Connect with us


18-year-old Alyssa Thompson scores five minutes into unofficial pro debut – Equalizer Soccer



Photo Courtesy Angel City FC

Alyssa Thompson needed less than five minutes to tally a stunning goal in her unofficial professional debut — quite the achievement for an afterschool activity.

The 18-year-old scored what was eventually the game-winning goal in Angel City FC’s 3-0 victory over Mexican side Club America on Wednesday in an exhibition match at BMO Stadium in Los Angeles. It was the first chance for fans to see the No. 1 pick in the 2023 National Women’s Soccer League Draft on display during preseason as she navigates the jump from high school to the pros.

“This morning, I woke up early because I was a little nervous and a little anxious,” she said after the match. “I went to school with my sister, had English [class]. Then I went back home. I was getting more nervous as time progressed. I was just trying not to think about it that much. My dad took me here and I slept in the car just thinking about the game. And then when I got here, I was just trying to focus and just trying to feel comfortable because I was really nervous. Once I stepped on the field, I felt better. I felt comfortable with my teammates, and I felt prepared for the game and what was going to happen.”

After a Club America turnover around midfield, the ball came to Thompson, who was isolated and surrounded by three defenders. She turned and dribbled at them, beating all three before evading a fourth help-defender and the goalkeeper to calmly slot the ball into the net.

“It was a fantastic debut for her in front of the home supporters that we had,” Angel City head coach Freya Coombe said. “I thought she took the goal so coolly, like she had played in 100 games in this stadium. The occasion didn’t put her off. I think she made the correct decision in the way in which she finished and swatted it home.”

Coombe and Angel City’s greatest immediate task with Thompson might be managing expectations. Wednesday’s goal will likely only underscore the need for that.

Historically, the NWSL is a difficult league for rookies to break into straight out of college. Teenagers entering the league just out of high school is an entirely new concept thanks to several league rule changes.

Still, Coombe was impressed with Thompson, who led the line as Angel City’s starting center forward.

“I think that she looked threatening all night and was able to work,” Coombe said. “And I think she mentioned the communication with her teammates, which was evident with players like Claire Emslie putting her arm around her during the game, offering her words of advice, being able to advise her. And that makes such a difference. I think we’re a team that’s willing to support her and she’s willing to support the team. So, it’s a great relationship.”

Angel City captain Ali Riley said recently that she is also impressed with Thompson so far in preseason. Riley first attended the same LA-area school — Harvard-Westlake — before Thompson was even born. Back then, the idea of an 18-year-old making the jump to the pro ranks was unheard of. There was not even a top-flight U.S. pro league when Riley graduated high school in 2006.

“It is so exciting having her,” Riley said. “I just think she is really going to change the future for young, talented soccer players. For so many years you had, for the most part, kind of one path in this country: playing in high school, going to college and then going pro. You’re seeing Trinity Rodman, Olivia Moultrie and now Alyssa Thompson, this is very iconic what they are doing. We’ve already seen how successful the other two have been and I think she’s going to be another player that really shows that when you have the talent, anything is possible.”

Subscribe now to read the best NWSL coverage, including more on Angel City and Alyssa Thompson:

Source link

Continue Reading


FIFPRO representatives comment on the equalization of World Cup prize money – Equalizer Soccer




Photo Copyright Michael Chow for USA TODAY Sports

Last week, FIFA announced significant increases in investment in the Women’s World Cup, including an over 300 percent increase in prize money in 2023. In addition to the prize money, FIFA will also be paying roughly $31 million to each qualifying team and an additional $11 million will be used to reimburse clubs for player appearances in the tournament. In his closing remarks at the 73rd FIFA Congress in Rwanda, newly re-elected FIFA president Gianni Infantino also stated that he hoped to achieve equal pay by the next World Cup cycle.

