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NWSL fall series begins Saturday with Sky Blue at Spirit

NWSL fall series

HERRIMAN, UTAH - JULY 17: Paul Riley head coach of North Carolina Courage talks with the team after being defeated by the Portland Thorns FC in the quarterfinal match against the Portland Thorns FC in the the NWSL Challenge Cup at Zions Bank Stadium on July 17, 2020 in Herriman, Utah. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

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The National Women’s Soccer League’s fall schedule will open Saturday with a match between Sky Blue and the Washington Spirit.

The game in Leesburg, Virginia, will be the NWSL Game of the Week, broadcast nationally on CBS.

The league is returning to local markets after the coronavirus had delayed the start of the regular season, although the NWSL was the first professional team sports league in the United States to play games this summer when it staged a tournament in Utah.

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The NWSL will play 18 games over seven weeks, with the league’s nine teams separated into three groups to keep travel to a minimum. The game of the week will be broadcast on CBS on Saturdays during September, while all matches will be streamed on Twitch for international audiences.

“I’m thrilled that we’ve been able to put together a schedule that gets our players back out on the pitch and showcases their talent for a global audience, while limiting travel as much as possible and keeping player and staff health and safety our top priority,” NWSL Commissioner Lisa Baird said Tuesday.

The West group includes OL Reign, the Portland Thorns and the Utah Royals; the Northeast group includes the Chicago Red Stars, Sky Blue and the Spirit; and the South group includes the North Carolina Courage, the Orlando Pride and the Houston Dash.

Teams and players will be subject to a comprehensive medical protocol for the duration for the fall series.