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Mark Parsons looking forward to being back in “intense” NWSL, growing Spirit – Equalizer Soccer

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© Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

Mark Parsons is back in the NWSL. After starting his career with the Washington Spirit, Parsons is back again for another round in the nation’s capital.

Parsons was named Washington Spirit head coach on Monday, Nov. 21. He returns to the National Women’s Soccer League after coaching in the Netherlands, where he was the Dutch manager for a year from 2021-2022. He and the Dutch mutually parted ways after the Netherlands’ loss to France in the EURO 2022 quarterfinals against France. Parsons coached the Spirit from 2013-2015, and then jumping ship to the Portland Thorns, where he won the 2017 NWSL Championship.

During his time in Portland, Parsons won the 2017 NWSL Championship over the North Carolina Courage, but also capyured two NWSL Shield Titles (2016 and 2021), the NWSL Challenge Cup title in 2021 and the Women’s International Champions Cup title in 2021.

Parsons said that he is ready for a return to the “intense” NWSL. He also spoke about, when talking to Washington owner Y. Michele Kang, there was a clear vision for the Spirit.

“Michele has been very, very clear in her vision,” Parsons said. “After multiple conversations, she not only has the vision, but she’s acting and putting everything into that vision. Every time I speak with her and Mark (Krikorian), something else has happened. There’s a new person, a new hire, a new project underway.”

The common theme through Parsons remarks was conversation about vision, but also the Spirit’s future. Parsons is no stranger to building teams. He did it before with Washington in his first NWSL coaching stint, and he did it in Portland, too.

“It takes time, a building process, to get to the good moments,” Parsons explained. “We’re going to have that in 2023. It’s about now, tomorrow and next week, but also with the future in mind. Same with D.C., in 2014, it was about winning championships in the future. In my first year in Portland, we were minutes away in stoppage time to face my old team in the final. It would have been a great experience.

“The vision is very clear, and it starts from the top with Michele. I think she made that clear with hiring Mark [Krikorian]… I want to be able to learn, support and grow [from Mark],” Parsons continued. “Mark has the main job of executing the vision. I’m just grateful to come in and play a part that’s bigger than all of us — giving female athletes the platform they deserve.”

Parsons explained that the hiring of key staff members has also been focused toward the present and future. Washington recently hired former Chicago Red Stars assistant coach Morinao Imaizumi, giving him the player development coach role. Dawn Scott, formerly of the U.S. women’s national team and Inter Miami in MLS, has been hired as the senior director of performance, medical and innovation. Parsons also inherits a coaching staff that includes Angela Salem — who recently welcomed her first child and played for Parsons in Portland and one year in Washington.

“If you look at what Mark has done, it’s unbelievably modern and big picture,” Parsons said. “There have been key hires and I’m allowed to be involved in the process. It’s very difficult for me to find anyone that’s going to bring the expertise that he has. There is a foundation that can build the club and there is space where I can bring in staff and I would like to work with and have worked with. This was the first step. In regards to Angela, I see that as a valuable piece. Having someone that has been on the playing side, but it also speeds up the messaging from the staff. She knows that part… We want to bring success back to D.C. and that takes a lot. Over the next few months, you’ll see more in completing the staff.” 

Parsons also inherits a roster with plenty of youth. Washington has 2021 Rookie of the Year Trinity Rodman leading the attack, along with regular U.S. call up Ashley Sanchez and 2021 Golden Boot winner Ashley Hatch. Recently, the team exercised club options on Sam Staab, Jordan Baggett, Dorian Bailey, Bayley Feist, Anna Heilferty, Maddie Elwell and Tara McKeown, while extending contract offers to Camryn Biegalski, Julia Roddar and Marissa Sheva.

Parsons said that the young team is “very hungry, wants to grow, wants to learn and be challenged.”

