U.S. international Tobin Heath opts out of NWSL Challenge Cup over coronavirus concerns

Tobin Heath will not participate in the upcoming National Women's Soccer League Challenge Cup, with the Portland Thorns standout and U.S. international citing concerns about the coronavirus in making her decision.

As NWSL teams release their final rosters for the tournament that begins this weekend in Utah, Heath joins fellow U.S. stars Carli Lloyd, Christen Press, Mallory Pugh and Megan Rapinoe among high-profile names missing the event.

How the NWSL plans to be the first U.S. team sport back

"Although I want to be on the field with my teammates doing what I love, because of the uncertainty and risks created by COVID-19, I have chosen not to participate in the NWSL Challenge Cup," Heath said in a statement. "I can't even express how much I am looking forward to my next game in Providence Park."

Heath, 32, made 13 appearances for Portland in 2019 and totaled three goals and three assists.

Final rosters were originally scheduled to be released Monday but that was delayed until Tuesday after the entire Orlando Pride team was forced to withdraw from the Challenge Cup when six players and four staff members tested positive for the coronavirus.

One of the favorites to challenge two-time reigning NWSL champion North Carolina Courage in the month-long tournament that marks the return of professional team sports in the United States, Portland still has ample star power at its disposal. U.S. World Cup winners Adrianna Franch, Lindsey Horan and Becky Sauerbrunn are all included on the team's final roster, along with Canadian star Christine Sinclair, the all-time leading scorer in international soccer.

The Thorns acquired Sauerbrunn from Utah Royals FC in the offseason.

All players had the right to decide whether or not to participate in the Challenge Cup, without penalty for opting out. And all players, regardless of whether their NWSL salaries were paid by their club or by U.S. Soccer as an allocated player, will receive their full salaries.

Press nearly carried Utah to the playoffs after returning from the World Cup a season ago, scoring eight goals in 14 games for the Royals. But the forward also cited concern about the ongoing pandemic for her decision.

"It is deeply painful not to be able to play the game I love, and to watch the broader effects of the global pandemic on our league, sports, and our world," Press said in a statement.

"Regrettably, given the uncertainty created by COVID-19, I must elect not to participate in this tournament. I know how fortunate I am to be able to make this choice. I have enormous respect and gratitude for those who do not have the luxury to choose whether to report to work, including our selfless and heroic first responders. I look forward to supporting my teammates during the tournament in Utah."

Rapinoe was the only OL Reign player who decided not to participate in what will be that club's first games since being purchased by Olympique Lyonnais. New coach Farid Benstiti, who replaced current U.S. national team coach Vlatko Andonovski, had previously said Rapinoe would skip the tournament.

Sky Blue announced earlier this week that Lloyd would miss the tournament with a knee injury, while Pugh will miss with a hip injury.

North Carolina will have its full complement of U.S. allocated players in Abby Dahlkemper, Crystal Dunn and Samantha Mewis, as well as World Cup winner Jessica McDonald and forward Lynn Williams, a regular on the U.S. team under Andonovski.