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Lion Links: 6/24/20

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More details on Orlando Pride’s tournament withdrawal, Challenge Cup rule changes, odds for the upcoming tournaments, and more.

Sky Blue F.C. v Orlando Pride : National Women’s Soccer League Photo by Ira L. Black/Corbis via Getty Images

Good morning, Mane Landers. I hope the day finds you all healthy and safe. There is quite a bit of news to cover this morning, so let’s get right to it.

More Details on Orlando Pride Tournament Withdrawal

More details continue coming out surrounding the news of the Orlando Pride withdrawing from the NWSL Challenge Cup as a result of players being infected with COVID-19.

Multiple sources tell The Equalizer that some Pride players had participated in various forms of behavior which did not maintain social distancing, including being at social establishments such as bars and nightclubs. Bars, pubs, nightclubs and restaurants in Florida all began reopening and increasing capacity restrictions over the past several weeks. One source said that the NWSL Medical Task Force was able to perform contact tracing to a degree of certainty that the club’s first COVID-19 case came from some form of social activity in the community.

Sydney Leroux and Ashlyn Harris reacted to the news of the Pride having to pull out. The club has declined to comment, while supporters have been ruthless in trying to dig up dirt.

“To the fans ... My ask is that you stop digging for things that cannot change the situation at this point,” Harris wrote. “My hope is you start checking in and supporting these players and the staff. We could use some positivity and love. Thank you. Stay safe.”

The National Women’s Soccer League released this statement yesterday:

Leroux made it clear that it is the players who are responsible — not Head Coach Marc Skinner — for what happened.

NWSL Rule Changes for Challenge Cup

The NWSL announced that it would be making changes to the rules for the upcoming Challenge Cup. The league will be eliminating extra time, ending the match at the final whistle and if the game is tied, teams will go straight to penalty kicks. Additionally, teams will be allowed to make five substitutions, instead of the regular three, but the subs will need to be made during three pauses in play. Any player who chooses not to participate will not count toward roster slots or salary caps.

Some USWNT Players Will Not Participate in NWSL Challenge Cup

We’ve been hearing them one by one, and it comes as no surprise that more players from the USWNT have reservations about playing in the Challenge Cup and will be sitting it out. Portland forward Tobin Heath will be among those sitting it out.

“Although I want to be on the field with my teammates doing what I love, because of the uncertainty and risks created by COVID-19, I have chosen not to participate in the NWSL Challenge Cup,” Heath said in a statement. “I can’t even express how much I am looking forward to my next game in Providence Park.”

Other USWNT stars not appearing include Carli Lloyd, Christen Press, Mallory Pugh and Megan Rapinoe. Alex Morgan also would not have participated even if Orlando had stayed in the tournament.

Tournament Odds

The odds have been shared for the MLS is Back and NWSL Challenge Cup tournaments. The North Carolina Courage are favored 3/2 to win the NWSL Challenge Cup, followed by the Chicago Red Stars (7/2), Portland Thorns (5/1), and Utah Royals (7/1). LAFC is the favorite to win the MLS is Back Tournament with 9/2 odds, followed by, New York City FC and Seattle Sounders at 8/1, and Atlanta United (10/1).

Free Kicks
  • Orlando City’s David Lorea says he’s’ happy to get back to playing.

That’ll do it for me today, everyone. Have a great day and stay safe!