The NWSL returned to play, drawing record ratings over the weekend

The NWSL returned to play, drawing record ratings over the weekend

The National Women’s Soccer League made its return to the pitch on Saturday.

And what a return it was.

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A record-setting first match at the #NWSLChallengeCup 💪

— NWSL (@NWSL) June 30, 2020

Play began on Saturday for the NWSL Challenge Cup in Utah, featuring eight teams vying for the inaugural trophy in the top women’s league in the world.

And the first day of soccer drew record setting numbers.

The #NWSL ratings for Portland vs. North Carolina on CBS: An 572,000 and, in the 18-49 demographic, 178,000.

That’s really good. For reference, MLS’s highest-rated regular season game last year had 462,000. NWSL has previously maxed out around ~200,000.

— Caitlin Murray (@caitlinmurr) June 30, 2020

Prior to play, a majority of the athletes on the field knelt during the national anthem in support of the Black Lives Matter movement. In addition, players donned Black Lives Matter shirts during warmups.

North Carolina Courage and Portland Thorns players took a knee before the first game of the #NWSLChallengeCup.

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— FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) June 27, 2020

The 2020 NWSL season is not like a traditional season. This year, the league is implementing an 8-team, round robin-style tournament called the Challenge Cup.

NWSL Challenge Cup starts today!!! Good luck to everyone in the tournament, so pumped to watch this for the next month 🙌🏼😄 @NWSL

— Alex Morgan (@alexmorgan13) June 27, 2020

In all, the tournament will consist of 23 games at Zions Bank Stadium in Utah, culminating with the tournament final on July 26, 2020.

The @NWSL is BACK today! You know we’ll be watching. ⚽

— Major League Soccer (@MLS) June 27, 2020

The NWSL became the first professional team sports league to return to action in the U.S.

In Saturday’s first match, the North Carolina Courage defeated the Portland Thorns FC, 2-1, in a rematch of the 2017 and 2018 championship games, both won by North Carolina.

Game 1 ✅
Game-winning goal ✅@lynnraenie |

— NC Courage (@TheNCCourage) June 28, 2020

In the second matchup of the day, the Washington Spirit claimed victory over the Chicago Red Stars, 2-1.

Rose Lavelle is a cheat code. (🎥 @nwsl)

— #MyPLSummer (@NBCSportsSoccer) June 28, 2020

Over the course of a little over two weeks, each team will match up against four NWSL opponents, also known as the “Preliminary Round,” which began on June 27.

Beginning on July 13, the top eight teams – which will equal all of the teams due to the Orlando Pride’s withdrawal from the Challenge Cup – will enter the knockout round, where it becomes a single-elimination tournament.

In the preliminary round, the second of eight match days will take place Tuesday, June 30.

Former and current soccer players, as well as fans took to Twitter over the weekend and earlier this week to express their excitement over the NWSL’s return and the players’ display of unity.

Honestly I’m the biggest player NWSL fan girl and I have no shame. Okay that is all. #NWSLChallengeCup ❤️

— Gabrielle Seiler (@gabby_seiler) June 30, 2020

You love to see it. You love to see these women using their voice, demanding better for America, and for black people and people of color. @TheNCCourage and @ThornsFC kneeling in solidarity with @Kaepernick7 and @Blklivesmatter ✊🏻✊🏼✊🏽✊🏾✊🏿

— Megan Rapinoe (@mPinoe) June 27, 2020

More @NWSL today? Yes please @CBSAllAccess

— Alex Morgan (@alexmorgan13) June 30, 2020

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