Rapinoe, Press among players opting out of NWSL tournament
International players Megan Rapinoe, Tobin Heath and Christen Press have signed up for the National Women's Soccer League tournament, which begins this weekend in Utah.
Heath and Press, who played with Rapinoe on the World Cup championship team in France last summer, raised concerns about the corona virus.
"Although I want to be on the field with my teammates to do what I love, I have decided not to compete in the NWSL Challenge Cup due to the uncertainty and risks associated with COVID-19," says Heath who plays for the Portland Thorns said in a team statement.
The Challenge Cup begins on Saturday with a game between the Thorns and defending champion North Carolina Courage. The league teams announced their squad on Tuesday.
National team players participating in the tournament include Chicago-based Julie Ertz, American football player of the year, team-mate Alyssa Naeher, Crystal Dunn from North Carolina and Portlander Becky Sauerbrunn.
The league was shaken by Monday's announcement that the Orlando Pride was leaving the tournament after six players and four employees tested positive for COVID-19. With the withdrawal, eight teams take part in the one-month tournament.
In an interview with The Associated Press on Tuesday, NWSL commissioner Lisa Baird said the situation was "extremely" disappointing given some talents of pride, including internationals Ali Krieger, Ashlynn Harris, Emily Sonnett and Brazilian star Marta.
"We are only very concerned about them (the Pride players) and really disappointed that we will not see them," said Baird. “But we are focusing on what we need to focus on now, making sure that the facility, protocols, all player training related to all tournament rules and CDC guidelines or protocols are in place, because tomorrow we welcome our first Team in Utah. "
A new schedule was released on Tuesday after pride's withdrawal. In addition to Portland's game against Courage on Saturday, the Chicago Red Stars are playing the late game against the Washington Spirit.
Rapinoe's team, OL Reign, provided no reason for their decision to stay.
“Megan told us that she decided not to take part in the tournament. Like all NWSL players, she was given the opportunity to participate. Farid (Benstiti, government trainer) and I would like to have her for the club tournament, but we understand and respect her decision, ”said Bill Predmore, CEO of Reign, in a statement.
The press released a statement from their team, the Utah Royals, saying, “It is deeply painful not to be able to play the game I love and the wider impact of the global pandemic on our league, our sport and our world to observe . Unfortunately, given the uncertainty caused by COVID-19, I have to choose not to participate in this tournament. I know how happy I am to make this choice. I have tremendous respect and gratitude for those who don't have the luxury of deciding whether to sign up for work, including our selfless and heroic first responders. "
Sky Blue previously announced that Carli Lloyd would not participate in the tournament due to a minor left knee injury. Teammate Mallory Pugh will not play due to a hip injury.
The NWSL will be the first team sport in the United States to return after the sport ceased due to the outbreak of the corona virus. The players had the option to sign out without losing salaries or insurance.
Baird said she was confident about the tournament despite the increasing number of coronavirus cases nationwide.
The teams will be confiscated during the tournament and the games will be played at the stadiums in Herriman and Sandy, a suburb of Salt Lake City. The Challenge Cup runs until July 26th.
"The key is to be prepared and to make sure everyone understands the importance of following the tournament protocol, wearing your PPE, making sure you use the facilities and stay in the protection environment that we do and plan about the tournament schedule away, ”said Baird. "So the whole key is to reduce the risk, make sure that we stay around and that we have the right plans."
The opener and the finale will be broadcast on CBS.
More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports
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