2020 NWSL Challenge Cup logo
2020 NWSL Challenge Cup logo

Hi!

This is Our Game‘s NWSL Challenge Cup hub. What do you want to know? First things first: today’s games and how to watch are below.

Got it? Good. So we’ll be posting our gifs and articles here and you can use the menu above to check out the schedules and rosters. You’ll notice a blog link but we don’t recommend following, lol.

How did we get here? Check the timeline. A rollercoaster to say the least. Also, the NWSL is the first team sport to return to play in the United States; that’s both cool and terrifying.

The first few matches might be a little sloppy but it’s been a long layoff for the players with a shortened and interrupted preseason. New players, new formations, new everything will mean it’ll take some time for each team to find its rhythm. And don’t forget the refs who will also need to adjust.

Today’s NWSL Challenge cup matches
June
30

Houston Dash vs. Utah Royals FC

Watch: CBS All Access, Twitch for those outside the U.S. and Canada

Time: 12:30 p.m. ET

Injury Report

  • Houston Dash
    Out: Nichelle Prince
  • Utah Royals FC
    Out: Kelley O’Hara; Mallory Weber; Desiree Scott; Aminata Diallo

Players to Watch
Rachel Daly (HOU); Megan Oyster (HOU); Amy Rodriguez (UTA); Tziarra King (UTA)

Summary
This might be a battle of the under dogs minus Sky Blue. It’s easy to overlook Houston, which hasn’t really done anything since joining the league in 2014. That may sound harsh but it isn’t for a lack of good players; several have used Houston as a way station on the road to other clubs. That may have changed, though, with head coach James Clarkson, who had the Dash playing well in spurts last season. Megan Oyster joins the defense and after a strong rookie season with the Washington Spirit hasn’t quite lived up to that promise. She’ll be paired with Katie Naughton and that might turn out to be a good match for both.

Scoring is going to be Utah’s main concern, okay, other than the number of injuries. The team is without Christen Press so it’ll be Amy Rodriguez and a rotation cast of forwards to carry the scoring load. In midfield Gunny Jónsdóttir and Vero will be missing Desiree Scott, a major disruptor who’s presence and tackling can stop breaks and give some time to recover to the defensive line. In goal, stalwart, Nicole Barnhart has quietly been consistent for the Royals. Rookie Tziarra King will likely get minutes according to head coach Craig Harrington; if King adjusts to the pro-level pace quickly, we’re in for a treat.

June
30

OL Reign vs. Sky Blue FC

Watch: CBS All Access, Twitch for those outside the U.S. and Canada

Time: 10:00 p.m. ET

Injury Report

  • OL Reign
    Out: Jess Fishlock
  • Sky Blue FC
    Out: Caprice Dydasco; Carli Lloyd; Mallory Pugh; Madison Tiernan

Players to Watch
Shirley Cruz (RGN); Alana Cook (RGN); Midge Purce (NJ); McCall Zerboni (NJ)

Summary
OL Reign is the team formerly known as Reign FC and enter the Challenge Cup with a new owner (Olympique Lyon) and new coach (Farid Benstiti). In the offseason, the Reign signed experienced Costa Rican international and legend Shirley Cruz and Sofia Huerta. Huerta joins a pretty good corps of forwards in Darian Jenkins, Jodie Taylor, Jasmyn Spencer, and Bethany Balcer. Japanese international Nicole Momiki signed in the offseason so it’ll be a fight for minutes. Dani Weatherholt adds some hustle as a midfield sub while experienced Amber Brooks has been added to the back line. The player to watch in defense, however, is loanee Alana Cook from Paris Saint-Germain. She’s an out-and-out baller.

Sky Blue has been on an upward trajectory since making Alyse LaHue joined as general manager. Without Carli Lloyd and Mal Pugh, the squad will likely struggle to find goals but if rookie Evelyne Viens finds a rhythm, look out. She’s a scorer. McCall Zerboni was added in the offseason and the pro’s pro will be a calming influence in the midfield. Estelle Johnson returns to anchor a back line that will welcome back Mandy Freeman from a torn Achilles tendon. Kailen Sheridan return in goal and the Canadian goalkeeper will need to be at her best given relatively short time the back line has had together.

