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Photo: Found Image Press/Corbis via Getty Images

The National Women's Soccer League will become the first U.S. team sport back in action when it kicks off its 25-game "Challenge Cup" tomorrow.

The intrigue: While leagues like the NBA, MLS and WNBA chose coronavirus-riddled Florida to host their "bubble" operations, the NWSL and two other leagues chose Utah, which has one of the lowest COVID-19 death rates in the U.S.

Utah's summer residents: The NWSL and the Premier Lacrosse League will follow similar health-and-safety protocols in Utah this summer. Supercross, a motorcycle racing series, just wrapped up its season using similar guidelines.

  • Supercross: Arrived in Utah on May 31 and held seven events in the state before concluding its season on Sunday.
  • NWSL: Kicks off this weekend and will use Zions Bank Stadium (20 miles outside Salt Lake City) and the surrounding area as its bubble headquarters.
  • PLL: Will host its shortened season at Zions Bank Stadium starting July 25.

The backdrop: "Since the 2002 Winter Olympics were held in Utah, the state has used sports as a branding and marketing tool to enhance its economy and image [and] the strategy has gone into overdrive during the pandemic," writes Forbes' Kurt Badenhausen.

  • Supercross was given a direct line to the governor, the PLL was offered marketing and financial support and the NWSL was pitched using the protocols that had been successfully used for Supercross.

The big picture: The Utah Sports Commission estimates the economic impact of hosting the three leagues — plus the PGA's developmental Korn Ferry Tour, which is in action this week near Salt Lake City — is roughly $40 million. And the media exposure of nearly 100 hours of live sports is worth another $40 million.

Go deeper

Kendall Baker, author of Sports
Aug 27, 2020 - Sports

The day sports stopped

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

The most historic day in sports activism history began in an empty gym.

What happened: The Milwaukee Bucks chose not to take the floor for Game 5 against the Magic, which led to all three NBA games being postponed — and most of the sports world following suit.

Aug 27, 2020 - Sports

MLS postpones games to support Jacob Blake

Photo: Michael Reaves/Getty Images

A slew of Major League Soccer matches were postponed as players protest police brutality following the shooting of Jacob Blake, a 29-year-old Black man, in Kenosha.

Why it matters: Teams across various sports leagues are postponing games and leveraging their influence. The Milwaukee Bucks' decision to shelve their game prompted the NBA to do the same for all games scheduled for Wednesday night.

Police officers' immunity from lawsuits is getting a fresh look

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Nearly a year after the death of George Floyd, advocates of changes in police practices are launching new moves to limit or eliminate legal liability protections for officers accused of excessive force.

Why it matters: Revising or eliminating qualified immunity — the shield police officers have now — could force officers accused of excessive force to personally face civil penalties in addition to their departments. But such a change could intensify a nationwide police officer shortage, critics say.