CHICAGO – The National Women’s Soccer League Wednesday announced a new competition framework that will debut in 2021.

The framework will inlcude a second NWSL Challenge Cup to kick off the season before the regular season commences in mid-May with an expanded playoffs starting in November.

Liz Dalton, the NWSL director of operations, said that “2021 is shaping up to be another big year for the NWSL as we continue to innovate our product, engage our incredible fans and support our players and teams.

“Building on what we were able to safely accomplish in 2020, we’re expanding the opportunities for our athletes and teams to thrive, and for our sponsors and partners to invest in our continued growth.”

Players will report to camp on Feb. 1 with the first competition coming in mid-April when the NWSL Challenge Cup returns after the inaugural edition in 2020. Based on guidance from the NWSL Medical Taskforce and public health authorities, the 2021 Challenge Cup will take place in multiple bubble environments, team markets or some combination of the two.

“Bringing back the Challenge Cup is an opportunity for our league to continue growing our fan base and showcase our world class players with an exciting and competitive tournament ahead of the most important international tournament on the 2021 calendar, the Olympic Games,” NWSL Chief Revenue Officer Mitch Poll said in a statement. “We’re focused on continuing to build opportunities to expand our reach, expose a global audience to the best women’s club soccer in the world, and provide meaningful opportunities for our teams and players to perform.”

Following the Challenge Cup, the NWSL’s regular season will kick off in mid-May, with each team scheduled to play 24 matches. The full league schedule will be released at a later date.

Six teams will qualify for an expanded NWSL playoffs set to begin in November, with the top two seeds receiving first-round byes.

The season will end with the NWSL Championship the weekend of Nov. 20.