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2021 NWSL schedule to begin with Challenge Cup in mid-April, regular season in mid-May

What does that mean for Spurs’ on loan NWSL players, Alex Morgan, Alanna Kennedy, and Shelina Zadorsky? We’ll see.

Bristol City Women v Tottenham Hotspur Women - Barclays FA Women’s Super League Photo by Tottenham Hotspur FC/Tottenham Hotspur FC via Getty Images

The NWSL announced the framework for its 2021 schedule, with a timeline now clear for the league’s players, including Tottenham Hotspur’s on loan trio of Alex Morgan, Alanna Kennedy, and Shelina Zadorsky.

The league announced that preseason will begin on February 1 ahead of a second edition of the NWSL Challenge Cup in mid-April and the start of the regular season in mid-May. The Challenge Cup was a tournament the NWSL created as a partial replacement for the 2020 regular season, which was scrapped because of the coronavirus pandemic. The expansion of the playing calendar means the regular season, which in the past began in April, would now begin a month later. The start of preseason, though, is a month earlier than NWSL preseason began last year.

How this may impact Spurs’ deals with Morgan, Kennedy, and Zadorsky is unknown at this point. Orlando Pride head coach Marc Skinner said in September he wanted Morgan and Zadorsky back for NWSL in preseason, but ESPN’s Graham Hays reported that Morgan’s decision is hers alone. Zadorsky is probably in the same boat, as the Orlando Sentinel’s Julia Poe reported that she is out of contract with the Pride at the end of the year. Kennedy’s NWSL contract situation is slightly murkier after she was drafted by expansion side Racing Louisville last week, but the contract itself may not impact her deal with Tottenham.

The likeliest bet is that the NWSL schedule does not impact these players’ plans much. They moved to England with the Olympic Games in Tokyo, still scheduled for July, in mind and needed to stay active during the NWSL’s stretch six month stretch without matches from October to April. Many have prepared for the fact that the NWSL players in Europe will not return until after the Olympics, and the NWSL 2021 framework does little to change that. In the end, it will most likely be up to each player.