Category Archives: USWNT Gear

Kristen Hamilton Jersey

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On Thanksgiving Eve, Kristen Hamilton feasted on goals.

Wednesday in Australia, the American forward scored three times for Western Sydney Wanderers FC in the club’s 3-1 victory over Brisbane Roar FC.

It was the club’s first-ever hat trick in Australia’s W-League and it powered the Wanderers to their third straight win.

Hamilton’s first goal of the night came in the 10th minute, and the set-up was a familiar one for fans of the National Women’s Soccer League. Hamilton’s North Carolina Courage teammate, Lynn Williams, sprinted up the left flank and into the box before playing a low through ball to Hamilton, who scored from close-range.

Williams, Hamilton and Denise O’Sullivan are all playing with the Wanderers this season on-loan from the Courage.

“We’re best friends off the field and we connect well on the field,” Hamilton told Fox Sports when asked about Williams. “I definitely don’t get three goals without her tonight… She’s all over the place, she makes defenders think twice about leaving her and coming to defend me. It makes my job easy having her on my team.”

The second goal of the day for Hamilton came in the 45th minute off a long throw-in. After the ball bounced around the box, it fell to Hamilton, who rifled a shot past Australian keeper MacKenzie Arnold with her right foot.

Hamilton secured her hat trick and sealed the win for the Wanderers in the 64th minute by spinning around a defender, racing past another, and firing a mid-range shot into the back of the net.

Kristen Hamilton vs Brisbane Roar – 19/20 W-League Game 3 (28th November 2019) #WSW

The hat trick for Hamilton is another memorable moment in what has been a stellar 2019 for her. She helped the Courage capture another NWSL shield and championship this season, tallying nine goals and five assists in 24 appearances. She was named to the NWSL Player’s Associations’ Best XI and was a finalist for the league’s MVP award.

The 27-year-old Colorado native also made her U.S. national team debut this year, subbing on in a September friendly against Portugal.

Hamilton must have a knack for scoring goals in bunches around holidays. A day after the Fourth of July this past summer, she netted four goals in a win over the Houston Dash.

The Wanders are 3-0 to start the season and are at the top of the W-League table. If Hamilton keeps up her impressive form, she could take home more hardware in her first W-League season.

Alex Morgan Jersey

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Corrections & Clarifications: An earlier version of this story misidentified the high school where Alex Morgan held an event with the girls soccer team. It was Gardena High School.

GARDENA, Calif. — Alex Morgan, co-captain of the U.S. women’s national soccer team, said she plans to play in the 2020 Summer Olympics even though she’s pregnant and expecting a baby girl in April — less than four months before the Games begin.

The Opening Ceremonies for the Tokyo Games are scheduled for July 24.

“I hope to get back on the field as soon as possible,’’ Morgan, 30, told USA TODAY Sports on Tuesday. “After having a healthy baby, I want to get back with the national team and look forward to playing in Tokyo.’’

This will be Morgan’s first child, and she said motherhood will not derail her soccer career. She has developed into a star as a member of the U.S. women’s teams that won 2019 World Cup, the 2015 World Cup and the 2012 Olympic gold.

“There are so many women that have been able to come back to their respective sport after pregnancy and continue to have a successful family while playing their sport that they love at the highest level,’’ she said. “I plan to follow in those footsteps and be one of those women who have a family and carry my daughter around as I’m going to the next city to play. And I still want to continue to enjoy the sport that I’ve been playing for all my life.’’

On Tuesday afternoon, Morgan was at Vincent Bell Park in Southern California to unveil a mini soccer pitch. She joined members of the girls soccer team at nearby Gardena High School during light drills on the new pitch — 84 feet long and 40 feet wide on an acrylic surface similar to a tennis court.

Powerade, the official sports drink of the U.S. women’s team, partnered with the U.S. Soccer Foundation on the project that will feature programming specifically designed for young girls.

Alex Morgan talks with Gardena High School girls soccer players inside of her newly built soccer field in Gardena, California. The U.S. Soccer Foundation is working to build 1,000 soccer fields across America by 2026.

OPINION:Just win, baby! Standards, expectations high for new USWNT coach

OLYMPICS 2020:Here are 15 Americans who could become stars in Tokyo

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“More access to the sport, especially in an underserved area of Los Angeles, is important to me,’’ Morgan said.

She expressed just as much passion when asked about the U.S. women team’s lawsuit against U.S. Soccer seeking to be paid as much as members of the U.S. men’s national team. A trial date has been set for May 5, but Morgan said she hopes the case will be settled out of court.

“A lot is going on behind the scenes,’’ she said. “There’s been a lot of progress made …

“But we’ll continue to fight for what is right and what we deserve and we continue to say the same thing. It’s not just about equal pay. It’s about equal investment in the sport. It’s about equal marketing, advertising and along those lines it’s about equal opportunity for us to make similar or the same income as the men’s team.’’

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Since the U.S. women won the World Cup with a 2-0 victory over the Netherlands on July 7 in France, Morgan said, life has been a whirlwind.

“Starting with the ticker tape parade in New York City, which is one of the best moments ever,’’ said Morgan, who won the Silver Boot during the 2019 World Cup as the tournament’s top scorer behind only teammate Megan Rapinoe. “Just seeing hundreds of thousands of people come out and support us. Chanting our names, chanting ‘Equal Pay,’ we’ve heard a lot of that. And just supporting us was incredible.

“Then from there, I’ve had the opportunity to do a lot of speaking engagements where I”ve been able to speak on behalf of the team and what it was like to go through a World Cup on leadership and teamwork. So that’s been exciting and a little new for me as well.’’

In addition to cutting back on her training, Morgan said, she has made another concession to pregnancy: she’s more flexible with the vegan diet she said she started 2 1/2 years ago.

“I’ve dipped into the more vegetarian lately,’’ Morgan said. “With the pregnancy, it’s whatever kind of cravings I have that day. But I try to stick to primarily plant based.’’

With motherhood and the Olympics ahead, Morgan said she’s refraining from making too many plans. She and her husband, professional soccer player Servando Carrasco, announced the pregnancy on Oct. 23.

“I have another big year ahead of me and I think whatever I’m planning to do, the plans will probably dissolve,’’ she said. “It always happens where nothing happens according to plan. So I just am taking it week by week, enjoying my time with my husband and my family in the city of L.A. and just eagerly awaiting the arrival of our baby girl.’’

Mallory Pugh Jersey

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MAL PUGH WILL cringe when she sees the headline of this story. I know this because in the hour and a half we’ve been chatting at her apartment, she’s already cringed at least half a dozen times. She squirms when I point out that she’s been anointed the savior/prodigy/future of soccer ever since the U.S. women’s national team discovered her at the age of 12. She shudders when I mention that I heard she was so good as a teenager, she had to practice with boys (a relatable response for anyone who’s ever been around high school boys). To be sure, Pugh is proud of what she’s accomplished — at 21, she’s notched 50 caps with the USWNT and will play a key role in the upcoming World Cup — but she’s never really liked being called a wunderkind, an ephemeral and cliché description for an athlete who has no intention of being either.

“I feel like it’s starting to go away, which I’m very thankful about — the age part,” she says, sitting up a little straighter on her kitchen stool.

WORLD FOOTBALL

For more on the U.S. and global stars of the upcoming 2019 Women’s World Cup, check out the June issue of ESPN The Magazine.

• Meet the 23 members of the USWNT 2019 World Cup roster

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And then I too cringe, because I know she’s probably wrong. It isn’t going away. Come June, when the USWNT begins its campaign in France, we’re going to see a lot of Mallory Pugh, and when we do, we’ll hear a lot about her age. It’s hard to ignore. Sitting across from her in the apartment she shares with two of her Washington Spirit teammates, I’m struck by how young she looks, perched at her kitchen island in a tracksuit and Uggs, face free of makeup, hair pulled back into a tight ponytail. Even her apartment, which is sparsely decorated — the most distinctive item, aside from a cluster of suitcases with U.S. Soccer stickers, is a beanbag chair — feels like a dorm room. Which makes sense, given that she’d probably be in college today if she hadn’t gone pro at the age of 18.

