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NWSL extends league-wide training moratorium through May

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The NWSL is extending its league-wide training moratorium another month amid the coronavirus pandemic, the league announced on Saturday.

All NWSL teams will be unable to partake in team trainings until at least May 5, extending its previous training moratorium that was set to expire on Sunday, April 5. The 2020 season – which was set to start on April 18 – is expected to start by the end of June, according to NWSL commissioner Lisa Baird.

“We’ve been just communicating with our players and we’re targeting for the end of June for our season to start,” Baird told The Equalizer. “I say that with conviction and hope, but … we’re gonna adhere to the public health guidelines that are in place at the time and I don’t think that we can predict what they are. But our strategy is in place.”

Earlier this week, Major League Soccer and United Soccer League extended their training moratorium through April 24 and April 19, respectively.

NWSL season delayed; training moratorium extended

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The National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) is delaying the start of the regular season because of the coronavirus.

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The league announced Friday that it is imposing a moratorium on training through April 5, following the guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Because of that, the season will not start as planned on April 18.

The NWSL has not announced when the season might start. The league had already canceled its preseason matches.

“We are considering all possible implications for the preseason and regular season schedules while prioritizing the health and safety of our players, staff and fans,” the league said in a statement.

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The nine-team league is embarking on its eighth season. Reign FC was scheduled to play the Washington Spirit at Audi Field in the season opener on CBS, the league’s new broadcast partner.

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Portland acquires two-time World Cup winner Becky Sauerbrunn

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PORTLAND, Ore. — The Portland Thorns have acquired veteran U.S. national team defender Becky Sauerbrunn from the Utah Royals.

The long-rumored deal was made official Tuesday. The Royals acquired defender Elizabeth Ball and $100,000 in allocation money, with the possibility of additional allocation money if future conditions are met.

Sauerbrunn is in Orlando, Florida with the national team, preparing for the SheBelieves Cup tournament. The United States opens the tournament on Thursday night against England.

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In an interview published on the Portland Thorns’ website, Sauerbrunn said she was excited to come to Portland, where she lives in the offseason.

“As a player, I’ve lived my life in two parts, where my life with my team has been away from where I (otherwise) lived,” she said. “Going to Portland at this point in my career, having lived there for five years, that changes. This move allows me to play at home.”

Sauerbrunn has played professionally in the National Women’s Soccer League since 2013, starting with FC Kansas City before moving to the Royals in 2018. She’s been named NWSL Defender of the Year four times.

Thorns general manager Gavin Wilkinson said he appreciated Utah’s cooperation in the deal to bring Sauerbrunn home.

“Becky will give us tremendous experience and leadership at the back,” Wilkinson said. “Her addition to a group of players with championship capabilities and aspirations is exciting on all levels.”

Sauerbrunn was on the U.S. team that won the World Cup in 2015 and again last summer in France. She also won the Olympic gold medal with the team in 2012. She has 174 appearances with the national team.

Former England forward Eni Aluko retires

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Former England striker Eni Aluko retired from professional soccer on Wednesday, ending a career in which she became a prolific scorer for multiple teams and accused one of her international coaches of racism.

The 32-year-old Aluko announced her retirement in a post on The Players’ Tribune website, saying she was proud to have been part of a generation of female players who used their “voices and their feet to break barriers all over the world” and moved into a “more empowered position.”

Aluko, who left Juventus in December after 18 months at the Italian club, scored 33 goals in 102 appearances for England but didn’t play for her country after 2016.

The following year, she said she was subjected to “bullying and discrimination” by then-England coach Mark Sampson, which led to the Football Association making a public apology to Eluko after an investigation found Sampson had used racially discriminating remarks toward her in 2014.

As part of the case, it was revealed that an 80,000 pound ($105,000) financial settlement was secretly struck by the FA with Aluko to halt her grievance complaint against Sampson ahead of the European Championship in 2017.

In her post, Aluko said “there have been other moments when I have thought about leaving” soccer.

“I’m talking about the racism, the abuse on social media, all that,” she said. “Women do not earn much in football, we play because we love the game. Sometimes I have thought, `Is it worth it? Do I love you enough?’ And every time the answer has been yes.”

Aluko played for Birmingham, Charlton and Chelsea in England, and also for teams in St. Louis and Atlanta in the United States. She joined Juventus in 2018.

Aluko has also worked in recent years as a newspaper columnist and a TV commentator.

“Some people say that you are just a sport, but you have taught me so much about life,” she wrote in her “thank you” letter to soccer. “You have shown me how to work with others, how to set targets and achieve them, how to embrace challenges. You have given me highs that I never thought were possible, and lows that challenged me to my core – but that also made me strong and resilient.”

NWSL’s Reign FC acquired by owners of French powerhouse Lyon

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TACOMA, Wash. — Reign FC of the National Women’s Soccer League has been acquired by the OL Groupe, the parent company of French powerhouse Olympique Lyonnais.

The French group will hold an 89.5 percent operating stake in the club when the sale closes, which is expected in January. Current Reign FC majority owners Teresa and Bill Predmore will own 7.5 percent and former NBA star Tony Parker will have a 3 percent share of the club.

Jean-Michel Aulas will serve as chairman of the club’s board of directors, with Parker holding a seat. Bill Predmore will remain the club’s CEO. A COO will be named later by OL Groupe and Teresa Predmore will remain as president of the Reign Academy youth programs.

Olympique Lyonnais, more commonly known as Lyon, plays in France’s Ligue 1 on the men’s side and Division 1 Feminine on the women’s side. Lyon has won six women’s Champions League titles.

Reign FC will continue to play its home games at Cheney Stadium, the venue it shares with the Triple-A Tacoma Rainiers.