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UNC Soccer: An update on the Tar Heels at the NWSL Challenge Cup

Let’s check in on the former UNC players taking part in the bubble tournament in Utah.

2020 NWSL Challenge Cup - Day 8 Photo by Alex Goodlett/Getty Images

The National Womens Soccer League began their version of the 2020 season a few weeks ago. Due to the ongoing pandemic, they created the NWSL Challenge Cup, a bubble tournament in Utah.

As we’ve gone over, there are plenty of Tar Heels taking part across seven of the eight teams taking part. With Monday marking the end of preliminary round of games, and the knockout playoff stage beginning today, let’s take a look to see how the UNC alumni taking part have been doing.

The dominant team in the “regular season” (or whatever you want to call it) was the 2019 champions North Carolina Courage. One of their dominant players has been former league MVP and Tar Heel Crystal Dunn. She scored the second goal in the Courage’s win on Monday as they finished with a perfect four wins out of four to start the tournament.

They’ve been so good, they’ve finished first despite not having 2019 World Cup winner and another Tar Heel in Jessica McDonald. The forward only made here 2020 debut as a second half substitute in the Courage’s last game as she works her way back from injury.

Despite their dominance, the Courage still has a lot to do, as now it’s a single elimination tournament feature all eight teams. In the opening knockout round today, they’ll have to face the eight seed Portland Thorns.

In the opening game of the tournament, the Courage beat the Thorns and their Tar Heel. Meghan Klingenberg. The 2015 World cup winner Klingenberg has started all four games in defense for Portland. Considering that the Thorns have finished last despite allowing just three goals in four games, it’s hard to blame her and her defensive teammates too much for their record. Although, they’ve now got their hands full today.

The other game today will be between the four seed Houston Dash and five seed Utah Royals.

The Dash feature two Tar Heels in Bridgette Andrzejewski and Lindsey Harris, although neither have gotten any minutes in the tournament yet. As for the Royals, they have UNC alumn and New Zealand international Katie Bowen. She has played in all four games, starting two and coming off the bench in the others.

The remaining four teams will be in action tomorrow, starting with the early game between two seed Washington Spirit and seven seed Sky Blue FC.

The Spirit feature three Heels on their roster, including Paige Neilsen, who has played every minute so far. Another in Dorian Bailey has also played every game, starting two and making two other appearances off the bench. A third in Jessie Scarpa has yet to get on the field.

Their opponent, Sky Blue, is the only team with a Heel.

The final quarterfinal will be between the three seed OL Reign and six seed Chicago Red Stars.

For the Reign, USWNT regular Allie Long played in three games, but was substituted out early of their regular season finale after needing attention from the trainer. It appears as though she’ll be good to go for their quarterfinal. A second Heel on the reign in Amber Brooks has played every minute in the Reign’s last three games after not playing in the opening game.

For Chicago, they also have two UNC alumns. Kealia Watt has appeared in three of Chicago’s games, while Zoe Redei came off the bench in the Red Stars’ draw against Portland.

The semifinals of the tournament will be on on the 22nd, and the final on the 26th. All of the games can be seen on the CBS All-Access streaming service, while the final will be on CBS. As you can see, there’s a decent chance that championship game will feature a couple Heels.