The future-of-the-sport stuff will likely stick for a while, and it’s not just because Pugh was called up to the U20 national team at the age of 16 and went on to become the youngest player for the USWNT to score an Olympic goal, or because she scored 15 of them by the time she was old enough to drink. Rather, it’s because amid all of that, she blazed her own path. After briefly enrolling at UCLA, Pugh decided to forgo NCAA soccer and enter the National Women’s Soccer League, and she was later drafted by the Spirit. Going pro early is the norm for American men; not long ago, Pennsylvania whiz kid Christian Pulisic decamped for Germany’s Borussia Dortmund at the age of 16. But women in the U.S. rarely make the leap.

“I think it’s fantastic,” USWNT head coach Jill Ellis says. “We have to get to a point in this country where our top players are seeking out the most challenging environments.”

Ellis watched Pugh for the first time at a U14 national camp and was immediately taken by the young player, a fearless attacker who wove through packs of older girls like she was riding a scooter in traffic. Since then, Ellis says Pugh has improved both her technique and her tactical ability. In the World Cup, she will likely come off the bench — the team is stacked up front, with Megan Rapinoe, Alex Morgan and Tobin Heath on the roster — but Ellis sees the team’s youngest attacker as a potent weapon. When I ask her what role Pugh might play in France, she paints a picture. “You’re in the 70th minute and you’re exhausted and suddenly Mal Pugh is running at you,” she says, adding, “She doesn’t have to take the weight of the world on her shoulders right now.”

That might not be the case for long. While Pugh’s team is a co-favorite with host France to win the World Cup, the countries in the USWNT’s rearview mirror are closer than they appear. In recent years, America’s younger squads have struggled on the global stage, and it’s conceivable — likely, even — that the national team, which was knocked out of the last Olympics earlier than ever, won’t be the betting favorite in 2023. The reasons are complex and hardly merit the sort of hand-wringing that’s beset the men’s program. But they have compelled the architects behind America’s soccer strategy to search for answers, looking both overseas, where foreign clubs are pouring money into their women’s teams, and at home, where a reluctant star in Washington, D.C., defied the status quo.

AS WITH MANY athletic prodigies, Pugh’s origin story has elements that feel ripped from the pages of a comic book. She wasn’t born with superhuman strength (growing up, she was kind of a runt) or speed (older sister Bri was faster), but she possessed a singular quasi-mythic trait: She was practically impervious to pain. “It was kind of scary,” says her father, Horace. He rattles off his daughter’s injuries: As a small girl, Pugh smashed her front teeth, crashed into a tree while snowboarding (she refused to let the snow patrol take her down the hill) and fell off the monkey bars, which is how she acquired the Harry Potter-like scar on her forehead. Horace recalls an instance when Mal was feeling mild discomfort, so he took her to the hospital, where a doctor was shocked to discover that the little girl’s eardrum had burst. “We were like, ‘Oh my god, we’re bad parents,’” Horace says. “But she didn’t give any signs!”

In 2016, Mia Hamm tweeted of the young U.S. star: “Speed kills but technical speed absolutely annihilates defenders. Mallory Pugh is for real.” Mary Ellen Matthews for ESPN
One day, when Pugh was 12, she was playing in the garage of her family’s house in Highlands Ranch, Colorado, with a friend who had hooked her shorts to a pulley the family used to hang bicycles from the ceiling. Pugh ascended about 10 feet, slipped off the hook and crashed to the floor, landing on her hand. When she showed her father the injury — her wrist looked like a bent twig — he was horrified and told her she couldn’t play in her club team’s tournament that weekend.

Pugh looked straight at her father and popped the bone back into place.

She ended up playing in the tournament in a brace swaddled in bubble wrap. “I think she scored, like, eight goals,” her coach, Jared Spires, says with a laugh.

Pugh took up soccer when she was 4; by the time she was 6, Horace says, she already possessed a sophisticated understanding of the game. “At that age, they’re all in this little bunch,” he says, chuckling. “Mal figured out: ‘Why be in there? The ball always pops out.’ So she’d stand to the side.” Sometimes, he and his wife, Karen, found their daughter in her bedroom, her pink Hello Kitty television tuned to Telemundo so she could watch international games (the only word she understood was gol). Later, when they bought her a computer, she’d watch videos of her idol, Ronaldinho, on YouTube.

“Ever since I was little, I always knew I wanted to be a professional soccer player,” Pugh says. She grabs her phone off the counter and pulls up a snapshot of a page from her sixth-grade yearbook: Next to a photo of her younger, pigtail-wearing self — she’s smiling so wide you can see the missing tooth in the corner of her mouth — is a quote: “I want to be on the USA soccer team and win a gold medal.”

Around that time, the national team invited Pugh to one of its ID camps in Portland, Oregon, where she competed for a spot in the program. She said goodbye to her anxious parents at the gate and boarded a plane by herself for the first time. When she landed, she was intimidated: Almost everyone else at the camp was older, stronger, faster. “Honestly?” she says. “I thought the girls around me were just so much better than me.” The coaches, who were impressed with Pugh’s crafty speed, disagreed; a couple of weeks later, they invited her back.

Pugh quickly scaled the country’s top youth teams, always playing with older girls, always pushing the limits of her abilities. The U.S. Soccer staffers charged with spotting the country’s most promising young players developed a detailed plan for her, sort of a how-to manual for assembling the next Mia Hamm. After every camp, she’d come home with a laundry list of skills to work on in her free time; when it snowed, she made her father park the family’s car outside so she could juggle in the garage. By the end of high school, she was told not to play with girls her age, so she practiced with the boys at Real Colorado, an experience she describes as enriching and, at times, embarrassing. “High school is just so awkward,” she says, blushing. “I’d be like, ‘Oh, he’s super cute.’”

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By then, she was already heralded as the next big thing. In 2015, she was named U.S. Soccer Young Female Player of the Year and received the Golden Ball for best player and Golden Boot Award for scoring the most goals in the U20 CONCACAF tournament. When I ask if her self-doubt faded once the accolades started rolling in, she shakes her head. “It never came easy,” she says. “It actually became harder.” Every year, she climbed the ladder of elite competition like a video game character progressing through levels, always conquering and advancing, never hitting pause to settle alongside her peers. Over time, Pugh says, she learned how to sideline her doubts whenever she stepped onto the field, suppressing her own anxieties about being younger, smaller or lesser in some unknowable way. Perhaps that’s why she loathes the wunderkind label so much: It’s a reminder of something she’s taught herself to forget.

In the months leading up to the 2015 World Cup, the USWNT played a friendly near her hometown in Colorado. Pugh and her teammates painted their faces and took pictures of Megan Rapinoe as the superstar forward walked by. “I was like, ‘Oh my god — she’s so cool,’” Pugh says with a laugh, widening her eyes as she impersonates her teenage self. A few months after the U.S. won the Cup, Pugh, then 17, got the call. I ask her how she reacted when Coach Ellis invited her to the senior team’s camp. She cracks up. “I thought, ‘Oh s—.’”

At first, she felt like she was 12 years old again, tiptoeing into a cafeteria full of terrifying 14-year-old girls. “I was like, ‘What am I doing?’” she says. “‘I’m playing next to Tobin. I’m playing next to Pino. I’m playing next to Carli. What is happening?’”

A smile spreads across her face. “But also, I was like: ‘I’m playing soccer.’”

Pugh made her national team debut the next January, scoring off a header in a friendly against Ireland. That July, Mia Hamm — Mia! — tweeted: “Speed kills but technical speed absolutely annihilates defenders. Mallory Pugh is for real.” In August, Ellis brought Pugh to Rio. She was the only woman on the roster who wasn’t already playing professional soccer and the second-youngest player in U.S. history to compete in the Olympics. She scored in her third game.