Outside of financial benefits, FIFA also stated that the “number of delegates per team, the level of international and domestic travel for the tournament, accommodation standards and rooms, team base camps and facilities, amongst other services extended by FIFA to participating teams will be delivered to the same level as those delivered to the men last year, and into the future.”

These major developments are thanks to the tireless advocacy of women’s players from around the world and FIFPRO, the worldwide players’ union for international professional footballers. Last October, in what was the largest piece of collective action ever undertaken by women’s football players, FIFPRO, member unions, and 150 players from 25 women’s national teams sent a letter to FIFA calling for improved conditions and prize money. Since then FIFPRO has been negotiating on behalf of their members to make these changes a reality and, as the recent announcements from FIFA show, they’ve made some significant progress.

This Friday, FIFPRO’s Director of Global Policy & Strategic Relations Women’s Football Sarah Gregorius, and General Secretary Jonas Baer-Hoffmann spoke to reporters about these recent developments and what they were still working for in the future.

Bigger than prize money

Although the increase in prize money has gotten most of the attention, the equalization of conditions and the addition of preparation funds were just as important because they have such an impact on the material well-being of players.

Gregorius, who is also a former player for New Zealand and appeared in three World Cups, explains that there were marked disparities in pretty much every experiential aspect of playing in a Women’s or Men’s World Cup. For example, rooming and allocations were different. FIFA would pay for men to have single rooms while women were only given double rooms. When playing in an emotionally draining tournament, sharing a room with another person for four to six weeks straight impacts a player’s well-being and preparedness for competition.

There were also disparities in travel accommodations. FIFA would pay for men to have chartered or business class flights while women would only be offered commercial flights. Gregorius pointed out that flying business class also impacts players by allowing them the privacy of a business class lounge. A well-known player had told her that, during a previous World Cup, she was regularly recognized and approached or followed around the airport which was stressful.

Additionally, 2023 will be the first time teams will have their own home bases and training centers to work from. This is something that has been standard in the men’s tournament for some time.

In terms of preparation funds, these are especially important to the many players and federations that are still amateur or semi-pro explained Baer-Hoffmann. With the tournament expanding to 32 countries this year, there are numerous teams with no professional league or infrastructure in place to make sure players have had adequate time to get ready to play in the tournament. Preparation funds help professionalize players by giving them the support they need to focus exclusively on football and build up the experience they need to be competitive.

Equitable redistribution to players

Although these changes in funding and accommodation are major steps forward, there is still work to be done.

Most importantly, FIFPRO is still negotiating how funds will be redistributed to players. While some federations already have agreements in place with their players dictating what percentage of winnings get redistributed back to players, many do not. This leaves many players open to not receiving anything for their participation in the tournament. For this reason, Gregorius says that the distribution of funds is, in many ways, just as critical as closing the pay gap.

FIFPRO is currently negotiating for a minimum of 30 percent of winnings to be equally redistributed back to players. This would allow for the further professionalization of the women’s game and, by FIFPRO’s estimation, allow players to be able to better support themselves financially as footballers.

Baer-Hoffmann explains that standardizing a minimum redistribution to players along with set amounts for preparation funds helps players better negotiate future bargaining agreements with their member associations. If the players know exactly what their federations are receiving, they’re in a stronger place to negotiate fairer and more balanced contracts. This will, hopefully, lead to less of a need for extreme actions like strikes or refusal by certain players to participate in future tournaments.

The importance of professionalism

Ultimately, every development is a step towards FIFPRO’s primary overarching goal which is to professionalize the women’s game.

According to Baer-Hoffmann, professionalization is one of the greatest protections against systemic abuse in the sport. He points to the impact the National Women’s Soccer League’s players association and the recent collective bargaining agreement have had on tackling systemic abuse in the American professional league. Previously in the NWSL, dependency structures were created through a lack of free agency, poor pay, and unionization. Once the players unionized and established better conditions, they were empowered to demand changes that increased their safety and well-being.

