The first-ever NWSL Challenge Cup will bring professional contact team sports back to North America this Saturday. For New Jersey’s club, Sky Blue FC, the odds forecast some turbulent weather.
Two NJ sports betting apps have Sky Blue FC as its longest shot to win the tournament. Another has the club as a heavy underdog to win its first match.
Planning to make a few bets on soccer in the days ahead? Here’s a preview of the upcoming NWSL tournament.
Sky Blue FC’s path in the Challenge Cup
The Challenge Cup will be played without fans in attendance in Utah. Eight of the NWSL’s nine clubs will vie for the Cup over the course of a month.
The Orlando Pride withdrew from the tournament earlier this week when six players and four staff members tested positive for COVID-19.
As a result, the other eight clubs will advance to the tourney’s quarterfinals.
Although the tournament starts Saturday morning, Sky Blue won’t be one of the teams to kick off the action. Here’s the schedule for Sky Blue’s four opening-round matches:
- Tuesday, June 30, 10 p.m. EST v. OL Reign
- Saturday, July 4, 12:30 p.m. EST v. Utah Royals FC
- Wednesday, July 8, 10 p.m. EST v. Houston Dash
- Monday, July 13, 10 p.m. EST v. North Carolina Courage
Sky Blue FC will play in the quarterfinals round as well, which is scheduled for July 17 and 18. At that point, it’s win-or-go-home.
The championship match is slated for July 26.
CBS will air all opening-round matches. CBS All Access will stream quarterfinal and semifinal matches, then the title match will be back on CBS.
Sky Blue has a challenging road ahead of it to capture the Cup.
That’s part of the reason why FanDuel Sportsbook and Sugarhouse online sportsbook, and William Hill Sportsbook are so low on their chances.
Anything but clear skies in the NWSL lines
FanDuel and William Hill both have futures markets live on their NJ apps right now. Here are the odds as of Friday morning:
|Club||Odds to win at FanDuel||Odds to win at Wiliam Hill|
|North Carolina Courage||+185||+110|
|Chicago Red Stars||+400||+350|
|Sky Blue FC||+2600||+4000|
Sugarhouse doesn’t have futures for the entire tourney. But it does have 14 different markets on Sky Blue’s opening match against OL Reign.
On a three-way moneyline for Tuesday night’s match, Sky Blue is +300 right now.
The over/under on total goals for the match is currently 2.5, with the better action of +100 on the under. Sugarhouse doesn’t expect both teams to net a goal during the match, offering odds of +114 on just one side finding the back of the net.
For NJ bettors who want to put some money down on Sky Blue but play it safe, Sugarhouse has a Double Chance market for Tuesday’s match. Taking Sky Blue or Tie pays out -112 if either scenario takes place.
The book also offers many Correct Score options. The odds on Sky Blue 1-0 sit at +1150 right now.
For bettors looking for a Draw No Bet wager, Sky Blue is +200 there. The over/under on Sky Blue goals only is 0.5, with the under sitting +180.
Naturally, these lines are only as relevant as they are realistic. To determine that, it’s necessary to size up the Reign and Sky Blue.
Sky Blue FC vs. OL Reign: Handicapping Tuesday’s match
The OL Reign finished in fourth place in the NWSL standings last season, despite a slew of injuries that sidelined several key players.
Many of those are back and healthy for the Cup.
The Reign have also made some additions to that roster, most notably forward Sofia Huerta and defender Alana Cook.
Perhaps the note of greatest importance about the Reign roster that bettors should be aware of is who the club will be without, however.
Forward Megan Rapinoe chose to opt-out of the Cup, leaving the club without the offensive pressure she creates. Rapinoe’s presence on the club last year was minimal, however, as she only appeared in six matches total.
Expect the Reign to continue to get their offense from 2019 Rookie of the Year Bethany Balcer, who found the net six times last season.
Sky Blue’s best chance to win this match might be to hope new faces in new places for the Reign might lead to some breakdowns.
Speaking of new faces in new places, McCall Zerboni could power Sky Blue’s offense on Tuesday night. Zerboni had a shot to make the 2019 USWNT World Cup roster but was sidelined with a knee injury.
After rehab, she finished last season with North Carolina and helped the Courage win the championship. An offseason trade brought her to New Jersey.
Her presence in the midfield could help Sky Blue maintain possession, a weakness for the club last season. If the club can get one or two openings, it may be able to steal a win on Tuesday.
The return of professional contact team sports is a welcome one for all sports lovers. For bettors in NJ, the Challenge Cup presents some good wagering opportunities as well.