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Pre-Preseason vibes: What we’re watching with KC NWSL

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With less than a week to go until preseason, here's what we’re watching.

Portland Thorns FC v Utah Royals FC Photo by Bryan Byerly/ISI Photos/Getty Images

We’re less than a week from the return of NWSL preseason in Kansas City, which starts on Monday, February 1st. No doubt, it’s an exciting time if you were a fan of FC Kansas City or followed the players from Utah Royals FC or have decided to follow the new KC NWSL team. Here’s what we’re watching.

Player arrivals

Players began arriving this past weekend and into this week, moving into their apartments for the 2021 season. All players were tested for COVID-19 and are required to quarantine for one week. Forward Amy Rodriguez, Canadian midfielders Desiree Scott and Diana Matheson, and forward Mallory Weber have not arrived.

At press time, Rodriguez is currently still in California. Matheson and Scott were recently named to Canada’s Women’s National Team training camp roster in preparation for 2021 SheBelieves Cup. Canada is scheduled to face USA, Japan, and Brazil at the sixth edition of the international tournament, taking place Feb. 18-24 in Orlando. Should both make the roster for Canada for the tournament, we will not see them in Kansas City until March. Weber is in Australia on loan with Adelaide United in the Westfield W-League, which began in late December and wraps up in April.

2021 draft picks Victoria Pickett and Addie McCain have arrived in KC and should be ready for the opening of camp on Monday. Kiki Pickett (4th overall pick) and Lucy Parker will play the spring seasons at their schools and report shortly after that.

2021 important dates

The NWSL solidified how the 2021 season will look like, getting clearance from the league’s Medical Task Force to begin competition on April 9 with the 2021 Challenge Cup in team markets. Following the Challenge Cup, the NWSL’s 10 teams will face off in a 24-game regular season beginning May 15, 2021.

The league will not break for the 2021 Olympic Games and the regular season will conclude on Oct. 30, 2021 with the NWSL Championship on November 20. Six teams will qualify for an expanded NWSL playoffs set to begin on Nov. 6, 2021, with the top two seeds receiving a first-round bye. Full details on the Challenge Cup format and the complete regular season schedule will be released at a later date.

A full season amid COVID-19

The NWSL is preparing to hold a full season during the dangers of global pandemic. Last year, the league opted to hold the NWSL Challenge Cup in July in Utah in a controlled environment. Then, it wrapped up 2020 with the NWSL Fall Series, an 18-game mini-season, featuring three-team pods that played one another to minimize travel.

This year, the Medical Task Force has coordinated with public health officials to update the league’s medical and testing protocols to ensure the safest environment for players, teams, and staff. The full protocols can be found here.

Among the protocols:

  • A player can opt out of all or any portion of training and/or competition for issues related to COVID-19 and must complete the NWSL Opt Out Request Form and submit it to her Team physician, along with any requested supporting documentation. The Team physician will determine if the player, or someone living in her household, is at high risk for serious COVID-19-related illness due to a pre-existing condition. If so, the player will be approved for a Medical Opt Out.
  • A player on Medical Opt Out will continue to receive her full compensation and benefits.
  • Testing must occur prior to the start of pre-season. Any player (contracted or trialist) that will participate in team training must have completed the 7-day quarantine period, and receive a negative result from a PCR test taken on day 6 or 7 of quarantine, prior to being present at any team training or activity. All staff must have a negative PCR test result before being present at any team training or activity.
  • Testing during the Competition will be twice weekly PCR testing or other tests that are acceptable (e.g., Sirona Fluidigm and MAKO Medical).
  • Players who break medical protocols can face an oral warning, written warning, a fine, and suspension (with or without pay)

Let 2021 begin!