The NWSL announced a plan to resume play beginning in September with an "NWSL Fall Series," in an effort to continue 2020 competition in lieu of a season altered by the coronavirus pandemic.
Eighteen games will be held throughout September and October, including a televised NWSL Game of the Week on seven Saturdays (four on CBS, three on CBS Sports Network).
The league's nine teams have been grouped into three regional pods, to play four matches each (against the other two teams in their pod) between Sept. 5 and Oct. 17. A formal schedule and format will be announced in the next week, according to the league. The groupings are as follows:
Northeast: Washington Spirit, Chicago Red Stars, Sky Blue FC
West: Portland Thorns, Utah Royals, OL Reign
South: North Carolina Courage, Houston Dash, Orlando Pride
The regional matches come at a critical time for the NWSL. Fresh off a successful Challenge Cup tournament in Utah, which saw the Dash take home the trophy after a month of bubble-style competition between eight teams, the league was left in an unclear place. Its planned 2020 season (which was slated to run from April to November) was torpedoed by the pandemic, forcing alternate plans for the Challenge Cup and now the fall series.
With so much uncertainty around competition, some NWSL players (including a few U.S. women's national team players) have opted to take loans to play this fall and winter in Europe. That includes U.S. midfielders Rose Lavelle and Sam Mewis, who have signed with Manchester City for at least one season, and defender Emily Sonnett, who recently signed in Sweden. Forwards Christen Press and Tobin Heath are also reportedly working on potential deals with Manchester United as well.
The remaining NWSL players not playing elsewhere will be eligible for the 18-match fall series, including the Pride, who had to sit out of the Challenge Cup after having positive COVID-19 tests before leaving Orlando.
Recently, it was reported that the NWSL is expanding to Sacramento for either the 2021 or 2022 season. It was the second California expansion team announced this summer, joining the star-studded Angel City FC group in Los Angeles for 2022. The league will also add Racing Louisville FC for the 2021 season.