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U.S. women’s soccer coach Jill Ellis preps for last game

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CHICAGO — Retiring U.S. Soccer women’s national team coach Jill Ellis already knows she’ll be emotional on Sunday at Soldier Field.

The two-time FIFA women’s coach of the year will lead the World Cup champions in the final game of their six-game victory tour when the U.S. team faces South Korea.

“We built the best team in the world,” Ellis said Saturday. “We were incredibly successful over the years. People have been drawn to this team because of the personality and the success.”

The 2-0 victory against South Korea on Thursday was Ellis’ record 106th, passing former coach Tony DiCicco for the most team wins before an announced crowd of 30,071 in Charlotte, North Carolina.

It will be a bittersweet leave-taking after five years at the helm for Ellis and the players.

“We always have a quick meeting before our pregame meal, and that’s going to be hard to get through,” Ellis said. “They know I’m already getting emotional.”

Star forward Megan Rapinoe said Ellis adapted to a changing game and players over the years.

“Constantly trying to keep up with that, keep above it, with personnel and the way we’re been trying to play, she’s been pretty adaptable in that way,” Rapinoe said. “It would nice to send her out with a win after back-to-back World Cups.”

Forward Carli Lloyd said Ellis leaves the team’s legacy in a strong place.

“It’s been a fantastic journey to be a part of,” Lloyd said. “It’s finding a way. It took all 23 players, like it always does. Every major tournament, the story line is different. And it’s only going to get harder and harder. Winning is great, but without the journey, there would be no end bit.”

Goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher calls it a fitting celebration after their victory in France.

“This team has been something special,” Naeher said. “Coming off this summer … to celebrate Jill and what she’s done for U.S. soccer and this team.”

Ellis said she decided in December this would be her last year in charge, win or lose.

“If you’re blessed to do a back-to-back World Cup, it’s pretty unusual,” Ellis said. “There’s a shelf life to this job, I believe, and I think that’s healthy. It allows the ability to have change and perspective. It’s not like a college job, where there’s an incoming class.”

Ellis added she’s looking forward to attending more birthdays with her daughter, Lily.

“There’s a personal peace to that decision,” Ellis said. “I feel good. I feel complete.”

A new coach will be hired after U.S. Soccer selects a new general manager for the team (18-1-2). With assistant coach Tony Gustavsson also retiring after eight years, the coaching search is wide open heading into the Tokyo Olympics.

“The game has changed significantly,” Ellis said. “To the person who comes after me, I’d say this is not 1991 or 1999. There’s a lot more teams playing with a lot more investment. The margins are pretty fine. I had the benefit of being an assistant prior to taking the job, so I knew the players.”

The British-born Ellis announced her retirement in July. She played college soccer at William & Mary and was head coach at Illinois and UCLA before joining the U.S. national ranks as an under-21 coach in 2000.

Ellis became the U.S. team head coach in 2014 and led it to eight overall tournament titles, including the 2015 and 2019 World Cup titles. The U.S. lost just seven matches during her tenure.

The 53-year-old Ellis said the new coach will have a “good sense of our players,” and “it’s just getting up to speed in the depth of the squad.”

Report: Real Madrid wants to sign USWNT star Rapinoe as ‘Galactica’

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Megan Rapinoe is looking at a return to Europe, and her preferred club’s rivals lurk with interest.

The FIFA’s Best award winner for 2019 has expressed her love for Barcelona, with AS in Spain reporting that her love for the Blaugranas won’t stop Real Madrid from courting the Seattle Reign star and USMNT living legend.

[ MORE: Zidane urges calmness over Hazard struggles ]

Real is taking over the Deportivo Tacon team and rebranding it as the first Real Madrid’s women’s team in 2020, and president Florentino Perez loves a splashy signing. The term ‘Galactica‘ is being thrown around in a nod to Real’s habit of signing massive money signings on the men’s side.

Rapinoe has played for Sydney FC in Australia and Lyon in France, winning a French title and finishing as runner-up in the 2012-13 UEFA Women’s Champions League.

