The National Women's Soccer League announced a new competition framework to be debuted for 2021 on Wednesday. The announcement includes a players report date, the return of the Challenge Cup, and a target for a regular 24 game season with playoffs.
"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," said NWSL Director of Operations and Player Affairs Liz Dalton. "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 are scheduled to report to camps on Feb. 1, 2021, with the Challenge Cup coming in mid-April. In light of the on going COVID-19 pandemic, the league announced that the with the work of 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," said NWSL Chief Revenue Officer Mitch Poll. "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 2021 Challenge Cup, the NWSL's 2021 regular season will kick off in mid-May, with each team scheduled to play 24 matches. Playoffs are expanding for the 2021 season as well, six teams will qualify for NWSL playoffs set to take place beginning in November 2021, with the top two seeds receiving a first-round bye. The full league schedule will be released at a later date.
The 2021 campaign will end with the NWSL Championship the weekend of November 20 before another exciting offseason ahead of the NWSL's historic 10th anniversary season which will include the arrival of Angel City FC.