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(CBS Local)- The NWSL’s 2021 Challenge Cup kicks off this Friday, April 9 with a rematch of last year’s title game between the Houston Dash and Chicago Red Stars on CBS Sports Network. After the Challenge Cup crowns its champion on May, 8, the league will play a 24-game regular season that starts on May 15 and finishes on October 30 with playoffs starting the next week and the NWSL Championship set for November 20.

Combine all of that with the Tokyo Olympics this summer and it’s a big year for women’s soccer on a big stage. Commissioner Lisa Baird, excited for the start of the 2021 campaign, said that the success of the Challenge Cup format last year was a big reason for bringing it back once again but with the added benefit of allowing some of the international athletes who play in the league to showcase their games before this summer’s Olympics.

READ>>>2021 NWSL Challenge Cup Kicks Off On CBS Sports Network Friday, April 9

“Because there was so much acceptance, people loved the format, they liked the high intensity, the fact that it was a quick tournament. But this year actually, we’re really going to benefit from the fact that we have this early round where you’re going to see a lot of the players that are going to the Tokyo Olympics,” said Baird in an interview with CBS Local’s Ryan Mayer. “In addition to it being great for our league, it’s a great showcase for those national team players. I think you’re going to see a lot of women’s soccer athletes this year and it will be great to watch them here and also competing in Tokyo.”

Squads are set ????

Final rosters are here:

— National Womens Soccer League (@NWSL) April 7, 2021

For the 2021 season, there will be a pair of new teams added to the fold with the league returning to one of its original homes in Kansas City taking over the Utah Royals FC roster and adding a new home in Louisville with the debut of Racing Louisville FC. Baird is just as excited as fans to see those two franchises debut.

“Racing Louisville we had been working on as an expansion market for a very long time and that stadium, is just gorgeous,” said Baird. “I think that America is going to fall in love with Kentucky once again because they’re just gracious with grit and I’m really expecting a lot from that team. Kansas City, do not underestimate that city because they came in on fire. Their ownership group, Chris and Angie Long, made an immense amount happen as they took over the roster late in the season. When I saw what Kansas City did to not only open their hearts but basically give the athletes the keys to the city. They’re playing for Kansas City and that is a sports town. We’re starting to see an excitement in the NWSL as these new teams come in there will be new rivalries formed.”

Were five days out from kickoff! ????

Run down our key Challenge Cup story lines to know:

— Racing Louisville FC (@RacingLouFC) April 6, 2021

One such new rivalry is the one that jumpstarts this season with the Dash and Red Stars meeting at BBVA Stadium in Houston. Baird will be in attendance for the game and she’s looking forward to seeing fans back in the stands, one element that was missing from last season due to the COVID pandemic.

“We feel such ownership with our fan base, they’re part of who we are. We’ve been working with each of the teams and also state and local health officials to make sure, frankly, that not only are we in line with state and local guidelines but in some cases we’re beating them,” said Baird. “But, I will say it is so exciting to see fans back in the stadiums. And I’m sure it’s going to be exciting for our women, it’s been awhile since they’ve played in front of fans. I think our players have always had a special relationship with the fans you see them, they’re accessible. While we’re not going to be doing things like we normally do like signing autographs or having them near the field, we can’t do that but I know that special bond is there.”

Baird will be among those fans heading to BBVA Stadium for the first match of the 2021 Challenge Cup on Friday, April 9 with start time set for 8:30 p.m. ET on CBS Sports Network.

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Tags: philadelphia news eagles nwsl nwsl challenge cup philadelphia news you’re going women’s soccer commissioner lisa baird on cbs sports network the tokyo olympics the challenge cup fans back state and local the fact there will be been working because they kansas city

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David de Gea ASKS to do interview with Sky to apologise for horror blunders that ‘cost Man Utd 3 points’

DAVID DE GEA personally asked to come out and deliver the post-game press conference to apologise for his errors.

The Spaniard gifted Brentford an early lead as Manchester United's miserable start to the season continued with a 4-0 defeat.

????️ "I think I cost three points to my team today to be honest"

David de Gea personally asked to do the post-match interview after a horrible day for Manchester United ????

— Sky Sports News (@SkySportsNews) August 13, 2022 1De Gea apologised to Manchester United team-mates and fans after the game for 'costing' the three pointsCredit: Reuters

The Red Devils defence crumbled in West London and the howlers kept coming as each goal added to Erik ten Hag's woes.

De Gea, 31, faced the media afterwards and said sorry for "costing" the Red Devils three points.

He told Sky Sports: "I'm just taking my responsibility today. I think I cost three points for my team today to be honest. It was a poor performance from myself.

"After the first mistake and second it was tough for the team to keep playing. It was a horrible day. "

READ MORE ON MAN UTDBrentford 4 Man Utd 0: Ten Hag and Man Utd plunged into crisis just two games into season

A routine save fell through De Gea's hands in the first half to reward the Bees with an opener.

Jay Dasilva hit a speculative shot from distance and the goalkeeper remarkably managed to let it nestle into the bottom corner.

Then just minutes later, De Gea presented Christian Eriksen with a dangerous pass out from the back, leading straight to the second.

The United shot-stopper unravelled in front of Brentford's dogged front line.

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The former Spanish international's blunder for was a sign of things to come for Ten Hag's men.

De Gea has been a world class keeper for the best part of a decade but it was truly an afternoon to forget.

The No1 admitted he should have been better but the whole team has a lot to learn this season.

He added: "Maybe you have to read the game better and kick it long. Maybe I shouldn't have played it to Christian [Eriksen]. They pressed one-against-one. I should have done better. 

"We are not like other teams. They concede one goal and they win 5-1 or 6-1. It doesn't matter if they make that mistake.

"This is why I cost three points today because it was an easy save and then it was 1-0 to them and then we were going down, down, down.

"It was a poor performance. But we need to stick together, and learn what the manager wants. Play for the badge, and play for the club.”

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