clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Orlando Pride Will Return to Play in NWSL “Fall Series”

Pride will face Houston and North Carolina both home and away and there are a lot of unanswered questions about it.

SOCCER: OCT 12 NWSL - Reign FC at Orlando Pride Photo by Joe Petro/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Orlando Pride — or what’s left of the Orlando Pride, with 10 players currently abroad on loan deals or short-term contracts — will finally begin play in 2020. The NWSL announced today its “Fall Series,” in which all nine of the league’s teams will play two home and two away matches in three-team “pods.” Orlando shares its pod with the defending NWSL champion North Carolina Courage and the Challenge Cup-winning Houston Dash.

So the Pride, who have not played in 2020 due to withdrawing from the Challenge Cup, will get to square off against the league’s best team and its hottest team with several starters and key reserves away. The NWSL Fall Series will take place between Sept. 5 and Oct. 17.

The NWSL fall series will include 18 matches over the course of seven weeks, featuring three, three-team pods. Teams within each pod will play one another to enable the league to minimize travel. The full format and schedule for the NWSL fall series will be released in the next week.

“Building on the success of this summer’s Challenge Cup, I am so excited to smartly and safely take this next step on the NWSL’s journey,” said NWSL Commissioner Lisa Baird in a league press release. “The women of the NWSL want to compete and we’ve certainly heard from our fans all over the world looking for more action this year. I’d like to thank the NWSL Player’s Association for their constant collaboration, as well as CBS for continuing to invest in our league’s growth and this unprecedented opportunity to showcase the NWSL to a world-wide audience, week-in, week-out.”

A key part of the Fall Series from the league’s perspective is the ability for the league to get television coverage through its partnership with CBS.

It’s unclear whether every game will be available to fans. Of the 18 matches, seven will be on national television on either CBS or CBS Sports Network and Goff said four more matches will be streamed on CBS All Access. That would seem to indicate 11 of the 18 will be available for fans to watch unless some more games are added to the broadcast schedule. Pride fans would likely be permitted to attend home matches, provided they take place at Exploria Stadium, as Orlando City is already allowing fans to attend in limited capacity.

It is also unclear whether these matches will have any real stakes. Having each team play four games is nice, but is this the entirety of the 2020 plan? Will each pod compete for its own trophy? If these games are just friendlies, it might not be in the league’s best interest to have them nationally televised. While more exposure is a good thing, to give viewers an inferior product isn’t necessarily helpful. Orlando isn’t the only team with starting-caliber players out on loan right now, although it likely has the most.

As for keeping the players safe in the midst of this pandemic, the NWSL will follow return-to-play protocols developed by the NWSL Medical Task Force for the Challenge Cup. Those protocols, which allowed the Challenge Cup to take place safely, have been updated for home-market matches and regional travel, and will influence all league and club actions outside the field of play. These protocols cover aspects such as personal protective equipment, travel, lodging, and what to do in case of positive COVID-19 tests.

Currently, the Pride have 10 players overseas and forward Alex Morgan has not yet returned from maternity leave, although she has been working out on her own in preparation for a return to competition. So, Orlando could be without up to 11 players when the Fall Series gets underway at the end of next week.

The players currently with other teams include:

  • Camila (SE Palmeiras — Brazil)
  • Claire Emslie (Everton — England)
  • Alanna Kennedy (Tottenham - England)
  • Phoebe McClernon (Växjö DFF — Sweden)
  • Erin McLeod (Ungmennafélag Stjarnan — Iceland)
  • Jade Moore (Atletico Madrid — Spain)
  • Carson Pickett (Apollon Ladies FC — Cyprus)
  • Ali Riley (FC Rosengård — Sweden)
  • Emily Sonnett (Kopparbergs/Göteborg FC — Sweden)
  • Shelina Zadorsky (Tottenham — England)

By my count that leaves the current contracted players, although the club can fill in the remainder of the roster with trialists or other short-term signings, much like National Team Replacement Players were used in the past.

Goalkeepers:

Ashlyn Harris.

Defenders:

Julie King, Ali Krieger, Courtney Petersen, Konya Plummer, Toni Pressley, Morgan Reid.

Midfielders:

Taylor Kornieck, Marta, Emily van Egmond, Marisa Viggiano.

Forwards:

Kristen Edmonds, Abby Elinsky, Caitlin Farrell, Sydney Leroux.

(Note: players are listed by position as they appear on the team’s roster page, although they may also play other positions.)

Clearly 14 players are not enough and Reid was placed on the 45-day disabled list in late June, so her match fitness may be in question. It is possible for the Pride to recall some of the loaned-out players, but that would seem less likely than filling in the roster with young players trying to earn a spot in the league, some of whom have already trained with the team prior to the Challenge Cup. The Pride waived goalkeeper Lainey Burdett, midfielder Bridget Callahan, and defender Carrie Lawrence in June, and fullback Erin Greening earlier this month. It is unclear whether any of those players could be brought back for the Fall Series.

The big questions will be how the Pride will fill out the roster for these four matches, whether Morgan will be available for the Fall Series, and how the club will approach fan access (read: admission cost) to games to watch a team that lacks so many presumed starters. And will the Pride’s Twitter account stan Orlando’s opponents to keep cursing them and help the club?

Regardless, it will be good to have the Orlando Pride and the NWSL back in some form. The league will release further details in the coming days.