NWSL Challenge Cup Preview

Sky Blue FC

Sky Blue FC Logo

Sky Blue FC, what have you done? Talk about a lot of game changers the club has signed that can mix up the team’s line of attack from the previous seasons. A few names that spiked interest across the league were Mallory Pugh, McCall Zerboni, Midge Purce, Ifeoma Onumonu, and Kaliegh Riehl.

With a younger squad mixing in with the experience this team possesses (cough cough Carli Lloyd), fans can only imagine that this might help them move up the table in the NWSL standings.

We are all anxious to see how Pugh will be adding to the fire power up top. Unfortunately, the official roster for the Challenge Cup revealed that Pugh has sustained a hip injury and Lloyd has a minor knee injury. Both will be missing out.

When asked about the first match against OL Reign, midfielder Midge Purce stated, “It’s exciting to have something we can put on the calendar, circle the date, and look forward to.”

Excitement is an understatement! With Sky Blue coming in near the bottom of the Challenge Cup odds, they have nothing to lose. It will be exciting to see how they are able to piece together the new additions.

Utah Royals

Utah Royals FC Logo

The Utah Royals are the host for this competition. With the cup being in their backyard, home field advantage could play in their hands quite nicely.

The Royals have been buzzing to get back at it and will be looking to have another amazing run at the title. With Christen Press not in the lineup, new head coach Craig Harrington has a hole to fill. It will be his job to identify who can bring that same attacking flare that makes Press so dangerous.

Newcomers Tziarra King, Marissa Sheva, Kate Del Fava, Aminata Diallo, and Michelle Maemone will be looking to get their chance. Each of these players can bring flare to the game plan.

Fans are also excited to see Rachel Corsie, Diana Matheson, Kelley O’Hara, Desiree Scott, Amy Rodriguez, Nicole Barnhart, and Veró Boquete. They will certainly have their eyes set on winning the title on their home turf!

Washington Spirit

Washington Spirit Logo

The Washington Spirit is another squad that fans have their eyes on. It is curious to see how they will pan out this season.

While there weren’t too many incoming transfers during the offseason, the ones they did complete will alter the course of their attack. Ashley Sanchez, who was the fourth overall draft pick, can help the club mix it up in their line of attack.

The Spirit also have Andi Sullivan and Rose Lavelle, who will be looking to command the midfield and create scoring opportunities. Furthermore, we cannot forget that we have reigning Golden Glove winner Audrey Bledsoe holding it down in the back.

Other names that fans should keep a lookout for are Ashley Hatch, Jordan DiBiasi, Jenna Hellstrom, and Kumi Yokoyama.

Orlando Pride

Orlando Pride Logo

On June 22, Orlando Pride announced that they will be pulling out of the NWSL Challenge Cup. This announcement came after players and staff members tested positive for COVID-19.

Orlando Pride have put in work over the offseason. The women in purple are one of the teams in this league that have had fans especially eager for this new season. They have been looking for additions to their squad that will help them climb the ladder in the NWSL standings.

With rookie Taylor Kornieck stepping on the pitch, Pride fans can already begin to see the attacking flare will be shaping up nicely but that is not all. Three signees that are hopeful in bringing the Pride a defensively strong squad are New Zealand native Ali Riley, England native Jade Moore, and a Portland Thorns transfer Emily Sonnet.

We also must not forget soccer legend Marta, who will be looking to command the game plan in order to bang in goals.

So what are the odds? Are the odds in favor for your favorite team?

This is the first time we have seen betting odds take place in an NWSL tournament. What does this really mean and how does this work?

The algorithm was created by two Norwegians, professional poker players and sports bettor Jonas Gjelstad, and economics and engineering expert Marius Norheim. The model has broken down the NWSL Challenge Cup odds and are highly confident it has the winner. Coming off two straight league titles, North Carolina Courage have opened as a +160 favorites (risk $100 to win $160), followed by Chicago Red Stars (3-1), Portland Thorns (5-1), and OL Reign (6-1).

Looking at the model, one can tell that the model is fading the Chicago Red Stars, even though they are second favorites at 3-1.

“They just lost their top scorer Sam Kerr to Chelsea,” said Norheim to SportLine. “Time will tell whether Yuki Nagastao will step up to fill her shoes in terms of goal scoring.”

The model also loves a double-digit long shot that is by far the best value pick, saying this underrated team should be priced at much lower odds. Now, whether you are betting on the winner or not, this model gives fans an intriguing glance at what may happen.

Will this model be accurate in terms of predicting the outcome of the 2020 NWSL Challenge Cup? Anything could happen!

NWSL Challenge Cup Odds

North Carolina Courage +160
Chicago Red Stars +300
Portland Thorns +500
OL Reign +600
Utah Royals +800
Washington Spirit +1000
Houston Dash +1000
Sky Blue FC +3000
Orlando Pride +4000

Tune in to CBS Sports and Twitch for full match coverage from June 27–July 26.

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