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OL Reign’s Rapinoe to skip NWSL Challenge Cup

Lyon (AFP) – US women’s national team star Megan Rapinoe will not play for OL Reign in the NWSL Challenge Cup later this month due to concerns about the spread of coronavirus, her club coach said.

The United States has been the country hit hardest by the pandemic in terms of the number of fatalities, recording more than 107,000 deaths and nearly 1.85 million COVID-19 cases.

Rapinoe, 34, is also said to have fears about the compressed fixture list and increased risk of injury with 25 matches scheduled over the course of a month.

“It’s a shame. I understand her motivations but I’m disappointed and frustrated that she’s not with us to compete in this tournament,” OL Reign coach Farid Benstiti told French regional daily Le Progres.

“Megan is important to the group and we could have achieved something important with the club, if she had joined the rest of the group. She will be greatly missed by the team and also women’s football.”

The National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) is set to become the first US team sport league to return from the coronavirus shutdown.

The nine-team league will host a 25-game tournament in Utah without spectators, each team playing four preliminary round games to determine seedings. Eight advance to the quarter-finals for a knockout event with a champion to be decided in a July 26 final.

Games will be played at Zions Bank Stadium, home of the NWSL Utah Royals, with the semi-finals and final at Rio Tinto Stadium, home of Major League Soccer’s Real Salt Lake.

Every player, official and essential staff member will be tested 48 hours prior to departure for Utah and upon arrival and be subject to consistent testing, temperature readings and symptom review in Utah.

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