The long-awaited deal for U.S. women’s national team stars Tobin Heath and Christen Press to join Manchester United is finally done, multiple sources with knowledge of the negotiations told The Inquirer on Friday.
Exactly when the news will become official is still unknown, partly because of complications enforced by the coronavirus pandemic. Chief among them is the British government’s requirement that travelers from the United States quarantine for two weeks upon arrival.
There was a belief in some quarters that the official announcement was to be made Friday, but it didn’t happen. The deal is done, though, and indications are it’s for the full 2020-21 English season.
That probably means both players won’t return to their NWSL teams — Heath to the Portland Thorns, Press to the Utah Royals — until after next summer’s Olympics, assuming the Games happen.
Heath and Press become the third and fourth U.S. players to sign big deals with English clubs this summer. Sam Mewis and Rose Lavelle, the first two, joined crosstown rival Manchester City. The teams’ first meeting is United’s home game on Nov. 15. City hosts on Feb. 10.
The FA Women’s Super League season starts this weekend, with games including City at Aston Villa on Saturday (9:30 a.m. ET) and United hosting defending champion Chelsea on Sunday (also 9:30 a.m.).
Both games will be streamed live on NBC Sports’ website (with TV provider authentication required) as part of a 50-game streaming deal the Comcast-owned entity signed with the FAWSL this week. United-Chelsea will also be televised on tape-delay Sunday at noon on NBCSN.
Mallory Pugh finally set for Sky Blue FC debut
U.S. national team winger Mallory Pugh will make her Sky Blue FC debut in the NWSL Fall Series after missing the summer Challenge Cup with a right hip injury.
Carli Lloyd won’t play as she continues a long-term rehab of a knee injury, while McCall Zerboni is out after having surgery last month to repair a torn left meniscus suffered in the team’s Challenge Cup opener. Zerboni played through the injury to help Sky Blue reach the tournament semifinals.
Sky Blue’s Fall Series opener, 1 p.m. Saturday at the Washington Spirit, will be televised nationally on CBS. It’s the first of five NWSL games that will air on CBS’ flagship broadcast network in the campaign, with room open on the schedule thanks to the SEC delaying its college football season. Two more Fall Series games will be on cable channel CBS Sports Network.
The Orlando Pride will feature in three of the TV games, a sign that U.S. star Alex Morgan may soon return to the field after giving birth to her first child in early May. She hasn’t played for the Pride since August of last year. Pride manager Marc Skinner told the Orlando Sentinel on Friday that Morgan has been back in training and is “sharp in mind as well as body.”
Of the remaining 11 games, seven will be streamed online free by Twitch and the other four will be behind CBS All Access’ paywall. Games televised on CBS or CBSSN will also be streamed online by CBS All Access.
Sky Blue’s home games are Oct. 3 against Washington (12:30 p.m., Twitch) and Oct. 10 against the Chicago Red Stars (12:30 p.m., CBS All Access). Both games will be at Montclair State University’s soccer stadium, part of the complex where the team trains, because Red Bull Arena is temporarily hosting New York City along with the Red Bulls. (Yankee Stadium and Citi Field are booked solid with baseball games.)
As of now, fans won’t be allowed at Sky Blue’s games, and that’s likely to remain the case.
Such is life as sports leagues try to play as much as possible before a potential winter resurgence in coronavirus cases.
NWSL Fall Series schedule
Saturday, Sept. 5: Washington Spirit vs. Sky Blue FC, 1 p.m. (CBS)
Friday, Sept. 11: North Carolina Courage vs. Houston Dash, 7 p.m. (Twitch)
Saturday, Sept. 12: Washington Spirit vs. Chicago Red Stars, noon (Twitch); Portland Thorns vs. OL Reign, 3:30 p.m. (CBS)
Saturday, Sept. 19: North Carolina Courage vs. Orlando Pride, 1 p.m. (CBS)
Sunday, Sept. 20: Chicago Red Stars vs. Sky Blue FC, 1 p.m. (CBS All Access)
Sunday, Sept. 20: Portland Thorns vs. Utah Royals, 3 p.m. (Twitch)
Saturday, Sept. 26: Chicago Red Stars vs. Washington Spirit, 1 p.m. (CBS); Utah Royals vs. OL Reign, 3:30 p.m. (CBS All Access); Houston Dash vs. Orlando Pride, 8:30 p.m. (Twitch)
Saturday, Oct. 3: Sky Blue FC vs. Washington Spirit, 12:30 p.m. (Twitch); Utah Royals, vs. Portland Thorns, 10 p.m. (CBS Sports Network)
Sunday, Oct. 4: Houston Dash vs. North Carolina Courage, 7 p.m. (Twitch)
Friday, Oct. 9: Orlando Pride vs. Houston Dash, 5 p.m. (CBS Sports Network)
Saturday, Oct. 10: Sky Blue FC vs. Chicago Red Stars, 12:30 p.m. (CBS All Access); OL Reign vs. Portland Thorns, 8 p.m. (Twitch)
Saturday, Oct. 17: Orlando Pride vs. North Carolina Courage, 4 p.m. (CBS); OL Reign vs. Utah Royals, 8 p.m. (CBS All Access)