup Final on Aug. 1.
  • West Ham vs. Aston Villa (11:00 a.m. ET/8:00 a.m. PT on NBCSN): Aston Villa avoid relegation with a better result -- finishing with more points OR greater goal difference -- than Watford and Bournemouth.
  • Arsenal vs. Watford (11:00 a.m. ET/8:00 a.m. PT on Golf Channel): Watford can avoid relegation with a better result -- finishing with more points OR greater goal difference -- than Aston Villa and Bournemouth.
  • Everton vs. Bournemouth (11:00 a.m. ET/8:00 a.m. PT on CNBC): Bournemouth can avoid relegation with a win, combined with Watford and Aston Villa losses and a greater margin of victory than Villa's defeat.

Buckle up, folks.