The draw for seeding in the 2020 NWSL Challenge Cup took place this morning, with OL Reign drawn into slot 8. Their opening game will be against Sky Blue FC on June 30. Their other three preliminary stage matches will be against the Washington Spirit on July 4, Utah Royals FC on July 8, and the Portland Thorns on July 12.
The tournament kicks off on June 27 at Zions Bank Stadium. The top eight teams from the preliminary stage will advance to the knockout round, with the final to be held on July 26 at Rio Tinto Stadium. Matches will be streamed in North America on CBS All Access, with the opening and final game airing on CBS.
Meanwhile, the Reign departed on Sunday for Missoula, Montana, to continue their preseason preparations. This was a change in plans from what had been reported on Wednesday, when OL Reign CEO Bill Predmore said they expected to travel to Utah over the weekend.
“The situation in our state forced us to cultivate multiple options for preseason training outside of Tacoma. Our initial plan had been to travel to Utah for training camp, as what Utah offered was incredible, and Dell Loy Hansen’s generosity was tremendous,” said Predmore in a team release. “Despite the very compelling opportunity in Utah, late last week we made the decision to hold our training camp in Missoula, Montana, as the unique combination of elements will provide the best and safest possible experience for our players and staff.”
It is unclear why the plans changed, but of note Missoula County has had only 40 confirmed cases of COVID-19 since the pandemic started (and only one of those cases has not yet recovered), whereas Salt Lake County has had over 5,200 cases. The Reign will remain in Montana until late June, with plans to travel to Utah a few days before their opening game.
Concurrent with the trip to Montana, OL Reign announced their updated preseason roster of 33 players, of whom 25 are under contract following the announced signing of defender Adrienne Jordan on Monday morning.
Seven unsigned players return from the original preseason roster, including college draft picks Meg Brandt and Sam Hiatt, as well as non-roster invitees Machaela George, Madison Hammond, Kimberly Hazlett, Brenna Ochoa, and Mariah Lee. The team has also added former University of Utah goalkeeper Carly Nelson as a new trialist.
Despite the relatively long break from play, two players enter camp with injuries. Unsigned draft pick Sam Hiatt is recovering from injury and will not join the team until after the Challenge Cup. Recent signing Julia Ashley is recovering from a back injury she suffered while playing in Australia, and has been placed on the 45-day disabled list. She is likewise not expected to be available until after the Challenge Cup.
Two other players have not yet joined the team in Montana. As Predmore noted in his Wednesday press conference, defender Celia Jimenez Delgado was having difficulties returning to the United States from Spain due to coronavirus-related travel restrictions, but she is now expected to arrive to Washington on Monday and join the team in Montana early next week, after she goes through the NWSL international quarantine protocol. Forward Megan Rapinoe is the other player to not yet report to Missoula, and her status for the tournament is unclear.
With rosters expanded to 28 players and squad rotation critical with such a compressed tournament schedule, OL Reign expects to sign several additional players before final rosters are due on June 21.
“We are feeling good about the group we have assembled for preseason and the tournament. The unexpected break in preseason means that players recovering from long-term injury—including Betos, Fishlock, Smith, and Spencer—will be ready to more fully participate in training when it resumes this week,” said OL Reign CEO Bill Predmore. “It is unfortunate that Julia Ashley and Sam Hiatt are still recovering from their injuries, but we hope to see both players in Tacoma after the Challenge Cup is complete. We also expect to sign one or two additional players over the next week, meaning we’ll likely take 26-28 players with us into the tournament.”