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USWNT’s Rapinoe wins 2019 Women’s Ballon d’Or

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Megan Rapinoe topped off an iconic calendar year with France Football’s biggest prize, the Women’s Ballon d’Or award.

Rapinoe scored six goals to go with three assists as she led the U.S. Women’s National Team to another FIFA Women’s World Cup title. She scored the decisive goals against France in the quarterfinals and the Netherlands in the final, but it was her place as the heart and soul of the USWNT that led her and the national team to win. The 34-year-old absorbed all the pressure on her and her team and still produced on both sides of the ball.

Rapinoe had nine goals and seven assists across the calendar year for the USWNT. In addition to winning the World Cup, she won the Golden Ball and the FIFA award for the best women’s soccer player of the year. She’s also in the running and is now surely the front runner for the 2019 U.S. Soccer Female Player of the Year.

England right back Lucy Bronze and Rapinoe’s USWNT teammate Alex Morgan finished in second and third place, respectively.

U.S. Soccer announces Player of Year nominees

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The United States men’s national team and women’s national team will each have a star elected Player of the Year, but the similarities end there.

The USWNT won the World Cup and choosing its top performer for 2019 is an improbably difficult task. The USMNT spent much of the calendar driving its supporters crazy.

Women’s nominees
Julie Ertz
Rose Lavelle
Megan Rapinoe
Alex Morgan
Alyssa Naeher
Carli Lloyd

It’s hard to find too much fault with the half-dozen World Cup winners chosen as finalists, though arguments for Kelley O’Hara and Tobin Heath would be well heard by the writer of this post.

It seems likely Rapinoe will claim the award, considering she’s yet to win it and was probably the most visible athlete in the world this summer.

Ertz, Morgan and Lloyd have all won the honor.

Men’s nominees
Christian Pulisic
Jordan Morris
Weston McKennie
Aaron Long
Tim Ream
Gyasi Zardes

As for the men, is there a scenario in which Christian Pulisic doesn’t win the honor? Reasonably? Yes.

Some will argue that Weston McKennie might get a look over Pulisic on the balance of their seasons, but there’s a strong argument to be made for Morris given his incredible comeback from injury and standout seasons for both Seattle and the USMNT.

Pulisic had three goals and three assists at the Gold Cup, and added goals against Chile and Cuba.

Morris bagged five goals and seven assists, including four and four in the CONCACAF Nations League group stage.

Three of the six men’s finalists ply their trade in MLS, while one is in the Premier League, another in the Football League Championship, and a sixth in the Bundesliga.

Pulisic won in 2017, while Zack Steffen nabbed the award in 2018. The other four nominees have not claimed one.

USWNT’s Ertz on equal pay battle: ‘We are really proud of ourselves’

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In the latest Peter King Podcast, NBC Sports’ NFL analyst spoke with USMNT star midfielder Julie Ertz and her husband Philadelphia Eagles TE Zach Ertz, to discuss their lives as athletes, what they learned from each other’s sport, and the work they’re doing off the field and in the community.

Ertz, 27, also discussed the USWNT’s ongoing battle with the U.S. Soccer Federation for equal pay.

“As a team we are really proud of ourselves, honored to be one of those that is continuing to make this sport bigger and better,” Ertz said. “Not just here but globally as well, and that when the next generation comes and fills our shoes, we will leave it in a better place than when I started with this national team.”

Click play to listen to the pod below, where you can also subscribe.

USWNT trounces Costa Rica 6-0 in 2019 finale (video)

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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) Carli Lloyd and Morgan Brian scored in the first 10 minutes and Lynn Williams came off the bench to add a pair of second-half goals in the United States’ 6-0 victory over Costa Rica on Sunday night at TIAA Bank Field in the Americans’ final match of the year.

The U.S. was 20W-3D-1L in 2019, finishing with a 23-match unbeaten streak.

Lloyd started the scoring in the fourth minute, taking a long pass from Rose Lavelle and drilling a shot from the left side of the box past goalkeeper Noelia Bermudez. Lloyd scored twice in a 3-2 victory over Sweden on Thursday night.

Brian added a goal in the 10th minute, taking Lavelle’s pass and sending a scorching shot into the corner of the net. It was especially gratifying for Brian, who grew up in nearby St. Simons Island, Georgia, and conducts camps in the Jacksonville area during the offseason.

U.S. coach Vlatko Andonovski made several substitutions at halftime and it quickly paid dividends.

Williams converted in the 50th minute off a pass from Tobin Heath. Williams added a second goal in the 68th minute, taking an assist from Jessica McDonald. Williams narrowly missed a hat trick when her point-blank shot was caught by Bermudez late in the game.

Christen Press and Margaret Purce also added second-half goals.

U.S. goalkeeper Ashlyn Harris had a relatively easy time, needing to turn back just one shot. The closest Costa Rica came to scoring was when Melissa Herrera hit the cross bar on a shot in the 62nd minute and teammate Priscilla Chinchilla did the same in the 76th minute.

Judge grants USWNT class status in discrimination lawsuit

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The U.S. women’s national team has been granted class status in its lawsuit against U.S. Soccer that alleges gender discrimination in compensation and working conditions.

U.S. District Court Judge R. Gary Klausner’s ruling Friday in Los Angeles expands the case beyond the 28 players who originally brought the lawsuit to include all players who had been called up to camp or played in a game over a multiyear period. U.S. Soccer had opposed the move to certify the class.

[READ: Lloyd leads USWNT, Andonovski to first win]

Twenty-eight players, including stars Alex Morgan and Megan Rapinoe, were part of the original suit filed against U.S. Soccer in March alleging institutionalized gender discrimination that includes inequitable compensation between the men’s and women’s teams. A May 5 trial date has been set in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles.

The federation has maintained that compensation for each team is the result of separate collective bargaining agreements, and that the pay structures are different as a result. Men’s team players are paid largely by appearance and performance, while the contract for the women’s team includes provisions for health care and other benefits, as well as salaries in the National Women’s Soccer League.

The players disputed U.S. Soccer’s claims that some of them made more than their male counterparts, maintaining that if men had been as successful as the women’s team, they would have earned far more. The U.S. women won back-to-back World Cup titles in 2015 and 2019. The men failed to make the field for the 2018 World Cup in Russia.

Judge Klausner did not rule on the merits of the lawsuit but acknowledged the players’ claims that they were paid less on a per-game basis than the men and did not enjoy the same working conditions.

“The failure to provide the (women’s National Team) with equal working conditions is a real (not abstract) injury which affects each Plaintiff in a personal and individual way,” the judge ruled “Plaintiffs also have offered sufficient proof of this injury. Indeed, Plaintiffs have submitted declarations establishing that WNT players were subject to discriminatory working conditions.”

Molly Levinson, who speaks for the players in matters of the lawsuit, applauded the ruling.

“This is a historic step forward in the struggle to achieve equal pay. We are so pleased that the Court has recognized USSF’s ongoing discrimination against women players – rejecting USSF’s tired arguments that women must work twice as hard and accept lesser working conditions to get paid the same as men. We are calling on (U.S. Soccer President) Carlos Cordeiro to lead USSF and demand an end to the unlawful discrimination against women now,” Levinson said.

U.S. Soccer had “no specific comment” on the ruling.