CHICAGO – The National Women’s Soccer League announced Monday the 2021 NWSL Challenge Cup will kick off with a rematch of the 2020 final between the champion Houston Dash and Chicago Red Stars at BBVA Stadium in Houston April 9 at 8:30 p.m. ET.
The 21-game tournament will be played in group play with each team playing four matches followed by the final. The opener and three additional games will air on CBS Sports Network. The final will be telecast on the CBS Television Network and stream on Paramount+. Every other game will stream exclusively on Paramount+ in the U.S.
All games will be available internationally on Twitch, including in Canada for all games that are not on CBS Sports Network. The full 2021 NWSL Challenge Cup schedule and broadcast details will be announced Tuesday.
“We’re ready to build on our success of the last year and I couldn’t be more excited to open the 2021 NWSL Challenge Cup presented by Secret the same way we left off in the summer of 2020, watching Houston and Chicago showcase the very best in women’s professional soccer,” NWSL commissioner Lisa Baird said in a statement. “I want to thank Secret for once again helping us put on this incredible event, and for their continued commitment to the NWSL and our players, including the NWSL’s 2021 rookie class.”
This year’s tournament will see the league’s 10 teams organized into two divisions, East and West. The East is comprised of Racing Louisville FC, North Carolina Courage, Orlando Pride, Sky Blue FC and the Washington Spirit. The West includes the Chicago Red Stars, Houston Dash, Kansas City, OL Reign and Portland Thorns FC.
Each team will play four matches in home markets, as approved by the NWSL’s Medical Task Force due to the COVID-19 pandemic, followed by the top team from each division competing in the final slated for May 8. The championship site will be determined by the league at a later date.
Secret, the competition’s sponsor, and the league are creating a NWSL Rookie Class program. Through this program there will be sponsorship opportunities for NWSL rookies competing in the tournament. By creating this program Secret and NWSL hope to continue to build media equity for women in sports.
“As a women’s brand, we are especially proud to systemically address the lack of representation and sponsorship in women’s sports through our NWSL partnership,” said Sara Saunders, senior brand director, Secret and Gillette. “By supporting the Rookie program this year, we will strengthen the development pipeline for women’s professional soccer.”
The NWSL’s 10 teams will face off in a 24-game regular season beginning May 15. The league will not break for the 2021 Olympic Games and the regular season will conclude Oct. 30, 2021. Six teams will qualify for an expanded playoffs, set to begin Nov. 6, with the top two seeds receiving a first-round bye. The league’s ninth season will conclude with the NWSL Championship Nov. 20.