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Tough challenge ahead for me and Kansas City.

Byline: Rachel Corsie SCOTLAND'S CAPTAIN SPEAKS OUT Moreen Simpson Column

THE USA Challenge Cup returns again in 2021 and this time it will kick off before the full domestic NWSL league season follows suit.

The tournament began last year as an alternative to a "normal" season in order to work around the restrictions imposed due to Covid-19.

The extensive travel requirements in the top division of the professional game in the United States meant the entire tournament was hosted in Utah, however this year it will run slightly differently.

As it is still a precarious time, the NWSL's medical task force that handles all safety protocols has continued to ensure appropriate measures are in place to allow for the safe running of the entire tournament.

As the US has evidently started to reopen a little more rapidly compared to back in Scotland, the measures in place for competing clubs and their staff and players are far more extensive to that of the general public.

While the temptation exists of going to one of the restaurants or cafes that are now fully open here in Kansas City, a takeaway coffee is still about as exciting as it gets for us as players.

With the addition of Racing Louisville FC entering proceedings, the NWSL now has 10 teams and that has allowed the league to split into two even divisions, East and West.

Each team will play two home and two away fixtures as part of an initial group stage, before the top two will play off against each other in the final.

Champions Houston Dash will open this year's competition, as they travel to face Chicago on April 9. My team Kansas City will begin our historic journey playing our first ever match against

Portland later the same day.

The final will take place on May 8 with the league holding back on the glamorous venue that will host that particular spectacle.

With games just under a week away, it signals the end of yet another pre-season. This will have been my seventh in the United States, and while it has felt long and hard, it has also been great that the league has this year extended the pre-season window from four to eight weeks.

With that, they have subsequently added the cup competition to start things off and have further prolonged the league so that it will continue all the way until the end of November. For the players, having this extension and a full year's calendar adds to the value of the game in many ways.

It gives the league a higher status when compared to others, but primarily it gives players a schedule that is substantial to fill the entire year.

This eliminates the extended period at the end of each season where players endure either isolated training in their preferred home markets or alternatively seek out loan opportunities as a stop-gap elsewhere.

A fuller calendar also has the potential to generate more interest and commercial revenue which continues to grow exponentially in the game here.

CAPTION(S):

Houston Dash players celebrate their Challenge Cup final victory over Chicago Red Stars in 2020

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Author:Rachel Corsie SCOTLAND'S CAPTAIN SPEAKS OUT Moreen Simpson Column
Publication:Evening Express (Aberdeen,Scotland)
Date:Apr 3, 2021
Words:524
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