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More ambitious Spirit means more pressure for Mark Parsons’ second act in D.C. – Equalizer Soccer

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Jeffrey Swinger-USA TODAY Sports

Mark Parsons’ face lit up when he was asked to reflect on some of the highs and lows from his first tenure with the Washington Spirit. The 36-year-old Englishman was named head coach of the National Women’s Soccer League club on Monday, and the circumstances could not have been more different than they were the first time he got the job, in 2013.

That was the first NWSL season and the Spirit were a hot mess. A 1-7-3 start was compounded by a locker room uprising against head coach Mike Jorden, who was fired on June 30. Parsons had been working with the club’s reserve team and was handed an opportunity to lead the first team.

Parsons’ first match in charge was a 1-1 draw against FC Kansas City that snapped a five-game Spirit losing streak, but a new streak began three days later in New Jersey with a loss to Sky Blue FC. That skid lasted seven matches before the Spirit finally collected a win, 1-0 over the Red Stars.

Even that victory came with a qualifier. The match lasted only 80 minutes before a lengthy weather delay sent the teams to the locker rooms until it was past curfew at the Maryland SoccerPlex, an anticlimactic end to a monumental victory. The result also officially eliminated the Red Stars from playoff contention, prompting Parsons to knock on the visiting locker room door and apologize to then Red Stars coach Rory Dames.

“This is a club that, when I was offered to help in 2013, we had a group of players giving everything they had, but it was tough to get a point,” Parsons reflected on Monday. “We wanted to play soccer that would get the fans excited, but also lead to results. Through a lot of hard work, we finished with two wins, it could have been three. I was proud of that. That was a hard and dark period for everyone. It takes time, a building process, to get to the good moments.”

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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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