Before Pugh graduated from high school that year, there were rumors that she would renege on her commitment to UCLA to play instead for a French club, or head straight to the NWSL, which altered a rule to allow young U.S. national team players to enter the draft, seemingly designed to fast-track her into the league. But after delaying her enrollment so that she could compete in the U20 World Cup in Papua New Guinea, Pugh showed up at UCLA in January and did the things other players had always done. Took classes. Practiced. Went to frat parties. “There was a thought in my head,” she explains. “‘This is what other people do. Why do you think you’re different?’” But as time went by, she realized that after years of punching up like a boxer facing opponents twice her size, she wasn’t a normal college girl. A few months into the semester, she collapsed into bed one night and woke up convinced that it was time for her to leave.

THE FIFA WOMEN’S World Cup was established in 1991; since then, American women have played in four of the seven championship games and won three of them. The younger U.S. teams have had less success. After finishing second in the U17 World Cup in 2008, the Americans have either failed to qualify or lost in group play every year. This lag has elicited a variety of theories. While the U.S.’s population advantage seems insurmountable, many coaches believe that the lack of focused training in the States allows countries with fewer girls playing soccer, especially those in Asia, to compete before an athleticism gap kicks in. “If you look at our history, at the younger levels, we’ve always struggled internationally,” says Anson Dorrance, the longtime coach of the vaunted North Carolina women’s team and a former USWNT head coach. “The American players catch up once they get to college.”

By then, some of the countries with strong girls teams begin to fall off; Pugh’s team was knocked out of the U20 World Cup by North Korea, a country that’s never made it past the quarterfinals in the World Cup. But other talented youth teams are starting to achieve longer-lasting success. “What you’re seeing across Europe is that the federations are pouring resources into the women’s game,” Dorrance says. “It’s putting these countries on much better footing, because the advantage they’ve always had is soccer marinates their entire culture.”

Pugh agrees. “The rest of the world is catching up,” she says. She was impressed earlier this year, she adds, when the USWNT played Spain, a team that has never advanced out of the group stage in the World Cup but has recently dominated at the youth levels. Across Europe, clubs like Barcelona and Paris Saint-Germain are pouring money into their women’s organizations, which nurture the young players who will eventually compete on national squads. Last year all 11 teams in England’s FA Women’s Super League became professional operations for the first time; Manchester City built a stadium in 2014 for its women’s side, and Barclays just became the first title sponsor of the Super League.

Pugh left UCLA a few months into her first semester to turn pro. She now plays with the Washington Spirit. Mary Ellen Matthews for ESPN
“These countries — Spain, France, Germany — have environments that are really geared toward the professional player,” Ellis says. “We still have top players who are playing [girls] their age. It’s problematic.”

The swell of investment has lured older American players to Europe. The USWNT’s Carli Lloyd and Alex Morgan signed deals to play in England and France; Crystal Dunn spent a year with Chelsea. In 2012, Lindsey Horan signed with Paris Saint-Germain straight out of high school, becoming the first USWNT member to bypass college soccer. Horan, who now plays for the NWSL’s Portland Thorns, says going abroad was “the best experience of my life.” But when I ask her if she thinks her experience will become the norm, she says no. “There’s a lot of parents that won’t allow it, which is unfortunate,” she explains. “You’re giving up a full-ride scholarship to an incredible school. You’re risking a lot.”

Like Horan, B.J. Snow, who heads youth technical development for the USWNT, thinks the number of women skipping college will be small at first. “We’re talking about the top 1-percenters — the elite of the elite,” he says. But eventually, he says, their ranks will grow. “On the men’s side, there are a million examples of players leaving at 14 or 15 to go to Europe, or leaving early to go to MLS — the women’s game is not far behind that.” In January, 20-year-old defender Tierna Davidson, a USWNT member, left Stanford after her junior year to become the No. 1 overall pick by the NWSL’s Chicago Red Stars. A month later, 13-year-old Olivia Moultrie sent shock waves through the soccer world by announcing she was signing a multiyear endorsement deal with Nike and forgoing her NCAA eligibility (she had committed to Dorrance’s UNC team at the age of 11) to go pro.

Pugh left UCLA in 2017, a decision made easier by her own financial situation: The Washington Spirit selected her with a top pick that May, which meant that Pugh would earn six figures because U.S. Soccer subsidizes NWSL salaries for USWNT members. (She’s also gained sponsorships from Nike, Gatorade and Neutrogena.) Still, after Pugh left for Washington, her first year as a pro was disorienting. She moved midseason. Her parents flew out to help her set up her utilities, assemble Ikea furniture and do other parent-y things; when they left, she found herself alone, sitting in a bare-bones apartment in the Maryland suburbs. Washington, which had just parted ways with USWNT stars Ali Krieger and Dunn, struggled that year, finishing in last place.

And yet despite the loneliness and the losses, she’s quick to insist she doesn’t regret her decision. “I don’t look back,” she says.

Pugh normally responds to questions in clipped sentences, with a practiced efficiency that suggests she’s conserving her energy. But when I ask her what other girls might learn from her path, she offers a stream of thoughts, words pouring out like they’ve been bottled up. “You have to make yourself uncomfortable,” she says. “That’s what I, growing up, had to do. Yeah, I was comfortable playing with other girls. So I needed to play up, and I needed to play with the boys. And I needed to leave college to challenge myself. I learned that from my youth teams — that being uncomfortable is where you’re gonna grow, even though it’s” — she pauses for a moment, eyes glowing.

“It’s awful at some points,” she says. “But you’re going to grow the most.”

Pugh scored twice in front of her home Colorado crowd in a World Cup warm-up in April. Jason Connolly/AFP/Getty Images
AS THE WORLD CUP draws nearer, the USWNT competes in a series of friendlies at home. In April, the team flies to Colorado to play Australia in Denver, not far from where Pugh grew up. Her parents arrive early with family friends, setting up a cooler and a platter of chicken tenders — someone’s dog lurks beneath the table — in the stadium’s parking lot. They wave enthusiastically when a throng of girls from their daughter’s childhood club walks by.

Horace, wearing a USWNT jersey, ran track in college, but he didn’t know much about soccer before his children picked up the sport; as he recounts how quickly Mal rose through the ranks of elite competition, he sounds proud and a little bewildered. I ask if he was unnerved when his daughter left UCLA and he shakes his head: “From a young age, it was always: ‘I want to do this.’”

If Pugh performs well at the World Cup, scoring on the global stage, she could have a Kylian Mbappe-style moment. When I ask her parents if she’s ready for the deluge of attention — and the inevitable wunderkind talk — they look at each other and laugh. “All of this stuff is happening around her, and she’s like, ‘I just want to play soccer,’” Horace says.

Karen imitates her daughter, putting her hands on her hips: “‘This is what I do. It’s not a big deal. I don’t know why you guys are getting all excited.’”

This time last year, Pugh was on track for a meteoric rise; between January and April, she scored five international goals. Then, in May, she sprained her right knee, an injury that sidelined her until the fall. After an up-and-down winter, the USWNT competed in the SheBelieves Cup, which began Feb. 27. Because Horan was out with an injury, Pugh, who typically plays up at wing, was pushed back to midfield. It was obvious that she wasn’t entirely comfortable in her new role. Instead of dashing past defenders in open space, she had to spend more time passing and defending and seemed a bit tentative. When I bring up the position change, she answers diplomatically — “Ultimately, I feel like if you’re on the field and you’re playing, it doesn’t really matter,” she says — but admits she’s most comfortable up front.

“I was always an attacker — I just like scoring goals,” she says. A dreamy look crosses her face. “And once you can do it? You’re like, ‘Ooh, I shouldn’t stop.’ You become obsessed with it.”