By the same token, the equalization of the World Cup tournament can be a step towards creating a safer, more supportive infrastructure for players in member associations around the world. Money and protection almost always equal safer environments because it allows greater player autonomy.

There is still much work to be done in this area, however, says Baer-Hoffmann, who calls player safety the biggest threat to the integrity of the sport at this time. FIFPRO spends a great deal of effort in supporting players through legal battles or when they bring abuse charges against individuals in their federation or even when they need to be evacuated for their own safety. Baer-Hoffmann says that if people knew just how many player safety cases could be resolved with only a bit more investment into managing investigations or supporting victims, they’d be shocked. So even a relatively small change in how funds are allocated to players can be a massive game-changer.

It just makes sense

Both Gregorius and Baer-Hoffmann say that further work needs to be done, but they’re pleased with what the players have achieved already. The goal of their negotiations is to find common ground to work from and demonstrate how progress in these areas is mutually beneficial to federations, FIFA, and individual players.

FIFA simply realized that equalization now rather than later just makes sense, says Gregorius. Looking around the world and seeing how the upheavals in France, Canada, Spain, and, formerly, the United States, are grabbing headlines around the world is enough to prompt change. As the world’s governing federation, it’s simply a matter of seeing the public response and deciding which side of the fence they wish to be on. And, so far, FIFA has decided they’d rather take what is likely the easier route of accommodating players instead of battling an infinite number of future battles.

Baer-Hoffmann also gives a nod to FIFA saying it’s true that broadcasters are lowballing FIFA in terms of rights for the Women’s World Cup. It’s a problem, he says, if the same broadcasters who bash FIFA for not sharing equal prize money don’t “reach into their own pockets” to help fund this change. But with women’s soccer growing exponentially and with a very high-profile World Cup likely taking place in North America in 2026, it’s only a matter of time before the tournament becomes another major revenue generator for FIFA.

Ultimately, both Gregorius and Baer-Hoffmann credit the women’s players themselves for their efforts to bring about such a massive change in such a short amount of time. Says Baer-Hoffmann, “this generation of players have taken the biggest leap in the professionalization of the game” which will benefit players for generations to come.

It was, therefore, important to FIFPRO to make sure these changes happened quickly enough that many of the women who advocated for it can benefit from some of the changes, says Gregorius. At some point, she says, the fight for equality has to end. It can’t go on forever. But thanks to the efforts of this current generation of players, they are on track to achieve it – at least within the confines of the World Cup – in just a few years’ time.

Source link

Continue Reading


Previewing Current, Thorns – Equalizer Soccer




Photo: Kansas City Current

Arianna Cascone and Jeff Kassouf wrap up our NWSL season previews with the two teams who met in last year’s NWSL Championship: Kansas City Current and Portland Thorns FC. The Current added Debinha, and the Thorns will be led once again by reigning MVP Sophia Smith. How will both teams navigate through a Women’s World Cup summer as they try to make it to the final once again?

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.

Access the best women’s soccer coverage all year long

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

Source link

Continue Reading


11 major talking points ahead of the 2023 NWSL season – Equalizer Soccer




Photo Copyright Geoff Burke for USA TODAY Sports

The 2023 National Women’s Soccer League season kicks off on Saturday, and with it comes an amalgamation of excitement and question marks.

To get you ready for the year ahead — as the NWSL officially turns 10 years old on the field — we break down 11 big talking points to watch.

VAR: Video Assistant Referees join the fold

Saturday’s season kickoff will feature the debut of VAR (Video Assisted Referee) which will help further bring the NWSL into the modern era. What will this mean? At its best, it will mean awarding penalties for obvious handballs the referee misses, and the end of penalties called for phantom handballs (hello Becky Sauerbrunn on 2018 opening weekend). And at some point, a call that would have been incorrect that truly changes a game or season will be made right.

At worst, VAR will mean some lengthy delays, subdued celebrations, and some goals called back for offside based on the narrowest of margins. And at some point, there will be a VAR call that does not have universal agreement, even among experts.

