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USWNT makes $16,000 donation to help launch NWSL union

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The U.S. Women’s National Team Players Association is donating $16,000 to help get the union for players in the National Women’s Soccer League off the ground.

The NWSL Players Association represents more than 160 players who are not paid by the U.S. and Canadian soccer federations. Those federations pay the salaries of 33 national team players who are allocated across the five-year-old women’s professional league.

The $16,000 donation represents the proceeds from T-shirts sold as part of the U.S. national team’s 2016 #equalpayforequalplay campaign while the players sought a new labor agreement with U.S. Soccer. A deal between the two sides was struck in April.

A month later, non-allocated NWSL players overwhelmingly approved a new constitution and bylaws for a players’ association. The group seeks to represent the interests of non-allocated players with the league’s 10 teams and the league office.

The donation will help launch the union, said Yael Averbuch, a midfielder for FC Kansas City who was recently elected president.

She said while players have collectively worked to build a strong relationship with the league, “it’s really important that it (the union) is formalized and we’re able to speak on behalf of all these players, who before didn’t have anywhere to turn when something is going wrong or anyone to stand up for them.”

Becca Roux, interim executive director of the USWNTPA, says the national team players wanted to empower their NWSL teammates.

“We have shared goals to grow the NWSL and the women’s soccer more broadly, so we are committed to working together as players and as players associations to do that, but we’re also committed to working with (managing director) Amanda Duffy and the NWSL, and owners across the league, to build on the growth and success of the past five years over the next five years and beyond,” Roux said.

Averbuch said the NWSL union will look for ways to improve the financial situation for its players. The minimum salary for non-allocated players in the league is $15,000 and many have second jobs, such as running soccer clinics, to make ends meet. Some live with host families.

“We believe that if we’re able to work together with the league to continue to promote our product and find creative ways to that, and enhance the work environment of the non-allocated players in other ways, like offering education opportunities and empowering those players to build their own brands and start businesses on their side, that the financial-type things and other improvements will come,” she said.

That may include helping players continue their education or earn coaching certification, she said.

The U.S. women’s national team’s collective bargaining agreement finalized earlier this year includes provisions for national team player pay in the NWSL. Following their victory in the 2015 World Cup, the players waged a campaign that drew attention to the pay gap compared to the men’s national team.

The national team players have also supported other female athletes who are seeking better pay and working conditions. That includes the U.S. women’s hockey team, which won significant raises from USA Hockey in April after threatening to boycott the women’s world championships on home soil.

Along with announcing the donation, both unions on Thursday also launched the #NWSLhighfive to celebrate the league’s fifth year. The league’s regular season ends this weekend with four of the league’s 10 teams headed to the playoffs – the Portland Thorns, Chicago Red Stars, Orlando Pride and North Carolina Courage.

Landon Donovan unveiled by Club Leon

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Landon Donovan was unveiled to Club Leon fans at Estadio Leon on Monday night.

The former USMNT star and longtime LA Galaxy forward came out of retirement for the second time to sign with the Liga MX side this past weekend. Leon finished 7th in the Apertura table, losing to Tigres in the first round of the playoffs. They currently have a perfect six points through the first two Clausura matches, sitting second in the table with a +3 goal differential.

Fans were allowed into the stadium for free, and they packed the lower stand on one end, waving USA flags and holding large “L” and “D” cutouts, and the fans faced a massive board on the field that read “I DON’T BELIEVE IN WALLS.” Chants of “U-S-A” rang out through the stadium before the unveiling.

ESPN reporter Tom Marshall pointed out that the last time the club had such a large event to welcome a player, it was in January of 2013 when the club brought Mexico captain Rafa Marquez in from the New York Red Bulls.

Donovan will don the number 20 for Club Leon.

Report: Rimando to return to RSL

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USMNT veteran and current MLS free agent Nick Rimando will reportedly return to Real Salt Lake for a 12th season with the club, according to a report by Goal.com’s Ives Galarcep.

The report states he received interest on the free agent market from both Los Angeles clubs, but the 38-year-old will return to the club he has made 350 appearances for.

Rimando came to Real Salt Lake from D.C. United in 2006, and has made at least 24 league appearances in every single season since. He has also made 22 playoff appearances for the club across eight playoff campaigns.

He last received a USMNT cap in January of 2017 in a friendly against Serbia, but was part of the 2018 World Cup qualification squad throughout 2017 backing up Tim Howard. Overall, Rimando has played 22 times for the US national team, with 14 goals conceded and nine clean sheets.

The report also states that Kyle Beckerman will return to Rio Tinto Stadium, with the veteran also testing the free agent waters but deciding to re-sign. The pair will be two of just four players left on the roster from the 2009 MLS Cup winning team.

Report: Aubameyang hands in transfer request at Dortmund

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According to German publication Bild, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has handed a transfer request to the Borussia Dortmund hierarchy.

Arsenal is the latest club linked with the Gabonese striker, with reports earlier this month of a deal to send Aubameyang to China. He has reportedly asked to leave Dortmund multiple times this January, and has been turned down thus far, and it’s causing problems. Aubameyang was suspended by the club for one match for missing a meeting last week, a match that ended in a goalless draw with Wolfsburg.

[ MORE: Man United, Chelsea battle for Alexis Sanchez ]

“We had a very heated discussion,” said Dortmund sporting director Michael Zorc after the suspension was announced. “He hasn’t behaved like this for years, he’s always been very professional. What has happened is very tolerable, there will be some fines, too. It’s not necessary to talk about a transfer, but it’s clear that things can’t continue like this because some important things are in jeopardy, and that there is tension inside the squad.”

The price tag, according to recent reports, would be around $76 million, and he would be purchased with money from the likely outgoing transfer of Alexis Sanchez.

Arsenal transfer guru Sven Mislintat is reportedly driving the deal, having signed Aubameyang at Dortmund during his days as a scout from Westfalinstadion. However, there is buzz among the British media that Arsene Wenger is unimpressed by Aubameyang’s recent insubordination and has expressed his concerns.

Emre Can says new Liverpool contract still a possibility

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Liverpool midfielder Emre Can is out of contract this summer, but says he could still sign back on at Anfield despite heavy rumors of his departure.

Still just 24 years old, the German came over from Bayer Leverkusen in the summer of 2014 and has improved in each of his four years at Liverpool, flourishing under Jurgen Klopp as a strong passer and versatile player who can be used in midfield or defense. With that, he has reportedly turned down a number of new contract offers, and Juventus is reportedly in the lead to sign him to a free transfer.

[ MORE: Arsenal should follow Liverpool’s rebuilding example ]

Can is eligible to sign a pre-contract agreement with anyone from now until the end of the season, but he says that doesn’t mean he will leave.

“My agent is looking after everything but I am here until the summer,” Can said. “I haven’t signed anything with anyone. I am talking with everyone. Of course I am talking with Liverpool. Why not? I still have a contract here. It is an amazing club. What can I say? My agent does the rest. I just concentrate on the scene, on my performance and the football. I will give everything for this team.”

The loss of Philippe Coutinho this winter is an obvious blow to the Reds, but an argument could be made that the loss of Can would hurt just as much if not more, as stout defensive midfielders are hard to come by. However, the arrival of Naby Kieta this summer could ease the blow of the German’s potential departure. Should Can stay, partnering with Keita in midfield could prove masterful as Liverpool looks to continue building towards a title challenge. Currently, Can has paired with Giorgino Wijnaldum in Liverpool’s midfield in recent weeks, and the club is on a five-match win streak that has seen them shoot into third place in the Premier League table.