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After the popularity of the NWSL Challenge Cup, the league is slated to return to our screens on September 5th! In an effort to reduce travel, this seven-week go-round will feature a set of three regional pods, which are as follows:

OL Reign
Portland Thorns FC
Utah Royals FC

Chicago Red Stars
Sky Blue FC
Washington Spirit

North Carolina Courage
Orlando Pride
Houston Dash

Each team will play a total of four games (behind closed doors) within their respective pods, and will continue to observe best practices established by the NWSL Medical Task Force. (Detailed health and safety protocols for the fall series can be found here.)

In terms of how you can watch, there’ll be a televised NWSL Game of the Week on CBS every Saturday in September, and on CBS Sports Network three Saturdays in October. 

Can you expect to see all the same familiar faces we know and love from the NWSL? No, probably not; there seems to be a bit of a mass exodus movement to the European leagues (Rose Lavelle and Sam Mewis have been signed to Manchester City, and Emily Sonnett will play for Kopparbergs/Göteborg FC, for example) as the pandemic safety is much better (for now) over there. International talent seem to be posting up in Europe as well, like Australian Steph Catley just signed to Arsenal following an injury hiatus with Reign FC. BUT it looks like Kelley O’Hara is (rumored to be) headed to the Washington Spirit (potentially exciting for DC!), and there are some others (like Lindsey Horan, for instance) who seem to be firmly rooted here in the US.

Obviously it’s important to keep supporting the NWSL during this time to ensure a smooth(er) transition back to our regularly scheduled programming, but if you’re not already on board with the European leagues, those are highly recommended as well! The FA WSL, for example, is also slated to return September 5th. Basically, just be sure to get as into women’s sports as men’s; it’s a weird time for all athletes, but it’s important to maintain funding for already underfunded leagues.