Coronavirus: W-League soccer Grand Final, featuring NWSL players, rare live sporting event on TV

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We're just as excited as Sofia Huerta (11). There's live soccer on tonight. (Mark Evans/Getty Images)
We're just as excited as Sofia Huerta (11). There's live soccer on tonight. (Mark Evans/Getty Images)

There is real, live, championship soccer on TV tonight.

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The Australian W-League has continued play during the coronavirus pandemic even as most of the leagues around the world have not. The 2020 Grand Final will be played Saturday at AAMI Park in Melbourne without any fans due to government protocols, and will include five American players and nine total from the NWSL.

The championship match between Melbourne City FC and Sydney FC will be played at 12:30 a.m. ET (9:30 p.m. PT) on ESPN+.

What is the Westfield W-League?

The Westfield W-League is Australia’s top division in women’s soccer, established in 2008 by Football Federation Australia. There are nine teams and the “Westfield” in the title is for a sponsorship with Westfield Group, which also sponsors the Australian national team.

The season begins in November and runs 12 games. The top four teams play in a single-elimination semifinal, which was played last weekend. Winners play the Grand Final.

NWSL players in Grand Final

Nine NWSL players will be involved in the final game of the W-League season.

Melbourne City: defender Ellie Carpenter (Portland Thorns), defender Steph Catley (OL Reign), midfielder Emily van Egmond (Orlando Pride) and forward Claire Emslie (Orlando Pride).

North Carolina Courage first-round draft pick Ally Watt is also with City.

Sydney: defender Alanna Kennedy (Orlando Pride), goalkeeper Aubrey Bledsoe (Washington Spirit), striker Veronica Latsko (Houston Dash) and Sofia Huerta (OL Reign).

Van Egmond and Latsko are the featured players by the W-League heading into the final.

Fans banned from final

The A-League, the highest-tier men’s league in Australia, and the W-League are currently playing without fans to help stop the spread of the coronavirus. Lower-level leagues in the country were also allowed to continue without spectators, per ABC News.

Greg O’Rourke, the federation head, confirmed the final will go on, via the league site.

“After consultation with the Clubs, Professional Footballers Australia and our own chief medical adviser and taking into account the Australian Government’s current directives announcement on Sunday to limit outdoor events with 500 people of more, we have taken the decision to proceed to play this match, with it to take place behind closed doors with essential personnel in the venue only.”

O’Rourke said if a player tested positive for the coronavirus, the league would reassess moving forward with matches.

As of Friday, Australia has 876 confirmed cases and seven deaths from the virus. The country closed its borders and is no longer allowing visitors to enter, per the Guardian.

2020 Grand Final: Melbourne City vs. Sydney

Melbourne City, the current “Premiers” for the best regular season record, defeated Western Sydney, 5-1, in the semifinal.

Sydney, known as the Sky Blues, defeated Melbourne Victory, the second seed by a slim margin, by a 1-0 score to advance.

Melbourne City FC (11-0-1) has allowed a mere four goals all season. One of those was to Sydney in their single meeting in December. Sofia Huerta scored it in the 40th minute and City won 2-1.

Emily van Egmond has six goals for Melbourne City and Remy Siemsen leads Sydney with seven. Caitlin Foord, who signed a contract with Arsenal in January, leads the league with four assists for Sydney.

Lydia Williams started all 12 games in goal for City with a .871 save percentage.

W-League’s two most successful clubs

Both clubs have a league-leading three titles each. The winner will become the first to win four.

City is looking to complete an undefeated season for only the second time in league history. The club did the same in 2015-16, winning its first of three straight titles.

Sydney is the reigning champion, adding to titles in 2010 and 2013.

They have met twice before in the final. City won, 4-1, in 2016 and 2-0 in 2018. In the past four meetings between the teams, City has won each won. The last three games were tied at the half.

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