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NWSL's return attracts record-breaking viewership

FILE PHOTO: The North Carolina Courage and the Chicago Red Stars compete in the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) championship in Cary, North Carolina, U.S. October 27, 2019. REUTERS/Amy Tennery

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) Challenge Cup kickoff brought in record-breaking viewership as the league became the first in North America to return from the COVID-19 shutdown.

The first match of the month-long tournament between the reigning champion North Carolina Courage and Portland Thorns on Saturday brought in 572,000 viewers on CBS, the network said, smashing the record for an NWSL game by more than 200%.

The previous record of 190,000 viewers was from an August 2014 game between the Thorns and Houston Dash.

Eight of the NWSL’s nine teams traveled to suburban Salt Lake City, Utah, last week for the fanless competition, after the league’s regular season was put on hold due to the novel coronavirus outbreak.

The Orlando Pride dropped out of the tournament after some players and staff tested positive for COVID-19 prior to departing for Utah.

Reporting by Amy Tennery; Editing by Ken Ferris