In Denver, Horan is back in the lineup vs. Australia, and Pugh spends the first half on the bench. About 50 minutes into the match, she starts jogging on the sideline, stopping now and then to peer at the action. Eventually, Rapinoe suffers a minor injury and walks off the field; when Pugh sprints in to replace her, the crowd erupts for the local girl. As she sprints past Alex Morgan, ponytail whipping in the wind, I’m struck by how small she looks next to her teammates; when she streaks into the box on the next possession, appearing out of nowhere like a falcon dive-bombing for prey, she’s a blur on the field. Defender Emily Sonnett slips Pugh the ball through traffic, and she bangs it into the net.

From the moment she subs in, it takes her 37 seconds to score.

After the U.S.’s 5-3 victory — and Pugh’s second goal of the night, a delicate chip shot in extra time that leaves the Australian keeper gesticulating at her defenders like an exasperated parent — Ellis fields questions about her young star. “You know, Mallory coming in — and that right now is her role, to come in and be a difference maker — she’s fantastic,” she says. “Those were world-class goals that she scored tonight.”

Once Ellis is finished, Morgan, Pugh and a few other players file into a cordoned-off area near their lockers to take questions from the media. While they’re chatting with reporters, we start to hear a murmur outside; the noise sounds like a wailing pack of alley cats. As Pugh leaves, I follow her out the door and spot a group of young girls standing near the team bus with their faces pressed against a chain-link fence. Most are wearing their own soccer jerseys.

“Mal! Maaaaaaaal!”

“Look over here, Mal!”

Before Pugh climbs onto the bus, she obliges with a wave, and the girls explode into cheers. One of them is a little taller than the others. Her hair is braided into pigtails that remind me of Pugh’s sixth-grade yearbook picture. She tells me she’s 11. I ask her if she was surprised that a player so close to her own age is already making an impact, and she looks at me with mild amusement, the way a professor might regard a student who’s just posed a silly question. “Mal?” she says. “I expected her to score.”

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It’s been a really, really good 10 years for the US women’s national soccer team.

Here is a very personal, completely subjective list of the moments from the past 10 years that made me jump out of my seat, scream, and occasionally cry.

12. THIS goal by Alex Morgan (2016)

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A few months ago a friend texted me saying, “Hey, can you send me the video of that one Alex Morgan goal? I’m showing someone the best USWNT moments of all time.”

I didn’t need more info; I knew exactly which goal she was talking about. This is the best goal Morgan has ever scored, and it deserves to be on this list even though it came in a game that ultimately didn’t matter all that much.

I don’t really know that much has to be said about this? I mean, just watch. Now go back and watch again.

11. Hope Solo somehow saves this shot (2012)

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You can’t talk about the USWNT’s decade without Hope Solo. She was far from perfect off the field, including a domestic violence arrest that shouldn’t be overlooked (the charges were later dropped). But she was also the best women’s goalie…ever. Watching her was so much fun: ridiculous penalty-kick saves, flying leaps. She did it all with self-confidence and a nice touch of arrogance.

I remember this save vividly, even though it happened during a friendly, because you can’t help but watch it and say, “What the fuck?” The shot took a deflection, and Hope was already diving the wrong way. Anyone who plays soccer knew that ball was going in the net.

And then, somehow, Solo managed to pivot and fling herself in the other direction, stretching the entire length of her body and knocking the ball away. Then she got to the ball before the Canadians could.

Having her in goal almost felt a little bit unfair — almost.

10. Becky Sauerbrunn has a chance to score her first-ever goal, and instead… (2018)

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Was this an important game? Not really. But it’s the moment that epitomized my favorite player, Becky Sauerbrunn, so I’m gonna put it on my list anyway. Does thinking about it make me tear up? Maybe.

You may not have heard of Sauerbrunn, the rock of the American defense, because she doesn’t usually make highlight reels. She’s not the fastest or strongest, she just plays smarter and works harder than anyone else, and does it all with this quiet humility that’s pretty rare among professional athletes.

Sauerbrunn was the best defender in the world for most of this decade — and the best player in the 2015 World Cup. But after 171 appearances for the USWNT, at age 34, she’s never scored a goal.

Which is why this moment is so symbolic. Sauerbrunn got a rare, perhaps once-in-a-career opportunity to score the goal every fan desperately wants for her. And instead of taking the shot, she simply made the smart, unselfish play and passed the ball to Alex Morgan, who had a better angle at goal. Morgan scored.

I still wish Sauerbrunn had been selfish, but if she had been, she wouldn’t be the player she is.

9. The Celebrations (2019)

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A lot of people (men) had a lot of opinions about how the USWNT celebrated at the 2019 World Cup. First, there were the wild goal celebrations after the team beat Thailand by an astonishing scoreline of 13–0. There was Alex Morgan sipping tea. Then, of course, there was the way the women celebrated after they won the tournament, captured for the world on players’ Instagram stories: a lot of booze-soaked dancing and cursing, followed by several days of public drunkenness.

Were they arrogant? Bad sports? Bad role models?

I’m going to let striker Christen Press answer: “It’s someone’s prerogative to be saying, ‘They shouldn’t be doing this.’ And what makes our team what it is is nobody cares.”

That attitude epitomized the 2019 USWNT. They cared about basically one thing from the moment they set foot in France, and that was winning. If you think you can separate the players who joyfully celebrated their teammates’ 12th and 13th goals against Thailand from the team that battered through France, England, and the Netherlands to win the World Cup, think again. (The Thai coach also said her team had no issue with the celebrations.)

Mostly, it was just pure joy. Kelley O’Hara pouring beer into her mouth an hour after being removed from the final for a concussion? Fucking classic.

But those celebrations were important for other reasons. All of the scolding about how the players were and weren’t supposed to behave laid bare a lot of sexist stereotypes about women athletes.

For way too long, women’s soccer has been allowed to exist mostly as “inspiration” for young girls. The 2019 USWNT players rejected that. They didn’t censor themselves, especially when it came to their own joy or their competitiveness. They just won — and put on a great show while they did it.

8. Tobin Heath named USWNT Player of the Year (2016)

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I have a Heath jersey hanging in my closet that I wore for every game of the World Cup, so I’m not exactly objective in this, but I feel pretty strongly that her transformation as a player was hugely important for the USWNT.

The first reason is the obvious: It made the team much better. Heath was always good, but she also spent a lot of time messing around with the ball instead of scoring. In 2016, Heath became really, really good. She killed it in the Olympics. She got assists and scored goals — a lot of them.

The reason Heath belongs on this list, though, is because of the way she plays. As more and more people tuned into the USWNT regularly, it mattered that they had a player like Heath to watch  — someone so different from the usual direct, straightforward American style. Heath is creative, flamboyant, weird, and joyful. She makes the USWNT so much more fun to watch, because you never really know what she’s going to do. Is she going to nutmeg two players in a row? Score a backheel goal? Do this?

Heath’s artistry, combined with her more recent ability to convert, is paving the way for players like Rose Lavelle and for a more creative, entertaining USWNT in the 2020s. I consider Lavelle’s unbelievable nutmeg in the 2019 World Cup semifinal to be a direct successor of Heath.

7. Abby Wambach breaks Mia Hamm’s goal-scoring record (2013)

For most of the 2000s, there was this feeling with the USWNT — anxiety, really — that 1999 represented the peak of women’s soccer in the US. People worried there would never be a player as beloved as Mia Hamm or a victory as major as 1999.

That’s why Abby Wambach scoring her 159th international goal — overtaking Mia to become the highest-scoring international soccer player in history, and doing it with a hat trick, to boot — was such a big deal. It was a symbol of the USWNT moving on and up, taking the achievements of the ’99ers and building on them.

Two years later, Wambach led the team to win its first World Cup since ’99 — in a diminished role on the field, definitely, but not at all diminished as a leader. Wambach was the screaming, sweating heart and soul of the USWNT for basically every minute she played for it.

