Thorns fall in Challenge Cup opener

North Carolina's late goal turns into 2-1 victory
Staff Report

A stoppage-time goal by North Carolina boosted the two-time defending league champions to a 2-1 win over the Portland Thorns in the opening match of the NWSL Challenge Cup being played in suburban Salt Lake City, Utah.

Lucy Williams headed home a cross from Samantha Mewis in the fourth minute of stoppage time to break a 1-a tie.

Portland scored in the 80th minute when Simone Charley put home short volley after a wild scramble in front of the North Carolina goal moved to ball to her just one foot from the goal.

North Carolina scored the tournament opener in the 75th minute when Debinha headed home a cross by Hallie Mace, taking advantage of a defensive lapse by the Thorns.

The match was the first by a pro league in the U.S. since all pro leagues stopped regular play March 12. The match was also the first to be broadcast on a major network in the eight years of matches.

The tournament continues to July 26, with the final being broadcast on CBS.

Portland's second match is Wednesday against the Chicago Red Stars, at 9:30 a.m. The match will be streamed by CBS All-Access. 



June 26, 2020

The National Women's Soccer League is headed for uncharted waters Saturday with the opening match of the Challenge Cup - namely its media partnership with CBS.

The opening match pitting Portland Thorns FC and the North Carolina Courage is scheduled for 9:30 a.m. on CBS, the first time a women's professional soccer match will be broadcast on one of the four major networks.

CBS signed onto a three-year exclusive partnership with the NWSL on March 11, when the league was set to open play on April 11. Later that day, Rudy Gobert of the NBA's Utah Jazz tested positive for COVID-19 and all major sports leagues as well as NCAA sports began cancelling events. The NWSL is the first league to begin play.

Twitch, the media app owned by Amazon, also agreed to a partnership to be the exclusive international media partner - on March 11. 

CBS will also cover the Challenge Cup final, July 26. All other matches will be streamed on CBS All-Access, a service available for $5.99 monthly. Twitch will provide streaming service for free to fans outside of the U.S. and Canada.

All Cup matches will be played at Zions Bank Stadium in suburban Salt Lake City, with the semifinals and final being played at Rio Tinto Stadium - the home field of the NWSL's Utah Royals FC and MLS side Real Salt Lake - in Sandy, Utah. Since the league began in 2013, it has had media partnerships with Fox Sports, ESPN and Lifetime, but none of those resulted in a regular broadcast match.

CBS is one of a number of partnerships the NWSL signed in the months following the U.S. win in the World Cup beginning with Budweiser in July.

COVID-19 has not diminished partnership interest in the league, which announced Google as one today. Google plans to use its app Google Meet to provide virtual cheering sections for Challenge Cup matches. Verizon signed on in late May, and Procter and Gamble agreed to a partnership for its Secret brand in winter as well.

Nutritional supplement company Thorne continues to be a partner as does Nike.

Nike extended its partnership through 2022. 



May 24

The Portland Thorns FC announced their 26-player roster Tuesday in advance of the NWSL Challenge Cup that begins Saturday, and most of the regular names were on the list.

Christine Sinclair, Lindsey Horan, Adrianna Franch, Becky Sauerbrunn - all members of the US National Team - are set to play, as is international star Rocky Rodriguez of Costa Ria.

One name not on the list is US National Team star Tobin Heath, who decided not to play.

The team's top two draft picks: forwards Sophia Smith and Morgan Weaver, will play their first matches when the Thorns take on North Carolina at 9:30 a.m. Saturday in the opening match of the month-long tournament.

Saturday's match is set to be televised by CBS, one of two matches the network is scheduled to broadcast. The other is the final, July 26.

All matches will be played at Zions Bank Stadium in suburban Salt Lake City, Utah, or Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy, Utah. The semifinals and final are the matches set for Rio Tinto, the home of both NWSL side Utah Royals and Major League Soccer side Real Salt Lake.

Eight of the nine NWSL teams have entered into the tournament. Orlando withdrew Monday citing at least 10 players or staffers who've tested positive for COVID-19. The NWSL announced one player or staff member had tested positive for the virus last week at the practice facility where teams were practicing next to Zions Bank Stadium, but no more information was available from the league, and preparations were not affected.

Portland has not announced any positive tests among its players or staff.

2020 Thorns FC NWSL Challenge Cup roster
Goalkeepers (3): Bella Bixby, Britt Eckerstrom, Adrianna Franch (FED-USA)

Defenders (9): Kelli Hubly, Meghan Klingenberg, Emily Menges, Meaghan Nally (CDP), Madison Pogarch, Katherine Reynolds, Becky Sauerbrunn (FED-USA), Autumn Smithers, Christen Westphal

Midfielders (6): Celeste Boureille, Lindsey Horan (FED-USA), Emily OgleRocky Rodríguez (INTL), Angela Salem, Gabby Seiler

Forwards (7): Simone Charley, Marissa Everett, Tyler Lussi, Anika Rodriguez, Christine Sinclair (FED-CAN), Sophia Smith (CDP), Morgan Weaver (CDP)

CDP – 2020 NWSL College Draft pick
FED – Federation Player
INTL – International Player