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Washington State soccer star Morgan Weaver excited to resume professional career with return of NWSL

Little was ordinary about Morgan Weaver’s college career.

The second All-American in Washington State women’s soccer history helped spearhead the Cougars’ first and only run to the NCAA national semifinals.

Weaver’s five months as a professional career have also been abnormal.

Weaver, picked second overall by the Portland Thorns in the National Women’s Soccer League draft in January, opted to take online classes in her final WSU semester so she could begin preseason camp with the 8-year-old franchise.

Portland scraped together a week of practice before the NWSL was suspended in March on account of the worldwide coronavirus pandemic.

Back in Pullman, many of Weaver’s former teammates returned to their respective hometowns when the school closed down.

She couldn’t return for graduation ceremonies – they were done online last month.

The past three months have been strange for Weaver, who had spent most of her free time in quarantine either working out or trying out baking methods.

Weaver still hoped for a true rookie season.

“I was hoping a season could still happen, or at least a few games” said the University Place, Washington, native. “And I’ve been blessed that this league has been able to do it.”

The NWSL, a league comprised of nine teams in major cities across the country, recently announced the return of its season, becoming the first professional league in the country to return to team sports.

The league will return in the form of a one-month, 25-match tournament – The Challenge Cup – played at one central location in Salt Lake City.

Portland will face the two-time defending NWSL champion North Carolina Courage in the tournament opener on June 27, a match that will broadcast live on CBS.

The championship match – slated for July 26 – will also be available on CBS. The other 23 matches will be available on CBS Access.

To curb a potential uptick of the virus, fans will not be allowed to attend the games, which will be played at Zion Bank Stadium. The title match will be at played at Rio Tinto Stadium.

National broadcasts of the NWSL when most professional sports leagues are in limbo may help the league’s – and sport’s – profile, Weaver said.

“Being able to be the first (league) to play, that’s pretty special,” Weaver said. “There’s going to be so many people to watch our games, and hopefully people will get more interested in women’s soccer.”

All nine teams will play four preliminary-round games. Eight teams will advance to knockout portion of the tournament.

Portland won the NWSL title in its inaugural 2013 season, won it again in 2017 and advanced to the championship game in 2018, helping the Thorns’ brand swiftly gain popularity in the soccer-crazy city.

Weaver, who scored 43 goals and totaled 98 points in her four years at Washington State, hopes to bring another championship back to the Rose City.

“I am really excited. I think Washington State helped me get ready for this,” Weaver said. “We’re training as hard as we can. We’re grinding all the time, even on our days off.

“Portland has always been a soccer city. People love their Timbers and the Thorns.”

The NWSL tournament this month will also feature Weaver’s college teammate, Averie Collins (Washington Spirit), and former Post Falls High and Santa Clara star Kelcie Hedge (Seattle Reign).

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