6. The US beats Canada 4–3 in a wild Olympic semifinal (2012)

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Somehow, this is not even the top USWNT double-overtime-stoppage-time comeback of the decade, but it’s still one of the craziest games of soccer ever. This game also solidified Alex Morgan, just 23 years old, as the superstar inheritor of the USWNT’s legacy.

The US and Canada have an absolutely vicious rivalry, and this Olympic semifinal was the peak of it. What happened was this: Canadian Christine Sinclair, one of the best players ever, kept scoring amazing goals. And every time, the US kept coming back — including when Rapinoe somehow scored directly off a corner kick — until the game was tied 3–3.

And then! After a double overtime, in the 123rd minute — stoppage time — Alex Morgan headed the ball into the net to win the game. Morgan fell to the ground, and when she stood up, she was laughing in giddiness and relief, because it was so ridiculously perfect.

5. Ashlyn Harris and Ali Krieger come out as a couple, and Kelley O’Hara kisses her girlfriend after the World Cup final (2019)
Billie Jean King was the first female athlete to admit to being gay, but only after being outed in a 1981 lawsuit. It hurt her image. Yesterday, after winning the world cup, Kelley O’Hara—who wasn’t previously out—ran to the sideline & kissed her girlfriend. How far we’ve come.
Jill Gutowitz
@jillboard
Billie Jean King was the first female athlete to admit to being gay, but only after being outed in a 1981 lawsuit. It hurt her image. Yesterday, after winning the world cup, Kelley O’Hara—who wasn’t previously out—ran to the sideline & kissed her girlfriend. How far we’ve come.

09:02 PM – 08 Jul 2019
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This is sort of cheating because it’s two moments, but the thing is that they really matter when they’re taken together. And they meant more to me, as a gay woman, than I can really explain.

These were two very different coming-out moments. Harris and Krieger, a backup goalie and defender on the team, came out in a big People magazine spread in March, announcing they were engaged. I’d been following them closely enough to know they were dating under the radar, and seeing them decide to come out and being celebrated for it in a mainstream magazine was an incredible feeling.

O’Hara came out by simply kissing her girlfriend in the stands to celebrate winning the World Cup. “She didn’t follow this moment up with an interview, a social media post, or a proclamation of any kind,” Kim McCauley wrote for SB Nation. “She just had an affectionate moment with her partner, then continued her life as normal, because what she did is normal and should not require an explanation.”

The thing about these coming-out moments was that they just…weren’t that big of a deal? And that was in large part thanks to the hard-fought groundwork laid by the queer women on the USWNT who had come before them: Briana Scurry, Rapinoe, Wambach, and many others.

A lot of queer women have always loved and seen ourselves in the USWNT, but this was the year it felt like it burst into the open — and other fans started seeing and celebrating the team’s queerness, too.

Obviously, a large part of that was thanks to the very out, very loud Megan Rapinoe, too. As she said after the US beat France in the quarterfinal: “Go, gays! You can’t win a championship without gays on your team — it’s never been done before, ever. That’s science, right there.”

4. Carli Lloyd scores THAT goal in the World Cup final (2015)

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Lloyd’s third (!!!) goal in the 2015 World Cup final basically represented everything about this amazing, dumb, joyful game: It was so over-the-top crazy that when it happened, I screamed, and then I just laughed.

A hat trick? In the World Cup final? In the first 16 minutes? From midfield? Who does that?

It was all just…ridiculous. The US was playing Japan, who had stunned the team in the World Cup final in 2011. That loss was still raw in everyone’s mind. Carli Lloyd scored in the third minute, seemingly out of sheer force of will, and then scored again two minutes later. Then Lauren Holiday got the team’s third. It hadn’t even been 15 minutes yet; at this point, everyone was kind of in disbelief.

And then Lloyd got the ball at midfield, saw the Japanese goalkeeper off her line, and freaking chipped her from 40 yards out. The goalie stumbled. The ball went in. 4–0. The USWNT won, obviously, and brought the World Cup back to the US for the first time since 1999.

3. USWNT sues its employer over equal pay (2019)

There’s been a lot of talk lately about “sticking to sports” — and keeping politics out of it. But this year, the Women’s World Cup took off in unprecedented ways precisely because of the recognition that sports and politics are inextricable. The country became invested in the USWNT because the team combined soccer with a whole host of social issues — equal pay, LGBTQ rights, racial justice.

There are very few moments, then, that give me chills like this clip from the World Cup final: the USWNT champions again, and the whole stadium in Lyon, France, ringing with chants of “Equal pay, equal pay.”

That chant happened because the USWNT decided to sue US Soccer for gender discrimination just months ahead of the 2019 World Cup. It was the culmination of decades of fighting for equality on the national team. It was also a daring step that took the 2019 team beyond its predecessors.

The USWNT has spent a lot of time in the shadow of the 1999 World Cup winners. But Julie Foudy, one of the most prominent members of the ’99ers, said she’d discussed with her teammates whether they would have had the guts to file a lawsuit against US Soccer months before their most important tournament. The answer was clear, Foudy said: We wish, but no.

That was what made the equal pay lawsuit and its timing so fucking brave — and also so incredibly audacious. It meant the World Cup took on the weight of so much more than just a soccer tournament for the USWNT, which was amazing, but it was also terrifying. Because what if they lost?

It’s undeniable now that the ’19ers have created their own legacy — not just of incredible soccer, but unshakable self-belief and brave-as-hell activism.

2. Abby Wambach’s goal in the 122nd minute of the World Cup quarterfinals (2011)

I remember what I was doing at the exact second I fell in love with the USWNT again.

I was sitting alone on the couch in my aunt and uncle’s basement. The USWNT was down 2–1 to Brazil in the double overtime of the World Cup quarterfinals. The team was also down a player, going 10 on 11 after a red card. There was no time left for a comeback; they were certain  to lose. I was heartbroken. The announcer intoned, “It will go down as the USA’s worst performance ever in the Women’s World Cup.”

I remember that I had to be quiet, because my cousins were sleeping upstairs. Then, in the 122nd minute, Rapinoe made the world’s most perfect cross to Wambach. Wambach’s head struck the ball. I could NOT be quiet.

I’ve rewatched that goal so many times that I can hear the announcers in my head, word for word. I still get chills.

The thing is, tens of thousands of other Americans also fell in love again with the team that night. There were a lot of people that had seen the 1999 World Cup as an aberration, but this game proved again that the whole country could be totally captivated by women’s soccer — that they could fall in love with a whole new team.

The decision to put this moment at No. 2 was honestly agonizing because in terms of sheer sports moments, this is the unforgettable peak for me. But the thing about this game is…well, we lost the World Cup. The US ended up going down to Japan in the final. And if anyone hates losing more than me, it’s the USWNT.

Which is why the No. 1 moment could only be one thing.

1. The US beats France 2–1 in the World Cup quarterfinals (2019)

The stakes of this game were so wildly high. It had been hyped up for months, since people realized the World Cup draw had set up the tournament’s two best teams to meet way too early in the quarterfinal. There was a chance at the World Cup on the line, obviously. But also, the US team’s equal pay suit was built on the back of its soccer record, and for its case to hold up, it really could not lose in the quarterfinal. And there was that Twitter thing with Trump.

If you weren’t following the USWNT, here’s the thing you might not realize about this game: A lot of people didn’t expect the US to win it. The team had won the 2015 World Cup, sure, but it had spent a lot of the next four years in a pretty bad funk. (I’d like to state for the record that I blame coach Jill Ellis.) It hadn’t beaten France in its last three meetups; months earlier, it had lost to France 3–1.

