Washington Spirit withdraws from international women’s soccer tournament

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The Washington Spirit has withdrawn from a major international tournament this summer in Portland, Ore., because of scheduling concerns.

As defending National Women’s Soccer League champions, the Spirit was slated to play in the Women’s International Champions Cup on Aug. 17-20 in Portland, Ore., with the Portland Thorns; Olympique Lyonnais, the UEFA Women’s Champions League winner; and English WSL champion Chelsea.

Organizers were to announce details Thursday, but with the Spirit planning to withdraw, the announcement was pushed to next Wednesday. Monterrey (Mexico) will replace Washington, multiple people close to the matter said.

“After internal discussion, we have decided to withdraw,” the Spirit said in a statement Friday. “This will allow our team a brief period to rest ahead of the final third of the regular season. The ICC tournament gathers some of the greatest teams in the world and we are honored to have been considered.”

Although the NWSL paused Washington and Portland’s regular season schedules to accommodate the WICC, Spirit officials wanted to use the time to recover from a busy several months.

Since mid-March, when the preseason Challenge Cup started, Washington has played 14 games overall. The Spirit advanced to the final of the Challenge Cup, which overlapped with the start of the regular season and added two matches to its calendar.

The club has another four regular season games over the next two weeks, then will lose several players for up to a month to national team assignments. For Wednesday’s 1-1 draw with the Chicago Red Stars, seven players were unavailable because of injury and one was in coronavirus protocol.

The WICC is preparing for its fourth edition. In the absence of a formal club world championship for women run by FIFA, the sport’s global governing body, independent tournaments have popped up. Louisville will host a competition in mid-August for the second straight year.

The FIFA Club World Cup for men has existed since 2000.

Olympique Lyonnais is participating in the WICC for the fourth time. Last year, the French club — which features U.S. stars Lindsey Horan and Catarina Macario — lost to Portland in the final. FC Barcelona and the Houston Dash were also involved.

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