Sorry, MLS, the NWSL is actually the first professional contact sports league to return in the US

Brad Smith/ISI Photos/Getty ImagesJulie Ertz (left) of the Chicago Red Stars battles Lynn Williams of the NC Courage for a loose ball.
  • The National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) will be the first professional domestic contact sports league returning to action.
  • On May 27, the world’s premier women’s soccer league announced plans for a bubble-style, 25-game tournament – dubbed the 2020 Challenge Cup – beginning on June 27 in Utah.
  • More than two weeks later, Major League Soccer (MLS) announced plans to salvage its 2020 season with the “MLS is Back Tournament” beginning July 8.
  • Multiple outlets have reported that MLS will be the first professional contact sports league back in the United States.
  • It’s not. The NWSL is.
  • Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Fans have been waiting with bated breath for the return of domestic professional contact sports.

And on June 27, they will finally be able to exhale.

NWSLJose Argueta/ISI Photos/Getty Images

On May 27, the National Women’s Soccer League announced plans for a bubble-style tournament – dubbed the 2020 Challenge Cup – beginning on June 27. The world’s premier women’s soccer association – which employs all 23 of the current US Women’s National Team players and many more international stars – will convene in Utah to play 25 games in isolation without fans in attendance.

Though the league’s initial restart announcement received a considerable amount of attention, some outlets seemingly forgot – or outright ignored – the NWSL once Major League Soccer revealed its own plan to return to the pitch.

Tobin heath portland thornsCraig Mitchelldyer/ISI Photos/Getty ImagesTobin Heath of the Portland Thorns.

More than two weeks after the NWSL released its comeback plan, MLS announced plans to salvage its 2020 season with the “MLS is Back Tournament” beginning July 8. In covering the men’s league’s return, reporters from CNBC, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, NBC Sports, and more suggested the MLS’ Florida-based tournament would constitute the first instance of professional contact sports returning in the US.

They were wrong.

NWSL fans – and women’s sports fans in general – took to social media to express their disappointment with the faulty coverage.

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The gaffe was yet another instance of women’s sports leagues getting overlooked by major media outlets. It’s far from uncommon. In April, ESPN’s leading NFL analyst, Adam Schefter, came under fire during the 2020 NFL Draft after he tweeted: “For the first time in what feels like forever, a real live sporting event.”

The 2020 WNBA Draft, basketball fans were quick to note, had aired live on ESPN less than one week prior. And it had garnered more viewership than any draft in more than a decade before it.

Megan rapinoe carli lloydAbbie Parr/Getty ImagesMegan Rapinoe (left) of the OL Reign and Carli Lloyd of Sky Blue FC.

It happened again the month prior when the Disney-owned company planned to broadcast the WNBA draft on ESPN2 even though most live sports were on hold at the time due to the coronavirus pandemic. Fans were vocal in their opposition to the decision, which prompted the network to move the draft to its flagship channel during prime time.

It’s happened countless times before, too: on the international stage with the US Women’s National Team, Team USA basketball, and Team USA hockey and on the domestic level with the WNBA, NWSL, National Women’s Hockey League (NWHL), and others.

And now, this. The NWSL had a unique opportunity to position itself out ahead of other American sports leagues and earn some much-needed and much-deserved national media coverage, but – predictably – much of the media blundered.

Crystal dunnAndy Mead/ISI Photos/Getty ImagesCrystal Dunn of the NC Courage.

This outlet is committed to getting it right. The NWSL, not MLS, will be the first professional domestic contact sports league returning to action.

Fans can watch the entire tournament – which features all nine NWSL teams – via CBS All Access. The opener and championship game will also be broadcast on CBS.

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