One thing to get out of the way now is that with VAR comes delayed offside flags. The idea is sound, because you can call a goal back but you cannot reinstate a play once it gets blown dead. So, keep that in mind the first few times the flag looks like it came in very late.

The World Cup bump

It is indisputable that every World Cup has resulted in a bump to the domestic leagues here in the United States. That includes WPS and Major League Soccer. It will be difficult to match the excitement of the last two tournaments, especially with this one happening at awkward hours for Americans.

On the flip side, access to global women’s soccer has exploded since 2019, giving fans more emotional ties to players from all over the world. That should lessen the burden on the United States to win it in order to maximize the impact.

The league just launched an ad campaign highlighting all of the global stars who ply their trade in NWSL. That’s a good start for a league that during the last two World Cups appeared to be somewhere between unaware and unprepared for their respective aftermaths.

The World Cup bump will happen. The questions are: How big will it be? And what will the lasting impact look like?

Media rights

This was discussed in an earlier column, but at this point, there is no logical reason for NWSL to pull the trigger on a new media deal until after the World Cup. That’s when the property will be hottest, and when it will be most evident that putting on a really good television show goes a long way toward making your league into a big deal.

Nothing on this front will have a direct impact on the 2023 season, but you never know if the next deal will be the one that vaults the league to the next level. Taking into account some of the issues discussed yesterday, NWSL should be as wellpositioned as it has ever been to make at least a medium-sized splash.

What will 2024 look like?

We already know that Utah Royals FC will rejoin the league as an expansion club in 2024. A Bay Area club is expected to be announced soon. There is also a Boston bid expected to be accepted but likely for 2025 or beyond. There are pending sales in Chicago and Portland.

The Royals and the Bay Area group have no doubt been working toward 2024 launches for some time, but it is still getting tight for a formal announcement on the second in order to have proper time to be truly ready. This is an issue that plagued NWSL early but has been better with prior expansion clubs in Louisville, Los Angeles, and San Diego.

The new teams will also require a tweak to the schedule—an increase to 26 matches under the same double-round-robin format seems logical—and possibly even the creation of divisions for the first time. It is not vital that this be set up ahead of the end of 2023, but it would be nice if it was.

As for the Red Stars and Thorns, it won’t be a good look if either sale lingers through the World Cup and NWSL Championship, especially if one of the teams is in the championship match. Getting the right fit is more important than fast-tracking the process, but also—it needs to get done.

Can we focus on soccer?

New ownership in Chicago and Portland is part of NWSL trying to move past heinous abuse scandals that surfaced in 2021 and dogged the league through the early part of 2023 when sanctions were announced. It will never be “over” as moving on requires work and vigilance. But at some point, it would be nice if the top headlines centered on soccer.

In 2022, two head coaches and an assistant were suspended and then fired as a result of issues brought up by the NWSL/NWSL PA Joint Investigation. Another head coach resigned after the season despite an investigation turning up no specific wrongdoing. These transgressions paled in comparison to the ones turned up in 2021 but that is still one-quarter of the league’s head coaches at this time a year ago having been caught up in it. How many will there be in 2023? We can only hope the answer is zero.


Stats nerds like me in particular, love to focus on attendance. The league clearly feels this will be strong in 2023 with commissioner Jessica Berman touting in her press conference Monday that season-ticket sales have already surpassed 2022. And in case you forgot, 2022 ended with a bang when all four hosted playoff matches drew spectacular crowds ahead of a near-sellout at Audi Field for the NWSL Championship. (those numbers do not count for average attendance.)

For this year in particular there are a few spots worth watching. The most interesting to me is San Diego. The Wave were at 6,000-seat Torero Stadium until their final two games and a playoff match at Snapdragon Stadium. Those three games averaged more than 25,000. It will be interesting to see where the Wave land with a full season at Snapdragon.