Match day 1
June
27

North Carolina Courage vs. Portland Thorns FC

Watch: CBS, CBS All Access, Twitch for those outside the U.S. and Canada

Time: 12:30 p.m. ET

Injury Report

  • North Carolina
    Out: Jess McDonald, Merritt Mathias
  • Portland
    Out: Sophia Smith, Katherine Reynolds, Adrianna Franch

Players to Watch
Hailie Mace (NCC); Denise O’Sullivan (NCC); Becky Sauerbrunn (POR); Rocky Rodríguez (POR)

Summary
Two-time NWSL Champions Courage are the team everyone loves to hate but can’t beat. They’re stacked and head coach Paul Riley stopped just sort of saying he was going all-out from the start in Friday’s pre-match press conference. Expect Kristen Hamilton to slot into a forward spot for the injured Jess McDonald. The 2018 and 2019 league champs got stronger in the offseason by adding Hailie Mace, Lindsay Agnew, and Ally Watt. Riley said midfield engine and unheralded Denise O’Sullivan is even fitter than last season, which is good since McCall Zerboni is now with Sky Blue FC and will need to fill those shoes. They’re good. Period.

The Thorns are the other team everyone loves to hate so these two teams are the perfect match to kick off this tournament. Everyone’s favorite one-sleeve centerback Becky Sauerbrunn now plays for the Thorns and adds to an already literary-leaning back line in her pairing with Emily Menges. Tobin Heath has opted out of the tournament but the Thorns are still plenty lethal going forward. New addition Rocky Rodríguez is an intriguing addition and could see a rebirth of sorts in Portland after hitting a plateau in New Jersey with Sky Blue FC.

June
27

Chicago Red Stars vs. Washington Spirit

Watch: CBS All Access, Twitch for those outside the U.S. and Canada

Time: 10:00 p.m. ET (whew! sorry to those on the east coast but not really)

Injury Report

  • Chicago Red Stars
    Out: Alyssa Mautz; Arin Wright; Tierna Davidson
    Questionable: Zoe Redei; Danielle Colaprico
  • Washington Spirit
    Out: Crystal Thomas
    Questionable: Brooke Hendrix; Jaye Boissiere

Players to Watch
Yuki Nagasato (CHI); Kealia Watt (CHI); Sam Staab (WAS); Andi Sullivan (WAS)

Summary
These two teams match up really well and that makes for entertaining games (often). The Chicago Red Stars, 2019 NWSL Champioship runners-up, bolstered their attack in the offseason by adding Kealia Watt. Watt, the cliche goes, could benefit from a change of scenery and could be the missing piece of the puzzle that nets Chicago championship hardware. Yuki Nagasato pulls the offensive strings and newcomer Rachel Hill and Katie Johnson could benefit as well as see significant minutes after the departure of Sam Kerr. In defense, U.S. Women’s National Team defender Tierna Davidson is out for this match but Sarah Gorden’s game has improved significantly over the past few seasons. U.S. WNT goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher is in goal for the Red Stars and is a fairly consistent shot-stopper though prone to a big gaffe or two a match.

Washington has undergone a complete revamp since its 2016 NWSL Championship run. It’s a young squad that is finally healthy and available; last year Rose Lavelle and Mallory Pugh missed time with the U.S. WNT while winning a World Cup in France. Pugh is now with Sky Blue FC but Lavelle is healthy and she and Andi Sullivan will benefit from the time together to develop the partnership that we’ve all been waiting for. There have been flashes but inconsistency. Forward Ashley Hatch was terrific for North Carolina but hasn’t lived up to those expectations for Washington. UCLA’s Ashley Sanchez adds to the Spirit’s attack as does Japanese international Kumi Yokoyama. The defense is anchored by an excellent center back duo in Sam Staab and Paige Nielsen. Staab was our pick for the NWSL Best XI last year and should continue her development. If so, a national team look isn’t out of the question. Audrey Bledsoe is back in goal and was solid, if not the best in the league, for the Spirit.