The NWSL announced Wednesday plans for the 2021 season which includes the return of the Challenge Cup in addition to the return to the regular season.
“2021 is shaping up to be another big year for the NWSL as we continue to innovate our product, engage our incredible fans and support our players and teams,” said NWSL Director of Operations and Player Affairs Liz Dalton. “Building on what we were able to safely accomplish in 2020, we’re expanding the opportunities for our athletes and teams to thrive, and for our sponsors and partners to invest in our continued growth.”
Players will report to training camp on February 1st, 2021, two months ahead of the 2021 Challenge Cup in mid-April. Based on guidance from the NWSL Medical Taskforce and public health authorities, the 2021 Challenge Cup will take place in multiple bubble environments, team markets, or some combination of the two.
“Bringing back the Challenge Cup is an opportunity for our league to continue growing our fan base and showcase our world class players with an exciting and competitive tournament ahead of the most important international tournament on the 2021 calendar, the Olympic Games,” said NWSL Chief Revenue Officer Mitch Poll.
Following the tournament, the NWSL’s 2021 regular season will kick off in mid-May, with each team scheduled to play 24 matches with the full league schedule to be released at a later date.
Six teams will qualify for an expanded NWSL playoffs set to take place beginning in November 2021, with the top two seeds receiving a first-round bye.
The 2021 campaign will end with the NWSL Championship the weekend of November 20.
After acquiring Crystal Dunn in the offseason, Portland has high hopes for the 2021 campaign.