The Chicago Red Stars open their 2021 season with the NWSL Challenge Cup on Friday

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BRIDGEVIEW, IL – SEPTEMBER 20: Zoey Goralski #32 of the Chicago Red Stars celebrates her goal with teammates during a game between Sky Blue FC and Chicago Red Stars at SeatGeek Stadium on September 20, 2020 in Bridgeview, Illinois. (Photo by Daniel Bartel/ISI Photos/Getty Images)

CHICAGO – There are somethings that will be the same as 2020 when they begin their 2021 season.

Back in June of 2020, the Chicago Red Stars started their season with the NWSL Challenge Cup, just as they’ll do on Friday evening. Once again, they’ll face Houston in this event, just as they did in the final back in July.

But there are a lot of things different about things for Rory Dames’ team this time as they enter the Challenge Cup. This time, they’ll be able to play games in home cities instead of one location as they had to do last summer in Utah, when teams quarantined to complete the tournament.

The Red Stars along with the rest of the league had the honor of reopening team sports after the pandemic took hold in March of 2020, and was a part of a season cut well short due to COVID-19. A collection of fall games were played after the tournament, but it was nothing like a typical season.

That will change with this Challenge Cup, where this collection of games will precede a regular season that will begin on May 15th, start the playoffs on November 6th, then hold a championship on November 20th.

The exact schedule of games has still yet to be determined, but at least the schedule gets as close to normal as it could as the pandemic continues.

Friday’s game in Houston will be the first of four for the club in the challenge, with their first game at SeatGeek Stadium on April 15th against Portland. They’ll be home again April 20th against Kansas City before wrapping up play at OL Reign on April 27th.

The winner of each division of the tournament will meet for the Challenge Cup title on Saturday, May 8th.

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