Rosters were officially unveiled today for the 2020 NWSL Challenge Cup, which starts on Saturday in Utah. OL Reign will travel to Utah with 28 players after announcing the signing of four additional players. In addition, the Challenge Cup schedule is in the process of being revised after the surprise last-minute withdrawal of the Orlando Pride due to an outbreak of COVID-19 on their team following an exposure.
Newly signed for OL Reign are goalkeeper Carly Nelson; defenders Machaela George and Madison Hammond; and forward Mariah Lee. Hammond has signed a two-year contract with an option for a third year, while the other three new players are signed to short-term contracts for the duration of the tournament.
“We are feeling good about the squad we’ve assembled for the tournament. We have a strong core of experienced players surrounded by a group of extremely talented young players. Together, we believe they’ll give us the balance, depth, and quality needed to succeed at the Challenge Cup,” said OL Reign CEO Bill Predmore in a team release. “The time together in Montana has been incredibly valuable given the many changes to the squad. Farid [Reign head coach Farid Benstiti] has done a great job bringing the group together, so we are excited to see how the team performs in Utah.”
The team also announced the acquisition of forward Leah Pruitt, who was waived by the North Carolina Courage earlier in the day. She was a 2019 first-round draft pick by the Courage, selected fifth overall out of USC. She appeared in 14 games for the Courage last year, scoring two goals and collecting one assist in 554 minutes. Pruitt is recovering from an injury and joins defender Julia Ashley on the injured list for the duration of the tournament.
As expected, the Reign will also be without Megan Rapinoe, who opted to sit out the tournament. Several other USWNT players, including Christen Press, Tobin Heath and Carli Lloyd, will likewise miss the tournament for various reasons. Sky Blue FC announced on Saturday that Lloyd is still recovering from a lingering injury; Press and Heath, like Rapinoe, opted to forgo the risks associated with participation in the tournament.
“Megan let us know that she has decided not play in the tournament. Like all NWSL players, she was given the option to participate. Farid and I would love to have her with the club for the tournament, but we understand and respect her decision,” said Predmore. “We have had to find ways to win without Megan in the past and are ready to do so again at the Challenge Cup. Megan is the only OL Reign player that has elected not to participate in the tournament, so despite her absence, Farid and I are confident the team has all the depth and quality it needs to succeed.”
Also announced on Monday were the tournament rules and regulations. Most notably, the tournament will use the modified FIFA substitution rules, which allow up to five player substitutions during three sub stoppages per team. Following the preliminary stage, the top eight teams will be placed into a seeded bracket for the knockout round based on total points earned (notably, there are now only eight teams in the tournament). Should teams be tied on points going into the knockout round, they will be sorted based on head-to-head performance, followed by goal differential, total goals scored, and finally the lowest number of disciplinary points accrued. In the knockout round, any games tied at the end of regulation will go directly to kicks from the spot.
The championship game and the tournament opener will air live on CBS, while all other matches will be broadcast live on CBS All Access for US and Canadian viewers, and on Twitch for international viewers.
OL Reign 2020 NWSL Challenge Cup Roster by Position
Goalkeepers (3): Michelle Betos, Casey Murphy, Carly Nelson
Defenders (10): Lauren Barnes, Amber Brooks, Alana Cook, Steph Cox, Machaela George, Madison Hammond, Celia Jiménez Delgado (INT), Adrienne Jordan, Kristen McNabb, Taylor Smith
Forwards (7): Bethany Balcer, Sofia Huerta, Darian Jenkins, Mariah Lee, Nicole Momiki, Jasmyne Spencer, Jodie Taylor
INT – International Slot; FED – U.S. Soccer Federation Player