Imagine the offer that could be headed Rapinoe’s way from Perez.

The 158-times capped Rapinoe is a two-time World Cup champion, has a pair of NWSL Shields, and has won Olympic gold. The idea of spearheading a first-year Real team would have to be interesting, but Barca is far closer to a UWCL title.

In fact, Barca is already in the Round of 16 and faces Belarusian side Minsk. The Blaugranes have world superstars Lieke Martens, Caroline Hansen, and Vicky Losada in the fold. A pretty attractive proposition, to be sure.

Klopp joins Common Goal, will donate 1 percent of salary

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Jurgen Klopp has joined the Common Goal Initative, pledging 1 percent of his salary to disadvantaged youth around the world.

Klopp made the announcement after winning the top honor for men’s manager at FIFA’s The Best awards ceremony on Monday.

[ MORE: Messi win’s men’s honor, City shut out ]

He joins Megan Rapinoe, who was honored as FIFA’s top women’s player, and a host of others including USWNT star Alex Morgan, RB Leipzig manager Julian Nagelsmann, and San Jose striker Chris Wondlowski.

“As a team, even with a minimum pledge of just 1%, together the football industry is capable of transforming the world,” Klopp said. “Now is the time for those interested to take a step forward.”

Generous move from a classy man.

Manchester United midfielder Juan Mata launched the Common Goal Initiative in 2017, describing why in a Players’ Tribune post.

USWNT’s Rapinoe lauds Sterling, Koulibaly in acceptance speech

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Megan Rapinoe again used her pulpit to shine a light on worthy topics.

Awarded FIFA’s Best women’s player award on Monday in Milan, the USWNT superstar and two-time World Cup winner addressed two men’s stars who have faced racial abuse this year.

[ MORE: Five USWNT players make Best XI ]

After thanking her friends, family, and coach Jill Ellis, Rapinoe turned her attention to black stars from Manchester City and Napoli.

From the BBC:

“Some of the stories that inspired me this year, Raheem Sterling and Koulibaly their incredible performance on the field and their reaction to the disgusting racism they have to take.

“If we really want to have meaningful change, if everyone other than Sterling or Koulibaly was outraged, if everyone was outraged by the homophobia. We have such an incredible opportunity being professional footballers, so much success, an incredible platform.

“I ask everyone here, lend your platform to other people, share your success. We have a unique opportunity to use this game to actually change the world for better. I hope you take that to heart, do something, we have incredible power in this room.”

Rapinoe, Ellis win FIFA honors; Five USWNT players in Best XI

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Zero surprise here.

Megan Rapinoe has been named the Best women’s player Jill Ellis has been named the top manager in women’s soccer at FIFA’s The Best awards ceremony in Milan on Monday.

[ MORE: Messi win’s men’s honor, City shut out ]

Ellis led the USWNT to its second-straight Women’s World Cup this summer, the first boss to manage the feat (Germany won two-straight World Cups, but had Tina Theune and Silvia Neid at the helm).

Rapinoe made waves on and off the field during the USWNT’s spell-binding run to a second-successive title, its fourth in history.

The Women’s Best XI sees four of her teammates join her: Alex Morgan, Kelley O’Hara, Julie Ertz, and Rose Lavelle.

Three members of Women’s Champions League winners Lyon also make the list, as does top goalkeeper winner Sari van Veenendaal.

  • Sari van Veenendaal (NED) – Arsenal / Atletico Madrid
  • Lucy Bronze (ENG) – Olympique Lyonnais
  • Wendie Renard (FRA) – Olympique Lyonnais
  • Nilla Fischer (SWE) – VfL Wolfsburg / Linkopings
  • Kelley O’Hara (USA) – Utah Royals
  • Amandine Henry (FRA) – Olympique Lyonnais
  • Julie Ertz (USA) – Chicago Red Stars
  • Rose Lavelle (USA) – Washington Spirit
  • Megan Rapinoe (USA) – Reign FC
  • Marta (BRA) – Orlando Pride
  • Alex Morgan (USA) – Orlando Pride