TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — The National Women’s Soccer League will be the first professional team sports league to resume play in the United States since the start of the coronavirus pandemic.
The Challenge Cup – a nine-team, 25-game tournament – will start at the end of June in Utah.
Evelyne Viens, a forward on Sky Blue FC, actually graduated from the University of South Florida in December. She joined the NWSL team in January and now, Viens is practicing with her teammates as they prepare for those games.
“Months ago,” said Viens, “we did a full team training, but for five days.”
The coronavirus stopped that training but, in the final week of May, the players returned to the field in small groups.
“We were preparing for the whole season and now, we are preparing for like a four-game tournament, like win or die,” said Viens.
The entire approach is different but she has dealt with unique circumstances in the past.
Viens traveled from her home in Canada, where she only speaks French, to go to college in Florida, where she had to learn to speak English.
“I was so stressed,” she admitted. “I think the week before leaving I was like, ‘I do not know if I should do it.'”
She did it and she did it well. Viens led the Bulls in goals and in points for four straight seasons, breaking countless records in the process.
“I do not think I would be here without USF,” she said. “I have learned so much on the field but outside of the field too. What I learned in those four years is to try new things like staying in your comfort zone would not bring you that much so just get out and try new stuff and that is what I did when I left my country to play at USF and it just brought me to NJ now. That is something I never expected before.”
Sky Blue FC is based in New Jersey but the team will be living in the NWSL Village in Utah for the tournament.
“What the NWSL put in place,” she said, “I feel really safe and, in fact, I feel almost overly safe because we have so much stuff we are following as a team and as a league and I know the moment we get to Utah and we will be in a bubble for a month. You, like, stay in a hotel or you stay in an apartment-style place and you do not really go outside. You stay with your team because they want to be sure that we don’t risk getting the coronavirus.”
She commented on playing those games in empty stadiums.
“I think it will be interesting,” she said. “I never played in an empty stadium but, at the same time, when we play, personally, I kind of zone out with fans or not. I don’t hear them so I think the moment you play soccer that is all that matters.
Viens also touched on the significance of her league leading the charge to resume playing team sports.
“I think it is great for the NWSL because we did not just wait around for other teams and other leagues to know what they are doing. We just went forward to try to do something so that should show that our league, we need to take it seriously, and NWSL is a great league with great players and, as a team, I think it is just so exciting,” said Viens.
The tournament is currently scheduled to start on June 27 with the final game being played on July 26. The NWSL released a statement on Thursday confirming one player has tested positive for COVID-19.