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Challenge Cup final set as NWSL commissioner Lisa Baird appeals to Oregon governor


The NWSL Challenge Cup final is set. 

Following a 0-0 draw against Racing Louisville on Sunday, Gotham FC secured their spot in the final, where they’ll face the Portland Thorns on Saturday.

The Thorns will host the championship game after finishing first in the overall Challenge Cup standings, with 10 points to Gotham’s eight.

NWSL commissioner Lisa Baird has appealed to Oregon governor Kate Brown for an exemption that would allow fans to attend the game at Providence Park at 15 percent capacity.

The Thorns had previously been allowed to host fans at that capacity. However, on Friday, the governor moved 15 counties that included the Portland metro area to “extreme risk” status, dropping the level of fans allowed into Providence Park from 15 percent — or about 3,800 fans — to just 100 total supporters.

“The league and our national broadcast partner CBS are thrilled to have Portland host the championship game and provide a unique showcase for what will likely be one of the largest television audiences in history to watch a women’s club competition,” Baird wrote in a letter obtained Sunday by the Associated Press. “The current COVID-related restrictions, however, would mean that no fans could attend this historic match. I’m writing today requesting an exemption be considered, allowing the Thorns to host fans with just 15% capacity.

“The NWSL and our clubs have been health and safety leaders in the world of sport during the current pandemic. Our medical protocols are sound, and all appropriate precautions are taken every time our players take the pitch for training and competition. We’re confident the Thorns can safely accommodate fans and are hopeful you’ll consider our request.”

Merritt Paulson, owner of both the Thorns and Timbers, added his plea for an exemption.

“Reduced capacity attendance in outdoor stadiums with protocol is safe, which is why every state is allowing it. If the game were held today, we could play it with limited attendance neighboring Washington County with the same numbers of fans, but not in Multnomah County,” said Paulson. “We hope the state will look at our situation logically and allow the match to be hosted safely at home, where our players earned the right to play it.”

The winner will be crowned Saturday, with the game kicking off at 1 p.m. ET on CBS.