“They had great success in 2021. We know there is going to be a great challenge ahead,” Parsons said. “We have to be a team. When I spoke to the team early on, that was the most important thing: identity on and off the pitch. Building a team takes time. I’ve been there, I’ve seen it and I know every experience is different. When you have a group that wants to learn, you have a chance.” 





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The trading card boom is a big deal for the NWSL, too – Equalizer Soccer

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There’s no question about it: Trading cards are back and more popular than ever thanks to a resurgence sparked by the COVID-19 pandemic

Stuck at home with many sports shut down for significant portions of 2020, these cards provided a simple, stay-at-home hobby that kept people connected to the teams and players they loved. As a result, sports cards have been flying off the shelves and analysts are now predicting the market will grow by nearly $7 billion between 2021 and 2026.

For growing sports entities like the National Women’s Soccer League, the trading cards market is also a major opportunity. One of women’s soccer’s biggest selling points is its high level of engagement with fans. In a digital world, physical trading cards satisfy an innate human desire to own a tangible piece of history around the teams and the players they support.  

“It’s romantic,” Parkside Collectibles co-founder Matt Peek tells The Equalizer about the experiences surrounding trading cards. “It is one of the most pure and wonderful exchanges that can happen.” 

In 2020, Parkside Collectibles became the first company to produce a series of cards dedicated solely to women’s soccer when the company released a limited run commemorating the inaugural NWSL Challenge Cup. Companies like Topps and Upper Deck had included special inserts for major U.S. women’s national team players in runs of men’s soccer cards over the years, but no one had ever attempted anything to the scale or with the singular focus that Parkside did.

All 3,000 sets of that original Challenge Cup run sold out quickly despite only being available on the fledgling company’s website. Once Parkside proved the market existed, the company followed up with vastly expanded series in 2021 and 2022, each featuring hundreds of player base cards and numerous special inserts like glossy and signature cards. New distribution deals with Amazon, Walmart and Target also massively increased accessibility. 

The fact that these cards can now be found in major retailers all over the United States, hanging next to huge brands like Topps and Pokémon, is unprecedented. Despite exponential growth in recent years, women’s soccer merchandise remains hard to find. What little is made is often extremely limited in variety, like the U.S. women’s national team Funko Pops featuring only four players. Products are also limited in quantity as manufacturers perpetually underestimate demand

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The Equalizer Podcast: Mailbag – Equalizer Soccer

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Mallory Pugh and three U.S. women's national team teammates celebrate a goal.


Photo credit: Kyle Robertson/Columbus Dispatch/USA TODAY NETWORK

Jeff Kassouf answers your burning questions about the U.S. women’s national team, next year’s World Cup, NWSL free agency, NWSL expansion, and more.

Listen to this pod on:  Apple  |  Spotify  |  Google Podcasts  |  Stitcher  |  Anchor  |  PodBean  |  Pocket Casts  |  Breaker  |  Overcast  |  RadioPublic

Subscribers: Click below for the ad-free version.

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Real Madrid’s centerpiece – Equalizer Soccer

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Caroline Weir knows how to make an impact. In the 15th minute of her second start for Real Madrid, at home against her old club Manchester City, she immaculately controlled a bouncing ball on the turn in City’s penalty box. Working a shot on her favored left foot, she found the top corner to send her former teammates out of the Champions League before the group stage.

Watching Weir run to her new fans to celebrate must have been painful for the Manchester City contingent, but not surprising. The 27-year-old Scotland international midfielder has done this sort of thing before.

Playing in the first professional Manchester derby in September 2019, Weir scored the game’s only goal with a laser-like shot from outside of the box. The next season, she scored an even more audacious attempt in the same fixture. A drag-back took her past a defender before she beat goalkeeper Mary Earps with a sumptuous long-range chip. Earps — England’s No. 1 — was beaten again in similar fashion last term, Weir lobbing the ball into the far corner from distance to ensure another City victory over United.

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Start your FREE, 7-day trial of The Equalizer Extra for industry-leading reporting and insight on the USWNT, NWSL and beyond.





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