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NWSL announces fall series kicking off Sept. 5, with fans possibly included

Over the course of seven weeks, there will be 18 matches, seven of them airing on CBS networks.

The NWSL plans to open a fall series on Sept. 5.
The NWSL plans to open a fall series on Sept. 5.
Rick Bowmer/AP

The Red Stars are preparing to get back to action after the National Women’s Soccer League announced its return to play with a fall series from Sept. 5 through Oct. 17.

Over the course of seven weeks, there will be a total of 18 NWSL matches, seven of them airing on CBS networks. Another four will stream exclusively on CBS All Access.

“We’re starting our third preseason,” Red Stars midfielder Danielle Colaprico said. “It’s hard to go an entire year playing such few games, so [this] will be great for the league.”

The series will be built around three regional “pods,” each consisting of three teams. Within each pod, each team will play the others twice each — a total of four games per team and six per pod — to limit travel and potential exposure to the coronavirus. The full schedule and format of play will be released in the next week, the league said.

The Red Stars will play in the Northeast pod, along with Sky Blue FC and the Washington Spirit.

Although the series will not be held in bubble environments, the NWSL has established health and safety protocols that mirror those successfully used for its monthlong Challenge Cup in June and July.

Most notable are the travel guidelines: For travel between markets, teams must either fly or charter two 50-plus-person motor coaches. Vans aren’t permitted. And for air travel, players and personnel must maintain their assigned seats throughout a flight, unless moving to a new seat puts more space between people. Seat changes must be reported.

Players and personnel will be tested for the coronavirus daily and undergo symptom screening. If a player or staff member tests positive, that team’s facilities must close immediately, and contact tracing must begin.

Fan attendance for the games will vary by market, depending on whether a team wants to allow fans and whether it’s acceptable under local and state guidelines. Teams that host fans also must submit fan-management plans to the league that ensure no one sits closer than the eighth row.

“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,” NWSL commissioner Lisa Baird said in a statement.