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NWSL announces changes to salary cap, wage structure

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The NWSL, whose 2019 season just concluded on Sunday, announced sweeping changes to its salary cap and wage structure, including implementation of workarounds similar to those in Major League Soccer.

First and foremost, the league boasts a 19% increase in the salary cap for the 2020 season, set now at $650,000,  plus increases to the league minimum and maximum salaries, upped to $20,000 and $50,000 respectively.

In addition, the league announced the institution of an allocation system that would allow teams to buy down salaries, helping them get under the cap and allowing them to sign players for above the league maximum.

There are restrictions to the allocation rules that are intended to help increase the distribution of salary increases rather than see teams pouring the extra wiggle room into one or two big-name players. Teams are not allowed to use allocation money on USWNT or Canadian National Team designated players, but can only use it on players who qualify through various determining factors such as national team caps, NWSL awards, or NWSL tenure. Some on social media speculated that this system seems tailored to keeping Australian international goalkeeper Sam Kerr in the league, since it is restricted from use on U.S. internationals.

The league also announced that teams will be permitted to acquire players via transfer fees, a new addition to the league signaling a stronger financial viability. Still, there are restrictions. Teams must use allocation money to purchase players, and cannot sell players that have U.S. National Team designation.

There are also changes to the housing and auto assistance programs as well as new details to the discovery system. You can see the complete NWSL release with all the new rules and regulations here.

NWSL final: Courage run rampant on Red Stars, claim second title

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The North Carolina Courage put four unanswered goals past the Chicago Red Stars on Sunday, winning the National Women’s Soccer League championship for a second consecutive year by a scoreline of 4-0.

It is the second title in the club’s history, tying a record held by the Portland Thorns and the defunct FC Kansas City.

Like the dominant team they are (and have been), the Courage – fresh off of winning their third straight NWSL Shield – wasted no time in imposing themselves on Chicago.

Just four minutes in, Debinha’s close-range finish – the fastest-ever goal in a NWSL championship game – foreshadowed what was to come at a sold-out Sahlen’s Stadium at WakeMed Soccer Park.

What exactly was it that came in the 86 minutes that followed?

A tormenting, fluid Courage attack that overpowered a feeble Red Stars, who were missing injured Tierna Davidson and failed to plug-in league MVP Sam Kerr into the game.

Before the first half came to an end, forward Jessica McDonald double the lead for the hosts’, heading the ball with into the back of net. In stoppage time, Crystal Dunn’s goal put the game out of the Red Stars’ reach.

“It was a hotter today than we expected and we needed to share the load and, you know, [we] had four different goal scorers,” Dunn said. “I always said this team is so hard to beat because who are you going to stop on our team?”

“We got up on them early and I think that really helped us in the end,” she added. “It is a final and we are playing against a top team this year and we obviously did not think the score would be four-zero,” Dunn added. “So we are really proud of our effort.”

Debinha, the game’s first goalscorer, was named the final MVP, which was U.S. national team legend’s Heather O’Reilly last professional game.

With Sunday’s title in the books, the Courage became the first NWSL team to win the NWSL Shield and the NWSL Championship in back-to-back seasons.

In other words, Paul Riley and Co. have put together a dynasty. It was only fitting that they also became the first team in NWSL history to hoist the cup in front of the home fans in Cary.

Lyon planning to purchase NWSL franchise

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Arguably the best club soccer team in European women’s football, Olympique Lyon, is looking to expand into the United States.

Jean-Michel Aulas, president of OL Groupe, which owns Lyon’s men’s and women’s teams as well as the grand Groupama Stadium, said in a statement that Lyon was in negotiations to “take over” an NWSL team. Negotiations could finish soon enough that it could start with the 2020 season.

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“Our international expansion also involves a project in the United States with the decision to take over a women’s football franchise,” Aulas said, via Lyon’s website. “The project is progressing well and we aim to be operational before the start of the next season, in March-April 2020.”

It’s unclear exactly whether Aulas would purchase a team off a current investor, start an expansion franchise, or revive a former club like the Boston Breakers or FC Kansas City. The Washington Spirit and Sky Blue FC are both in tough situations and could do with an injection of cash. Lyon had revenues of more than $300 million over the past year, and assuming some would be allocated to the NWSL club, that would be a massive boost for them.

In addition, Lyon’s women’s team is currently the four-time defending UEFA Women’s Champions League winners, especially thanks to Norwegian superstar Ada Hegerberg. Lyon has also won Ligue 1 for 13-straight years, staying above Paris Saint-Germain despite significant investment in talent from the French side.

If Lyon plans to treat an NWSL team like its club in France, this is a win-win proposition from NWSL. It allows a massive brand to lend its weight to the league, and also enables some of Lyon’s young guns to come to the U.S. and compete against some of our best stars. In addition, it could lead to more chances for American players with Lyon, should U.S. Soccer allow them to move abroad at some point after the Olympics.

USWNT legend O’Reilly scores stunner on night to honor her career

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USWNT hero and North Carolina Courage playmaker Heather O’Reilly gave her special day its just desserts.

The 34-year-old New Jersey native scored a sweet goal late in North Carolina’s 6-1 demolition of Orlando Pride on Saturday night, which just so happened to be the evening chosen to celebrate her 17-year career.

[ MORE: Fan banned from all NWSL games ]

O’Reilly dribbled down the left before cutting to the middle and slashing a shot across the goal and inside the far post.

She has 231 USWNT caps with 47 goals, a Women’s World Cup crown, three Olympic gold medals, three top-flight domestic titles, two Women’s College Cups, and an FA Cup with Arsenal Ladies.

The Courage have four matches left in the regular season and look set to again be the No. 1 seed, so O’Reilly may yet have more memorable moments left in her playing career.

Fan banned from all NWSL games after investigation

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A person who directed racist taunts at Portland Thorns’ goalkeeper Adrianna Franch has been banned from attending National Women’s Soccer League games.

A fan at the Sept. 6 game between the Thorns and Utah Royals in Salt Lake City first called attention to the unidentified person on Twitter. The tweet was later deleted, but both the Thorns and Royals, as well as the league, investigated the incident.

The NWSL issued a statement Saturday saying the person was identified. In addition to being banned from NWSL matches, the person – who was not identified publicly by the league – was also banned from attending events at Rio Tinto Stadium.

“NWSL will not tolerate inappropriate fan behavior,” the league’s statement said. “Racism has no place in our sport.”

The Royals also offered “thanks in no small part to assistance from fans seated in the vicinity,” for identifying the offending party.

A few days after the incident, Franch posted a statement to Twitter: “The situation surrounding our game Friday night is not a NEW issue, nor is it a first for me. RACISM is NOT okay in any form!! We as a HUMAN RACE can be better and should be better. We as a SPORT can help show the way.”

Franch was on the roster of the U.S. national team that won the Women’s World Cup this summer in France.

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