Then there was Rapinoe. There was a time where a lot of people thought she was basically done with the USWNT. After an ACL tear at age 30 and a bad 2016 Olympics, a lot of people were happy to write Rapinoe out — partly because she had knelt during the national anthem in solidarity with Colin Kaepernick. And yet in 2018, Pinoe had come back a better player than she’d ever been, and in 2019, she’d taken the weight of the team and a whole lot of other stuff onto her shoulders.

Somehow the US–France game ended up being even better than the stakes set it up to be. Rapinoe scored twice — basically a storybook vindication and an answer to Trump. Her defiant, cocky, proud pose after scoring became a national symbol, and Rapinoe went on to win basically every major soccer and sports award there is.

It was also just a damn good game. Critics had cast intense doubts on the US defense, but this time, they shut France down (and shut those critics up, as Kelley O’Hara would later say). The French fought back hard, which meant you were on the edge of your seat until the final whistle.

The storybook France game started a cascade of storybook moments in the rest of the World Cup: a goal for Christen Press months after her mother’s sudden death; Morgan’s 30th birthday gift of a goal to beat England; Alyssa Naeher’s penalty-kick save, repudiating the doubts that had swirled around her for years; Lavelle solidifying her breakout tournament by scoring in the final in the most Rose Lavelle way possible. And the World Cup victory itself, of course, and everything that came after. You couldn’t have written the script any better.

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PARIS, France — Tobin Heath grew up idolizing Brazilian soccer. The art-like playing style and technical ability is what the beautiful game is all about, she said.

Brazil is no longer in the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup, knocked out by France in the round of 16. Many other nations Heath found exciting to watch are gone now as well. The upcoming quarterfinals feature seven European countries and the United States.

“I mean these tournaments you can’t really predict. You’ve seen these games, they’ve been so close,” Heath said when asked if she thinks so many European teams advancing signals a trend in the game. “I don’t know, as a football fan, to me, I would want to see a little bit more diversity at this point. I find European football sometimes a little boring, and I think there’s some teams that are so exciting to watch that you won’t be able to see this kind of different style, which is unfortunate at this stage because, I don’t know, I really appreciate teams that are no longer in the tournament.”

And not just Brazil. Heath said it was incredible to watch Japan play its round-of-16 match Tuesday night. Japan lost to Netherlands in the final minutes, when the referee called Saki Kumagai for a handball in the box and awarded a penalty kick to the Dutch with the score tied 1-1. Lieke Martens converted the PK for a 90th-minute victory.

Brazil lost a similarly tight game 2-1 after going into extra time against France, which will host the U.S. for a Friday quarterfinal in Paris.

Heath did talk about how difficult an opponent France will be and said captain Amandine Henry, who Heath played with on the Portland Thorns from 2016-17, is “one of the best players in the world.”

She also praise Spain, the European opponent the Americans beat in the last round. She called the physical game, which was a change from Spain’s typical possession-based, technical style, “so beautiful in a way.”

“It showed a great amount of belief from Spain to be able to change. Some people will die by their sword of how they play. But they really came into that game wanting to win that game, and I have a tremendous amount of respect for them. They really fought and they really played us well. In that way, I thought it was kind of an incredible gameplan, but kind of an incredible show of what it means to play in this World Cup and just what you have to do to win these games.”

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CHICAGO (Nov. 26, 2019) – U.S. Soccer has announced the nominees for the 2019 U.S. Soccer Male and Female Player of the Year awards. This year’s field features midfielders Julie Ertz, Rose Lavelle and Carli Lloyd, forwards Alex Morgan and Megan Rapinoe and goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher for their exploits with the USWNT and their clubs, while defenders Aaron Long and Tim Ream, midfielders Weston McKennie and Christian Pulisic, and forwards Jordan Morris and Gyasi Zardes are in the running for their achievements with club and country.

Voting for the awards starts today and closes on Dec. 6, 2019 at 11:59 p.m. ET. The winners will be announced during the second week of December.

All six Female nominees played significant roles for the USA during a 2019 that saw the team win its fourth – and second consecutive – World Cup title after a spectacular and dominant performance in France this summer.

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United States women’s national team and Chicago Red Stars midfielder Julie Ertz has been voted USA Soccer’s 2019 Female Athlete of the Year ahead of Megan Rapinoe.

Ertz was announced as the winner on Friday:

U.S. Soccer WNT

The 27-year-old also won the award in 2017.

Per ESPN FC’s Jeff Carlisle, Ertz received 42 percent of the votes to finish ahead of fellow nominees Rapinoe, Alyssa Naeher, Alex Morgan, Rose Lavelle and Carli Lloyd.

Ertz said 2019 has been “a whirlwind of a year” and thanked her teammates, coaches and family:

“All of my teammates just had such an amazing year, and we all know it takes an entire team to win a World Cup or have a successful club season.

“We are all a sum of the people around us, so I want to especially thank [my husband] Zach and my family, all my coaches for the national team and the Red Stars, and all my teammates for their never-ending support.

“It’s emotional to be recognized in this way, and it’s a cherry on top of a beautiful 2019. It’s incredible.”

Jill Ellis, who managed the USWNT to their fourth FIFA Women’s World Cup in the summer, said Ertz, who was also part of the World Cup-winning team in 2015, was a “critical part” of their success.

The midfielder started six of the Americans’ seven games in France and scored in their 3-0 win over Chile in the group stage. Her biggest contributions came in protecting the United States’ back line and pressing opponents when they had the ball.

When the USA were in possession, her eye for a pass and tireless running helped them get the ball forward. In the 474 minutes she spent on the pitch in the tournament, she covered 53 kilometers.

Her husband, Philadelphia Eagles tight end Zach Ertz, congratulated her on the award:

Despite being one of the USWNT’s top performers throughout the year, it’s something of a surprise for her to have beaten Rapinoe, who won the Golden Ball at the World Cup, was named FIFA’s The Best Women’s Player and won the women’s Ballon d’Or.

The Athletic’s Kieran Theivam and the Guardian’s Suzy Wrack felt Ertz was under-represented at the latter, though:

What KT said. I’d have Ertz at least top five, if not higher. https://t.co/hgELhKQYQB

Ertz is the 10th player to win this award on more than one occasion, though she’s still some way behind record-holder Abby Wambach, who picked it up six times.

However, per Carlisle, she is the first recipient of the U.S. Soccer Young Female Player of the Year—which she won in 2012—to win the senior award.

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The larger sense of purpose ended up bringing this team together. The squad included a mix of veteran leaders like co-captains Morgan, Rapinoe and Carli Lloyd, and emerging stars such as Sam Mewis, Rose Lavelle and Lindsey Horan. The age blend could make for tricky chemistry. Under coach Jill Ellis, however, the team jelled. The old hands were a model of poise. Lloyd, the star of the 2015 World Cup win, was less than thrilled with her reduced on-field role, but she stayed supportive. And the veterans stepped up as spokes-people for the equal-pay fight and other off-field issues. “That was a really strong sign of leadership,” says Mewis. “It allowed players like me and Rose to just focus on playing, which was nerve-racking enough.”

The bond was reinforced after each game in the tournament, when the players spent about 30 minutes together before boarding the bus. No coaches or staff were allowed. “That really helped everyone see each other eye to eye,” says Morgan. “People would call out players positively, or themselves negatively. We could be vulnerable.”

What they could be was themselves. And it was precisely that honest, unfiltered and unapologetic quality that struck such a chord. The soccer insiders were right about Team USA becoming a national obsession. But they were wrong about the reason. The U.S. women didn’t evoke the easy feelings of patriotism that come from waving a flag so much as embody the evolving spirit of the more perfect union that it symbolizes.

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The response was overwhelming. The team’s jerseys became the highest-selling soccer shirts in Nike’s history. On the online retailer Fanatics, U.S. jersey sales spiked 500% over the 2015 World Cup. Global viewership of the tournament more than doubled per match, and a combined 1.12 billion viewers worldwide tuned in to coverage of the event across all platforms, a new record. On Halloween, young boys as well as girls were spotted around the country dressed up as Rapinoe and Morgan.