Angel City burst on the scene and promptly unseated the Thorns as NWSL attendance queens. How they will do in year two will be fun to watch. As for the Thorns, they enter this season in a similar state of limbo with an ownership group the fans have rebelled against. How will that play out in 2023 and beyond?

NWSL Championship

I’ll keep saying it until it happens or the format changes, but I cannot believe the season is about to start and we don’t have a venue announced for the final. This really needs to start changing. As it stands, the league hasn’t actually formally committed to the predetermined format beyond this season, although Berman recently indicated it is likely to stay, calling the final the NWSL’s Super Bowl event. But truly making it such will require longer runways into the match and surrounding events.

If I had to bet on where I’ll be on Nov. 11, my money is on Los Angeles.  But don’t go booking any travel based on that, please.

Challenge Cup

The Challenge Cup has finally been put in its proper place on the calendar. The trick now is to convince fans of its importance, especially with so much of it happening while the World Cup players are absent. The format probably needs further tweaking, and bringing in teams from outside NWSL would be cool. For now though, we can look forward to April 19 when the fourth edition of the tournament will kick off.

What else do I need to know for 2023?

We have a few name changes for stadiums. Angel City now plays at BMO Stadium (was Banc of California) and the Dash now play at Shell Energy Stadium (was BBVA Stadium).

International viewers can now access matches through the league’s website, through a new arrangement with Endeavor Streaming. International distributors DAZN and Tigo will also distribute matches in select countries. There is no more Twitch.

On the pitch, NWSL teams quietly opened the door for underage players to train with clubs and sign contracts. For this season, Chloe Ricketts, 15, signed with the Washington Spirit and the Wave have agreed with Melanie Barcenas, also 15. Angel City also had U-18 trialists in camp.

Elsewhere, some new names may actually be familiar players. Mallory Swanson (nee Pugh) is on the top of that list. Others include Haley McCutcheon (nee Hanson), Mandy Haught (nee McGlynn) and Katie Lind (nee Naughton).

And another cool note is that four players are in range to reach 200 regular season matches played this season. Lauren Barnes (189) leads McCall Zerboni (188) but Merritt Mathias (183) and Jess McDonald (178) are next in line.

Who will win the Shield?

For the second straight season, the playoff race figures to be wide open. Extended World Cup absences make handicapping things more difficult than usual. But I am picking the Wave to rise to the top in their second season. There will be some holes for sure over the summer, especially in central defense and goal, and they will be relying on Alex Morgan to stay healthy over the course of a very long season. But they are well coached and should be able to build well on what they started in 2022. The Wave also had a solid rookie class last season and I’d expect those players to keep getting better.

Here’s how I’m predicting the table to finish up:

1. Wave – see above

2. Current – ambitious owners have put together a top side

3. Reign – for the Reign and Laura Harvey, it’s all about the playoffs

4. Thorns – how much will a full year of Crystal Dunn help?

5. Gotham – roster is too good for a repeat of last year…right?

6. Spirit – Rodman, Sanchez, Parsons restore some order for ’21 champs

7. Angel City – would not surprise me if they wind up in the playoffs

8. Louisville – heading in the right direction for sure

9. Dash – did not improve roster enough after breakthrough season

10. Pride – the play hard for Hines, but just not good enough

11. Red Stars – just took too many roster hits to expect any more

12. Courage – were porous defensively before losing Erceg and Pickett

Who will win everything else?

I’ll take the Wave to win the double by beating the Current in the NWSL Championship—at their rival’s home grounds in Los Angeles.

I’m taking a shot with Angel City to win the Challenge Cup, though. They are tough to play against and should be solid during World Cup absences.


MVP – Debinha
Defender of the Year – Naomi Girma
Goalkeeper of the Year – Phallon Tullis-Joyce
Coach of the Year – Juan Carlos Amoros
Rookie of the Year – Michelle Cooper

Source link

Continue Reading