United States Women’s National Team star Megan Rapinoe will be noticeably absent from the N.W.S.L. Challenge Cup when the National Women’s Soccer League resumes play later this month. Rapinoe is refusing to play on the grounds of safety, and her team, OL Reign, will be without her for the month-long tournament taking place in Salt Lake City, Utah.
The 34-year-old soccer star is one of the biggest names in the game, having led the USWNT to victory in the 2019 Women’s World Cup. “I understand her motivations,” her coach Farid Benstiti was quoted as saying in the The New York Times, “but I am disappointed and frustrated that she will not be with us to compete in this tournament. Megan is important to the group, and we could have achieved something big if she had joined the rest of the group. She will be missed by the team and also by women’s football.”
Rapinoe isn’t the only member of the USWNT who is refusing to play, according to Yahoo Sports, but she is the only one who has been named so far. Players have voiced concerns about safety and testing protocols, isolation from their families during the required quarantine, and the risk of injury in a compressed schedule where most games will be played on artificial turf — the latter of which has been an ongoing concern for players even before the Coronavirus pandemic hit. Rapinoe tore the anterior cruciate ligament in her right knee while training on a turf field before one of the national team’s victory tour games, and also tore the meniscus in her left knee in 2017.