Most important, the team’s fight for their fair share has been taken up far and wide. This fall, Australia’s soccer federation reached a landmark deal with its players: total revenue generated by both the women’s and men’s teams will now be split equally. In Burlington, Vt., a girls’ high school soccer team partnered with a local nonprofit, Change the Story, to sell athletic shirts emblazoned with #EQUALPAY.

“It’s scary that these women can be the best in the world and they’re still fighting for pay equality,” says Maia Vota, a senior on the Burlington High School team. “I don’t want to see that in my future.”

The U.S. team soaks in adulation at a ticker-tape parade in New York City on July 10
The U.S. team soaks in adulation at a ticker-tape parade in New York City on July 10John Lamparski—WireImage/Getty Images
The team’s campaign went viral when four players received excessive-celebration yellow cards for peeling off their uniform jerseys after scoring a goal, revealing the #EQUALPAY shirts. The money raised—more than $100,000—will help broaden access to soccer for girls in under-served communities and fund women’s economic-empowerment efforts in the state.

Among those who bought a shirt was Roger Ranz, the referee who issued the penalties. He says protocol required him to hand out the cards, but he fully supports the cause. “I believe in what they’re doing,” says Ranz. “I believe in what the U.S. women’s national soccer team is trying to accomplish as well.”

***

After their epic victory lap, the players returned in August to a less festive locale: conference rooms in New York City, for mediation talks with the governing body of American soccer. The negotiations broke down, and a trial date in the players’ gender-discrimination suit is set for May of next year.

The protracted dispute has started to wear on the team. “Everyone should be making more money,” says Rapinoe. “If we didn’t have to fight the federation all the time, we could actually put our collective power together with the federation. Imagine that?”

But in November, a federal judge offered the players encouragement by ruling that they can sue collectively in a class action. U.S. Soccer has maintained that its compensation practices are not discriminatory, noting that the women’s team, for example, was paid more in aggregate than the men’s in recent years. The judge said that line of reasoning would yield an “absurd result,” as it would mean “an employer who pays a woman $10 per hour and a man $20 per hour would not violate the Equal Pay Act … as long as the woman negated the obvious disparity by working twice as many hours.”

Rapinoe, the 2019 FIFA player of the year, scored six World Cup goals and won the Golden Ball as the event’s best player
Rapinoe, the 2019 FIFA player of the year, scored six World Cup goals and won the Golden Ball as the event’s best playerCait Oppermann for TIME
“This was a really important win for the players,” says Dionne Koller, director of the Center for Sport and the Law at the University of Baltimore School of Law. “The public sees that this claim is real.”

With the 2020 Olympics in July, the team must also keep its focus on the field. It’s possible the U.S. will bring a team to Tokyo that’s almost identical to the one that won the World Cup. Morgan, who is expecting her first child in April, plans to be there. No country has won the World Cup and Olympic gold in back-to-back years. But few are better positioned. On Dec. 2, Rapinoe won the Ballon d’Or, given to the best women’s player in the world. Morgan was third. The U.S. desperately wants to avoid a repeat of the 2016 Olympics, when Sweden eliminated the Americans in the quarter-finals, their earliest exit from a major international tournament.

But no matter how the team fares, its impact on American culture is secure. Through their athletic excellence and legal persistence, the team represents a natural extension of what Title IX—the landmark legislation ensuring equal access to sports—began in 1972. “It’s not enough to say, ‘Let women play soccer,’” says Koller. “Now, it’s ‘Treat women the same.’”

The team, which made that case so dazzlingly on the field in France, welcomes the weight of legacy. “This next generation wants to be a part of something big,” says Morgan. “They’re not just sayers. They’re doers. It’s our job to continue to pave the way.”

The work won’t stop anytime soon. “We’re here, we’re coming with armies and ladders on all sides of our platform,” says Rapinoe. “We want to bring people up. We’re not going anywhere. And we will change the world.”

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The magic moment arrived along with the rolling ball, and suddenly, for Morgan Brian, it was like a trip back in time through hundreds of training sessions on the First Coast.

The pass. The shot.

The eighth goal of her international soccer career was coming, and now, she was a scorer on her home turf. And a winner, too.

“It definitely feels different [from other goals],” Brian said. “Growing up here, it’s nostalgia, coming back, being by the beach, by the water, being home, coming here and being able to score a goal in front of friends and family.”

Champions of the world, the United States women’s national team showed off their skills, speed and unsurpassed teamwork, cruising past Costa Rica 6-0 in Sunday night’s international soccer friendly match at TIAA Bank Field.

Four months after lifting the Women’s World Cup trophy in France, the U.S. women touched down on the First Coast to continue building toward next summer’s Olympics in Tokyo and entertain a Jacksonville crowd of 12,914.

No moment brought that crowd to its feet quite like the 10th minute.

Brian, the St. Simons Island native, raced onto a precise pass down the left side from Rose Lavelle and drilled a shot past Costa Rica goalkeeper Noelia Bermudez.

The loudest cheer. The brightest highlight. A midfielder who only scored six times in her first 83 international games now has two goals since the end of summer.

“Now she shows different sides of her [game],” United States coach Vlatko Andonovski said. “Adding that weapon to her quality makes her a more complete player.”

Carli Lloyd, Christen Press and newcomer Margaret Purce also scored while Lynn Williams found the net twice off the bench for the U.S. women, who close the book on 2019 with a record of 20 wins, one loss, three draws and an unforgettable World Cup summer.

“It’s a bit of a chapter end,” Press said, “and a new beginning at the same time.”

The new beginning is still a perfect beginning for Andonovski, still unbeaten through two matches since taking over the helm of the world champions in late October. He wanted high pressure, and much of the time, he got it.

Brian, at the left edge of a midfield triangle alongside Lavelle and Julie Ertz, played her part in a full-time chase brigade that caused the Costa Ricans no end of trouble, starting with a goal after only three-plus minutes with a mix of the new and the not-so-new.

Lavelle, the 24-year-old who broke through at the Women’s World Cup and won the Bronze Ball there, won possession and threaded a precise pass for captain Carli Lloyd to rocket into the roof of the net.

Though the Americans extended their record of perfection against Costa Rica, beating the Central American nation for the 15th time in 15 encounters, the visitors overcame the U.S. press on occasion and struck the goalposts on second-half shots by Melissa Herrera and Priscilla Chinchilla.

Andonovski, who emphasized before the match the importance of pressing high and forcing turnovers, said he wanted to see further improvements in defensive pressure.

“At times we were good, we were able to win the ball high up and capitalize… but at the end of the day, I think we can be better,” Andonovski said.

The world champions poured on the goals in the second half. Williams, who replaced Lloyd at halftime, finished off an assist from Tobin Heath, Press put away a crisp finish in the 56th minute and Williams reacted instantly to half-volley a headed pass from Jessica McDonald into the net 12 minutes later.

Right fullback Purce, in her first international match, rang out the year in the 86th minute on a tight-angle shot that looped into the net for an own goal off Costa Rica’s Stephanie Blanco.

Jacksonville again lived up to its reputation as the Florida Fortress for U.S. Soccer.

The U.S. national teams, both men and women, have now won their last eight international matches here, a streak that extends back to a 1997 men’s victory against Israel.

“It’s been a really long year for all of us, and a great year,” Brian said. “To cap it off here in Jacksonville with a goal and obviously a great win for the whole team, it’s great.”

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What moves should and/or are being made around MLS? What does your team need to advance in Champions League? Where is Zlatan not signing? And more about the NWSL and Australian W-League partnership.

Seattle
We’ve got plenty on the potential Reign FC sale but in case you want to read one of the articles that goes in-depth on the Predmores, OL Groupe, and the history of the Reign, here you go. Reign FC owner Bill Predmore on Lyon negotiations: ‘They value what is in place’ – The Athletic
Negotiations to sell the team are progressing, but Predmore says that is far from his only priority this offseason.

