Women’s Soccer

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Ellis announces USWNT roster for 2019 World Cup

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Jill Ellis has selected the 23 women who will bid to defend the United States women’s national team’s champion status at this summer’s World Cup in France.

The USWNT begins its tournament on June 11, and is in a group with Chile, Thailand, and Sweden.

Eleven players will make their World Cup debut, with several recent call-ups not on the roster barring injury. McCall Zerboni, Andi Sullivan, and Casey short were all left off the squad.

That means room for Allie Long, Morgan Brian, and Ali Krieger.

Here’s the full lineup

GOALKEEPERS (3): Adrianna Franch* (Portland Thorns FC), Ashlyn Harris** (Orlando Pride), Alyssa Naeher** (Chicago Red Stars)

DEFENDERS (7): Abby Dahlkemper* (NC Courage), Tierna Davidson* (Chicago Red Stars), Crystal Dunn* (NC Courage), Ali Krieger*** (Orlando Pride), Kelley O’Hara*** (Utah Royals FC), Becky Sauerbrunn*** (Utah Royals FC), Emily Sonnett* (Portland Thorns FC)

MIDFIELDERS (6): Morgan Brian** (Chicago Red Stars), Julie Ertz** (Chicago Red Stars), Lindsey Horan* (Portland Thorns FC), Rose Lavelle* (Washington Spirit), Allie Long* (Reign FC), Samantha Mewis* (NC Courage)

FORWARDS (7): Tobin Heath*** (Portland Thorns FC), Carli Lloyd**** (Sky Blue FC), Jessica McDonald* (NC Courage), Alex Morgan*** (Orlando Pride), Christen Press** (Utah Royals FC), Mallory Pugh* (Washington Spirit), Megan Rapinoe*** (Reign FC)

* First Women’s World Cup
** Second Women’s World Cup
*** Third Women’s World Cup
**** Fourth Women’s World Cup

NWSL’s 7th season opens, looks for bump in World Cup year

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PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) The NWSL opens its seventh season this weekend with some lingering questions about its health, but also the encouraging possibility of a “bump” from the World Cup.

The National Women’s Soccer League has already outlasted any of the other previous pro women’s leagues in the United States. With support from the U.S. Soccer Federation, the NWSL has fared better than the earlier attempts.

That doesn’t mean there aren’t concerns going into Year 7 – many of which were there in the sixth season, too. Possible expansion, the stability of some individual clubs, a need for sponsorships and the lack of a TV deal are among the issues faced by the league that hasn’t had a commissioner since Jeff Plush stepped down in March 2017.

Still, the NWSL could get greater exposure starting in June when the World Cup opens in France. NWSL rosters are filled with national team players from around the globe. Teams will have to navigate player absences during the tournament but could win fans for the latter half of the season – much like after the last World Cup in 2015, which the U.S. won.

Portland Thorns defender Meghan Klingenberg said she believes the league is still headed in the right direction. But continued success will depend on both investment and the will to see it through.

“The most important thing is investment across the league, in human resources; whether that’s coaching or whether that’s just staff that’s helping out, whether that’s in better fields, whether that’s in better housing, whether that’s in whatever. Making the league better, in the league front office but also the clubs’ front offices, I want that,” she said. “And if we can get that, year after year after year then I think we’ll be in a good place.”

The defending champion North Carolina Courage will open the season Saturday night at home against the Chicago Red Stars, one of four games set for this weekend. The Courage defeated the Thorns 3-0 in the title game in front of a crowd of 21,144 in Portland last fall.

The victory capped a fantastic season for the Courage, who went 18-1-6 overall, won the league’s Supporters’ Shield for best record and never dropped a game on the road.

HOW TO WATCH: The NWSL and A+E Networks terminated their broadcast agreement in February, leaving the league with no TV partner. Last season, a `Game of the Week’ aired on the Lifetime channel. A+E also surrendered its stake in the league, but Lifetime remains a jersey sponsor.

At least for now, the league’s games will be streamed live exclusively on the Yahoo Sports app, or on the Yahoo website.

EXPANSION: The league currently stands at nine teams. Since the Boston Breakers folded just before the start of last season, there have been persistent rumors about whether the team will be revived by a new ownership group. Spanish club Barcelona had expressed interest in fielding an NWSL team, although there has been no movement on that front. Major League Soccer’s LAFC could also jump into the fray, with co-owner Mia Hamm suggesting as recently as last week that it is a priority.

Despite all the chatter, NWSL President Amanda Duffy previously indicated the league likely won’t make any expansion announcements until after this season.

WHAT’S GOING ON WITH SKY BLUE? The troubles that plagued New Jersey’s team, Sky Blue, were well documented last year after former player Sam Kerr, now with Chicago, hinted at issues. But improvements have been made.

In February, Sky Blue announced that Tammy Murphy, the wife of part-owner Gov. Phil Murphy, would take a more active role in running the team. And indeed, improvements have been made, with better housing and staff additions. The team will train this season at Georgian Court University in Lakewood, New Jersey, and have access to the school’s wellness facilities in addition to practice fields.

Tony Novo, who served as team president and general manager, resigned and Alyse LaHue was named interim GM. Novo had been criticized by the Cloud 9 supporters’ group.

SCHEDULE: The league will take a short break during the group stage of the World Cup in France. But a chunk of the league’s players will be away with their national teams for extended periods this season. The NWSL allowed teams to expand rosters to 22 players, in addition to four supplemental players who won’t count against the salary cap.

Teams play a 24-game schedule that wraps up Oct. 12. The championship game is scheduled for Oct. 26.

More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/apf-Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports

USWNT legend O’Reilly to retire after NWSL season

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HAO is calling it a career.

Heather O’Reilly, a three-time Olympic gold medalist and 2015 Women’s World Cup winner, announced Friday that she’ll be hanging up her boots at the end of the 2019 NWSL season.

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O’Reilly has won the WPS with Sky Blue FC, FA Cup with Arsenal, and NWSL titles with both North Carolina Courage and FC Kansas City.

She accumulated a wild 231 caps in a decade-and-a-half with the USWNT, scoring 42 goals.

Only seven USWNT players have been capped more times than O’Reilly.

VIDEO: Champagne title celebration goes awry in Wales

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In the words of Rob Riggle… “In the face!”

Here’s one for the blooper reels, though it comes in a moment of glory.

Estelle Randall plays for Cardiff Metropolitan University, a student team but also the six-time champions of the Women’s Welsh Premier League.

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Randall was the woman at the wheel to pop the cork when Cardiff Met won the league this weekend, and… well… it went awry.’

Luckily she wasn’t hurt, and had a good laugh over it immediately afterwards, and after her video went viral (see below).

Also on Cardiff Met is an American trio: Olivia Thompson, Jessica Westhoff, and former Bowling Green star Madison Schupbach.

Barcelona, Atleti set attendance record for women’s club game

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MADRID (AP) The Spanish league says that Sunday’s match between Atletico Madrid and Barcelona has set a world record for the highest attendance at a women’s soccer club match.

The Spanish league says that 60,739 people turned out at Atletico’s Wanda Metropolitano Stadium to see the hosts lose 2-0 to Barcelona.

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Barcelona cut two-time defending champion Atletico’s lead at the top of the standings to three points with six matches remaining.

The record for any women’s match was the 90,185 people who watched the 1999 World Cup final between the United States and China at the Rose Bowl. At the 2012 Olympic final in London, 80,203 people saw the United States defeat Japan 2-1 to win the gold medal.

More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/apf-Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports