NWSL Challenge Cup draw, schedule: Chicago Red Stars matched up against Orlando Pride in opener in Utah

The National Women's Soccer League will be the first professional team sports league in the United States to resume play with the Challenge Cup in Utah on June 27. On Monday, the nine slots for the competition was unveiled on CBS Sports HQ. The first day of action will feature the Chicago Red Stars taking on the Orlando Pride and the two-time defending champion North Carolina Courage against the Portland Thorns. 

The tournament opener and final will air on CBS, and all other games will be on CBS All-Access in the United States and Canada, while matches will re-air on CBS Sports Network.

Here's what you need to know about Monday's slot draw:

Team slots

  1. Chicago Red Stars
  2. Washington Spirit
  3. Houston Dash
  4. Utah Royals
  5. North Carolina Courage
  6. Sky Blue FC
  7. Portland Thorns FC
  8. OL Reign
  9. Orlando Pride

Competition format

All nine teams will play four games in the opening stage in order to determine the eight quarterfinalists in the knockout stage. The semifinals and finals will take place at Rio Tinto Stadium. 

Preliminary round schedule

Saturday, June 27 
1. Chicago Red Stars vs. 9. Orlando Pride
5. North Carolina Courage vs. 7. Portland Thorns FC

Tuesday, June 30
2. Washington Spirit vs. 4. Utah Royals FC
8. OL Reign vs. 6. Sky Blue FC 

Wednesday, July 1
7. Portland Thorns FC vs. 9. Orlando Pride  
5. North Carolina Courage vs. 3. Houston Dash

Saturday, July 4
1. Chicago Red Stars vs. 4. Utah Royals FC
2. Washington Spirit vs. 8. OL Reign  

Sunday, July 5
5. North Carolina Courage vs.  9. Orlando Pride
3. Houston Dash vs. 6. Sky Blue FC 

Wednesday, July 8
2. Washington Spirit vs. 7. Portland Thorns FC
4. Utah Royals FC vs. 8. OL Reign 

Thursday, July 9 
9. Orlando Pride vs. 6. Sky Blue FC 
1. Chicago Red Stars vs. 3. Houston Dash

Sunday, July 12
4. Utah Royals FC vs. 5. North Carolina Courage
7. Portland Thorns FC vs. 8. OL Reign  

Monday, July 13
1. Chicago Red Stars vs. 6. Sky Blue FC 
2. Washington Spirit vs. 3. Houston Dash

Odds

Here's a look at the Willam Hill Sports Book odds with the Courage leading the charge:

  • North Carolina Courage (+160)
  • Chicago Red Stars (+300)
  • Portland Thorns FC (+500)
  • OL Reign (+600)
  • Utah Royals FC (+800)
  • Washington Spirit (+1,000)
  • Houston Dash (+2,000)
  • Sky Blue FC (+3,000)
  • Orlando Pride (+4,000)

For more on the NWSL, click here.

Live updates
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Chicago's Kealia Watt

Watt spoke to the uncertainty of what was going to happen with the league's season and said she is grateful and thankful for the opportunity to play.  

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More from Allie Long

Long said she is thrilled for the tournament and thinks it's a great chance for people to become introduced to NWSL that haven't seen it in the past while praising Baird for getting the competition going. 

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Allie Long on tournament

USWNT defender Allie Long spoke after the opening round's schedule was released:

"I was so excited," Lond said on CBS Sports HQ. 

"I'm so pumped and I cannot wait. I think it's going to be so much fun ..."

On facing Carli Lloyd's Sky Blue FC:

"I think Sky Blue is going to be a really good team," she said. "They have a lot of good players ..." 

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Slot No. 1 - Chicago Red Stars

The finalists from last season are in the first slot but have big questions this season with superstar Sam Kerr's departure to Chelsea. 

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Slot No. 2 - Washington Spirit

A solid 9-8-7 season, the club is led by USWNT star Rose Lavelle and brought in draft pick Ashley Sanchez to boost its attack. They will take on Utah on June 30 to begin the cup.

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No. 3 slot - Houston Dash

7-12-5 last season and missed out on the playoffs, they will face North Carolina Courage on July 1 to open up their tournament participation.

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No. 4 slot - Utah Royals

The hosts went 10-10-4 but lost four of their last five games last season and missed out on the playoffs. 

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No. 5 slot - North Carolina Courage

Back-to-back NWSL champs with Lynn Williams and Debinha leading the way.

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No. 6 slot - Sky Blue FC

5-14-5 last season, they will look to bounce back strong with Carli Lloyd leading the way. Their first match will be on June 30 against OL Reign.

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Slot No. 7 - Portland Thorns

Another semifinalist from a year ago, Portland is in the seventh spot. Led by Lindsey Horan and coach Mark Parsons, they will take on No. 9 Orlando on July 1 in the first confirmed match.

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Slot No. 8 - OL Reign

The team lost to North Carolina in the 2019 semifinals. 

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Slot No. 9 - Orlando Pride

Finished last season with a 4-16-4 record. 

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Why Utah?

Baird said the state has done an "incredible job" handling the COVID-19 situation and praised the public health officials and workers.

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How can we this well?

Baird said she felt fans would really welcome back NWSL players with women's soccer at the Olympics postponed until next year. She's hoping this tournament brings excitement to fans around the world looking for women's soccer this summer.

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Baird on returning

Commissioner Baird said the goal wasn't for the league to be the first back, it just happens to be. She also said that having just nine teams allows for quick communication, saying she can reach the owners at any moment to discuss topics. 

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Tournament details

- 25-game tournament all streamed on CBS All Access
- Tournament opener and final to air on CBS
- Nine clubs each playing four games in the preliminary round
- Top eight advance to knockout competition quarterfinals

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20 minutes to go

The draw will start in 20 minutes on CBS Sports HQ. Be sure to tune in. Aside from watching the seeding draft for free on a computer or mobile device with the direct link to CBS Sports HQ, you can also access the live feed via connected streaming devices such as Apple TV, Roku, Amazon Fire TV and Chromecast. Please check the proper app store to download the CBS Sports app.

For iPhone users, click here. For Android users, click here.

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Commissioner joining HQ 

NWSL Commissioner Lisa Baird will be on CBS Sports HQ studio today to reveal the preliminary round matchups, with top players from the league joining the live coverage. You can access the live feed here.

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 A look back at the 2019 season

The 2019 season was a fun one for NWSL with so many fantastic performances. We saw Australian superstar Sam Kerr score an NWSL-record 18 goals, but the big story was the dominance of the North Carolina Courage. The club finished 15-4-5 and entered the playoffs as the No. 1 seed before winning the title with a 4-0 win over the Chicago Red Stars. United States women's national team players Jessica McDonald, Crystal Dunn and Sam Mewis all scored in the final last October. The victory marked back-to-back titles for the Courage. 

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@NWSL via Twitter
June 1, 2020, 1:39 PM
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Welcome!

Welcome everybody! It's a big day for American soccer with the NWSL Challenge Cup draw live on CBS Sports HQ! All nine teams will see what their path in the tournament will look like ahead of the cup beginning at the end of June. The NWSL has the chance to be the first American team sports league back following the COVID-19 outbreak. 

Stay tuned for everything you need to know.