Professional soccer players aren’t generally accustomed to playing games early in the morning. But many teams do hold regular practices at those times.
That’s why Utah Royals FC coach Craig Harrington isn’t concerned about when his team is scheduled to play during the National Women’s Soccer League Challenge Cup, which starts on June 27 in Herriman.
“The actual time for us is not anything that’s come up as a concern or an issue,” Harrington said Tuesday in a Zoom call with media.
The Royals have their schedule for the NWSL’s return to play after a hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The league released the schedule for this summer’s Challenge Cup, a one-month tournament in Utah that could replace the 2020 season. It goes through July 26, when the championship game will be played.
Every team in the tournament will play in one of two time slots: 10:30 a.m. and 8 p.m. Three of Utah’s four games are at 10:30 a.m.
But 10:30 a.m. is when the team usually holds its practices in Sandy. In addition, Harrington said the team went to Herriman and held a modified practice game at 10:30 a.m. The bulk of the tournament will be played at Herriman’s Zions Bank Stadium, home of the Real Monarchs.
“We’re trying to tick those boxes as much as possible,” Harrington said.
The Royals start June 30 against the Washington Spirit, a team URFC found out it was playing during a live draw two weeks ago. That game is at 10:30 a.m. at Zions Bank Stadium in Herriman.
Utah then faces the Chicago Red Stars on July 4 at 8 p.m., OL Reign on July 8 at 10:30 a.m., and the North Carolina Courage on July 12 at 10:30 a.m.
Defender Rachel Corsie said she is actually looking forward to playing games in the morning.
“I find the long days harder,” Corsie said.
Possibly needing to wake up earlier also suits Corsie personally. A Scotland native, most of her family is overseas and the time difference has her waking up at around 6 a.m. regularly.
There won’t be many days between games during the tournament, with teams getting about three or four off days. Harrington said with Utah’s first game against the Spirit being followed by a night game against Chicago, there might be a slight advantage there because the team gets a bit more rest.
Corsie said with her experience in other tournaments, players don’t really want to do much during days off other than relax and recover. So the “village environment” under which every team will operate might not feel as restrictive.
“Initially there was concerns about feeling a little bit trapped and unsure what to do,” Corsie said. “But ultimately I think we’ll welcome those rest days when it comes. It’s going to be hot. The games are going to be intense. … I think that whole village environment will kind of take care of itself.”
NWSL CHALLENGE CUP SCHEDULE
All games at Zions Bank Stadium unless otherwise noted.
10: 30 a.m. — North Carolina Courage vs. Portland Thorns, CBS/CBS All Access
8 p.m. — Orlando Pride vs. Chicago Red Stars, CBS All Access
10:30 a.m. — Washington Spirit vs. Utah Royals, CBS All Access
8 p.m. — OL Reign vs. Sky Blue, CBS All Access
10:30 a.m. — Portland Thorns vs. Orlando Pride, CBS All Access
8 p.m. — NC Courage vs. Houston Dash, CBS All Access
10:30 a.m. — OL Reign vs. Washington Spirit, CBS All Access
8 p.m. — Chicago Red Stars vs. Utah Royals, CBS All Access
10:30 a.m. — Sky Blue vs. Houston Dash, CBS All Access
8 p.m. — Orlando Pride vs. NC Courage, CBS All Access
10:30 a.m. — Utah Royals vs. OL Reign, CBS All Access
8 p.m. — Washington Spirit vs. Portland Thorns, CBS All Access
10:30 a.m. — Houston Dash vs. Chicago Red Stars, CBS All Access
8 p.m. — Sky Blue vs. Orlando Pride, CBS All Access
10:30 a.m. — Utah Royals vs. NC Courage, CBS All Access
8 p.m. — Portland Thorns vs. OL Reign, CBS All Access
10:30 a.m. — Chicago Red Stars vs. Sky Blue, CBS All Access
8 p.m. —Houston Dash vs. Washington Spirit, CBS All Access
10:30 a.m. — Quarterfinal 1, CBS All Access
8 p.m. — Quarterfinal 2, CBS All Access
10:30 a.m. — Quarterfinal 3, CBS All Access
8 p.m. — Quarterfinal 4, CBS All Access
10:30 a.m. — Semifinal 1, , Rio Tinto Stadium, CBS All Access
8 p.m. — Semifinal 2, Rio Tinto Stadium, CBS All Access
10:30 a.m. — Championship, Rio Tinto Stadium, CBS/CBS All Access