Ask mom: NWSL consulted players with kids to plan Challenge Cup tournament

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The NWSL checked in with the mothers in the league, like Jessica McDonald, when planning the month-long tournament in Utah. (Sebastian Gollnow/picture alliance via Getty Images)
The NWSL checked in with the mothers in the league, like Jessica McDonald, when planning the month-long tournament in Utah. (Sebastian Gollnow/picture alliance via Getty Images)

The National Women’s Soccer League got the “mom approved” stamp to go ahead with its month-long summer tournament that’s scheduled to begin June 27.

Commissioner Lisa Baird, who stepped into the role days before COVID-19 forced postponements, reached out to the mothers in the league to discuss the tournament and any concerns to address, the Associated Press’ Anne M. Peterson reported.

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NWSL checks in with moms ahead of tournament

There are a handful of mothers in the league, and the challenges they face during a normal season will be compounded by the one-site tournament near Salt Lake City during a pandemic.

Baird is a mother herself and spent a decade as chief marketing officer for the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee (USOPC), which required her to attend the Olympics.

“This is something that’s pretty close to my heart. When we asked the players, in particular the moms, to come for a month to Utah, I know what that’s like because I spent time away from my kids for many weeks at the Olympic Games,” Baird told the Associated Press. “So what I can tell you right now is that we’re working to develop specific solutions for them. I’ve been on one call with the moms so far. We’re going to have more as we really develop a plan that helps them.”

North Carolina Courage forward Jessica McDonald and Utah Royals forward Amy Rodriguez are both moms who plan to play in the tournament. The Chicago Red Stars’ Sarah Gordon and the Orlando Pride’s Sydney Leroux are other notable mothers in the league. Leroux, who won the World Cup in 2015 with the USWNT, had her second child last June.

Mothers’ concerns about being quarantined in a hotel

McDonald was the only mom on the 2019 World Cup-winning USWNT squad, and her now 8-year-old son Jeremiah joined her midway through the tournament in France. But in that instance, Jeremiah could explore the area with a family member and visit local restaurants, parks and the like.

This time around, there are worries for everyone about COVID-19. McDonald voiced concern about living in a hotel for a month with a child, telling the Associated Press “he bounces off the walls.” The NWSL in turn made sure caretakers would be allowed to come along.

NWSL scheduled to be first US pro team back in action

The NWSL was the first professional team sports league in the United States to announce a firm return date and plan to play the season. It will also be the first team sport to return in the U.S. should play begin on the scheduled June 27 date. That first match will be aired nationally on CBS.

All nine teams will play four preliminary games to determine seeding, and eight teams will advance to the quarterfinals. The 230 players will use facilities used by the Utah Royals and MLS club Real Salt Lake. The players, along with their children’s caretakers and all support staff, will stay in dorms or a hotel to maintain a bubble during the pandemic.

Rodriguez, who has two children, told the Associated Press her concerns were relieved by the confidence of the medical staff. Both she and McDonald plan on playing in the tournament.

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