OL Reign players running

The OL Reign are back.

It’s been a rough few months for sports fans everywhere, but especially in Seattle. Rock bottom came when, thanks to The Last Dance, we were debating what Sonics coach George Karl may or may not have done to piss off Michael Jordan at a dinner nearly 25 years ago, which only served as yet another reminder that our once-beloved NBA franchise ditched the city years ago.

But we don’t need to revisit that past any longer. As of tonight, professional sports action is back on for Seattle-area fans. At 7pm OL Reign will take on Sky Blue FC as part of the NWSL’s Challenge Cup. The season-opening soccer tourney, which you can watch on CBS All Access, will feature eight teams playing 23 matches over the span of a month in Utah.

Though the Reign’s roster includes 12 new acquisitions to keep an eye out for, the face of the franchise, forward Megan Rapinoe, won’t be playing. The NWSL gave all of its players the option not to suit up. But Rapinoe’s coach, Farid Benstiti, wasn’t too pleased with his star's decision earlier this month. “I understand her motivations, but I am disappointed and frustrated that she will not be with us to compete in this tournament,” Benstiti said in an interview with Le Progrès. “Megan is important to the group, and we could have achieved something big if she had joined the rest of the group. She will be missed by the team and also by women’s football."

Rapinoe and other athletes can certainly be forgiven for not feeling too psyched about playing amid a pandemic. Since Benstiti’s comments, the NWSL’s ninth squad, the Orlando Pride, had to withdraw from the Challenge Cup due to a spate of coronavirus infections. As the Mariners begin workouts this week in advance of a 60-game season and the Sounders prepare for an “MLS Is Back Tournament” that starts July 8 at Disney World, you can expect to hear about more athletes opting out of these abbreviated campaigns. Even if leagues are taking precautions, sports are generally not a great way to social distance.

They may not have to skip games, though. With cases climbing in states across the country, leagues may need to abandon their stripped-down seasons even before they’ve begun.

So, enjoy tonight’s game. You never know when the next one will be.

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