Here is a letter from Washington Spirit head coach Richie Burke to the fans of the National Women’s Soccer League. The Spirit was eliminated by Sky Blue FC in the 2020 NWSL Challenge Cup semifinals.

Dear SpiritFam,

I can’t begin to thank all of you enough for your incredible “virtual” support for our club during the month-long NWSL Challenge Cup in Utah. In particular, our players and staff are especially grateful to all of you who stayed up late and watched the CBS All-Access games that were televised at the later hour of 10 p.m. ET. That type of support really buoyed our players during a very difficult and physically demanding period for our young squad. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

We are also very appreciative of the detailed preparations made by our league to ensure player safety during the tournament format. Regular testing, limitations on movement within the “bubble,” along with preset meals and dining times were all part of the league’s overall plan to keep players safe from infection and able to play during these unprecedented times. Although the restrictions were hard for players, the alternative of not playing at all this season was something we would have done anything to avoid. And we were glad to provide our fans with an opportunity to see our new-look team for 2020 during the televised games.

For our professional players it was very hard to be disconnected from our club’s fantastic fanbase. Players thrive on the support from the terraces and Spirit players really love to be appreciated by fans who recognize their efforts. Despite missing that connected aspect of the game, our players really fought hard in Utah and everyone was bitterly disappointed to go out of the tournament in the heartbreaking manner that we did. Needless to say, there were many tears after the Sky Blue game. That was particularly hard for me to see, especially from players who give their absolute best for this club. The many messages of support through social media for our players was hugely uplifting and I’m thankful to those of you who took the time to share your thoughts. You have no idea how much your support helps assuage the bitter taste of defeat, even if it was after a valiant effort decided by the dreaded penalty shootout.

In under two years we have revamped our squad and established a new methodology that has been the main focus of our club’s redirection. I hope you are all as excited as I am to see how much our young players like Jordan DiBiasi, Ashley Sanchez, Sam Staab, Dorian Bailey, Bayley Feist, Tegan McGrady, Natalie Jacobs and others can continue to develop and grow at our club. Those listed above are all players from our 2019 and 2020 draft classes, each being selected in the 1st and 2nd rounds. It has been documented that we are a young team, but we are also a very talented team with superb leadership from established players like Aubrey Bledsoe, Tori Huster, Andi Sullivan, Rose Lavelle, Ashley Hatch and Paige Nielsen. I firmly believe our future looks bright and we will continue to make positive strides with this group of players.

Once again, I’d like to take this opportunity to thank you all for your loyal support. You are the backbone of our club and without you we would be a shadow of an organization. I’m struggling to put into words how grateful we all are at the Spirit to have such an incredible fanbase. My respect for all that you do to support our team falls like ubiquitous highland rain and I will never be able to thank you enough for that. I can only promise that we will continue to work hard for you all and do everything possible to take our club to the very top of the NWSL. We will redouble our efforts to be regarded as one of the best women’s clubs in the world!

From the Bottom of my Heart,

Richie