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Mallory Pugh could miss NWSL final due to COVID-19 protocols

(Andy Mead/ISI Photos/Getty Images)

After missing the NWSL semifinals on Sunday due to COVID-19 protocol, NWSL MVP runner-up and Chicago Red Stars forward Mallory Pugh could also miss the championship game based on NWSL policy.

Both Pugh and defender Kayla Sharples entered COVID-19 protocol prior to the team’s semifinal game against the Portland Thorns, a 2-0 Red Stars win.

In accordance with the NWSL’s COVID-19 protocols, a player who tests positive for COVID-19 must clear a 10-day isolation period before returning to play. During this time, they must be isolated from the team and are not allowed to exercise. The player must also be symptom-free for at least seven days before returning to play.

That means that if Pugh tested positive last Friday, she would not have cleared the 10-day isolation period by Saturday, when the championship game will be played in Louisville.

However, if Pugh did not test positive, and was only placed in protocol due to exposure to COVID-19, she could return to play if she produces a series of negative tests on days 5 and 7 of her quarantine.

The NWSL does note in their policies in regards to COVID-19 exposure that “each case will be evaluated and may present unique circumstances not covered by these protocols.”

As of Monday, Red Stars head coach Rory Dames was uncertain about the status of both Pugh and Sharples. Dames did not explicitly say whether either player had tested positive, only that they were both symptom-free while in protocol, he was unsure of their timeline and he hoped to have them back for the championship game.

There is wide speculation within NWSL circles that Pugh is unvaccinated against COVID-19. Earlier this month, she opted out of the latest U.S. women’s national team camp, to be held in Australia later this month with a pair of friendlies against the Australian national team. Australia requires everyone entering the country to be vaccinated against COVID-19, and USWNT coach Vlatko Andonovski has confirmed that, per Australia’s mandates, “everybody that travels to Australia will be fully vaccinated.”

After entering COVID-19 protocol, Sharples tweeted that she was fully vaccinated and had gotten the booster shot.

When reached for comment, a Red Stars spokesperson told Just Women’s Sports: “At this time the club has no comment on the status of Mal or Kayla and would rather wait until the injury report is released by the league to provide any updates.” The NWSL did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Forward Kealia Watt’s status is also unknown after she exited Sunday’s semifinal early with a knee injury.