MLS/USL
Seattle, the land of leftbacks, probably isn’t in the market but who knows. Report: Red Bulls defender Kemar Lawrence asks for trade
One of the leagues best left-backs could be on the market.

ICYMI, the biggest who left who in MLS. 10 biggest end-of-season deadline day departures around MLS | MLSsoccer.com
The most notable names to be departing their MLS clubs from the 2019 end-of-season roster deadline day announcements.

The Waiver draft say four players, including a former Sounders U-23 GK, taken. Haris Medunjanin, Danilo Acosta highlight 2019 Waiver draft picks | MLSsoccer.com
Haris Medunjanin, Danilo Acosta highlight 2019 Waiver Draft picks.

Forget all the potential outside of the league moves, what moves does Doyle want to see happen with the out-of-contract/option-declined players? One does involve Seattle adding a player. Armchair Analyst: Nine silly-season moves I want to see before the window opens | MLSsoccer.com
This column is about the moves that can, and in some cases will happen over the next month. What mechanisms are allowable before January 1? Re-Entry Draft Stage 1? Check. Re-Entry Draft Stage 2? Check. Free agency? Check. Waiver draft? Check.

NWSL
Former Reign, and current NC Courage forward, is recovering well. Merritt Mathias is staying positive in ACL rehab and standing by her “F you” tweet – All For XI
Mathias wants accountability from Rachel Daly, the league, and the referee.

Rest will be key for players in this system, playing the “full-year” in Europe provides breaks while playing two half-year seasons back-to-back provides no breaks. Concerns over player welfare raised by W-League’s partnership with NWSL | Samantha Lewis | Football | The Guardian
With plans to formalise an Australian-American accord comes a risk to the wellbeing of the game’s greatest assets.

USA
He wants to play for the USMNT but if he leaves Atlanta United, then the entire plan could be in disarray. Julian Gressel’s quest for USMNT eligibility hits potential snag – ProSoccerTalk
The 25-year-old wishes to play for the USMNT, but his eligibility could hang on contract negotiations with Atlanta United.

Prospects seem to go to the Bundesliga in droves, so why are people not watching? How Germany’s Bundesliga hopes to get more U.S. soccer fans’ attention
“1.5 billion people in the world speak English. 600 million people in the world speak Spanish,” he said in a recent interview with The Inquirer, compared to just 150 million German speakers worldwide. “Our competitors, the [English] Premier League and [Spain’s] La Liga, have an audience automatically with nearly half a billion potential fans.”

World
What does your team, if they can, need to advance in Champions League? Champions League permutations: What Liverpool, Chelsea, Tottenham & Man City need – BBC Sport
Bayern Munich, Juventus and Paris St-Germain have qualified for the Champions League knockout stage. What do the other teams need in order to join them?

One of the best things Roma has ever done. AS Roma: Why did Italian club decide to announce signings alongside missing children? – BBC Sport
This summer, Italian club Roma began announcing their transfer signings alongside images of missing children. This is why.

WADA is pushing to ban Russian from competing in or hosting competitions, except they are supposed to host games during the Euros next year. So…. Euro 2020: Russia’s staging of games under threat after Wada recommends ban – BBC Sport
Russia’s staging of matches at Euro 2020 could be under threat after the World Anti-Doping Agency recommends a four-year ban on the country hosting sports events.

It was supposed to be a joke or something…yeah…no. theScore – Brescia support owner Cellino’s controversial Balotelli comments
Brescia support owner Cellino’s controversial Balotelli comments.

Could the Spanish Big 4 really have a problem advancing? Madrid, Barca, Atletico and Valencia in jeopardy amid La Liga’s Champions League referendum
The sky isn’t falling in Spain, but La Liga’s biggest clubs have hardly been their dominant selves in the Champions League group stage this season.

One week might be light, especially since this was done after Dutch teams had protested racism during their matches. Fox suspends Marco van Basten one week for saying ‘sieg heil’ on air
Retired Netherlands football star Marco van Basten has been benched for a week by Fox Sports for saying “sieg heil” on air.

Stefan Frei can do this. Liga MX goalkeeper scores from his own box – ProSoccerTalk
Chivas goalkeeper Antonio Rodriguez admits he’d never scored a goal before in his life.

Copa Libertadores is sadly known for fan violence and this time was not any different. Flamengo clinch double as Rio celebrations are marred by clashes | Football | The Guardian
Celebrations of Flamengo’s Copa Libertadores victory were marred by clashes between fans and police in Rio de Janeiro with the club later confirmed as Brazilian league champions, too.

Should these three get the Pochettino treatment and get asked to not return or should they get the Ole Gunnar treatment and keep fighting. For and against sacking Unai Emery, Manuel Pellegrini and Marco Silva | Football | The Guardian
All three managers are under pressure and could lose their jobs soon. Our writers outline why that would be good and bad

I really hope James Milner is right that it would be easier, but it shouldn’t be a question of ease, we should be in a place where there is no reason you need to fear homophobia. James Milner is right – it would be much easier for a gay player to come out now | Sean Ingle | Football | The Guardian
Research suggests attitudes among professional players have shifted immeasurably since Justin Fashanu became the first openly gay player 30 years ago – all it needs now is for the fans to follow.

Amidst Tottenham having a great new stadium and Old Trafford needing some help, what are the Mighty Reds looking at doing? Manchester United look for ‘perfect solution’ to revamp Old Trafford
Manchester United are conducting a large-scale strategic review of their infrastructure, including Old Trafford and the club’s Carrington training base, amid recognition that modernisation is required.

Watford looked well last year finishing mid-table, but this year they are struggling, could the solution be a third coach on the year? If you ask me, no. Quique Sanchez Flores on brink as Watford consider third manager of the season in battle to beat relegation
Watford are worried they will be forced to make a second managerial change of the season to try to fight off the threat of relegation from the Premier League.

The attack came in the closing minutes of the match and is unclear why it started. Referee assaulted by footballer in ‘unprovoked attack’ – BBC News
The incident happened in the game between Sporting 50 and AFC Sutton Common Rovers in Surbiton, south-west London, on Saturday. A man in his 40s was treated by paramedics for non-life threatening injuries, the Met said.

Chelsea is not for sale, at least not if the bid is not a premium. Roman Abramovich ‘intimately involved’ at Chelsea, won’t entertain sale – chairman Bruce Buck
Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich is fully involved in running the Premier League side and will not entertain “bargain bids” for the club.

MLS to Tottenham was DeAndre Yedlin’s path but it will not be Zlatan’s path this year. Zlatan Ibrahimovic to Tottenham doesn’t make sense – Jose Mourinho
Jose Mourinho has ruled out signing Zlatan Ibrahimovic, saying a move for the striker “doesn’t make sense” while Tottenham have Harry Kane.

Speaking of DeAndre Yedlin, his club is too passive for Steve Bruce’s liking. Bruce labels Newcastle performance ‘too passive’ – ProSoccerTalk
The Newcastle boss did not mince words after being soundly beaten at Villa Park.

What’s on TV today?
9:55 AM – Galatasaray v. Club Brugge – UEFA Champions League – Galavision, B/R Live

9:55 AM – Lokomotiv Moscow v. Bayer Leverkusen – UEFA Champions League – TNT, TUDN, B/R Live

12:00 PM – Real Madrid v. PSG – UEFA Champions League – TNT, TUDN, B/R Live

12:00 PM – Tottenham v. Olympiacos – UEFA Champions League – B/R Live

12:00 PM – Red Star Belgrade v. Bayern Munich – UEFA Champions League – B/R Live

12:00 PM – Manchester City v. Shakhtar Donetsk – UEFA Champions League – B/R Live

12:00 PM – Atalanta v. Dinamo Zagreb – UEFA Champions League – B/R Live

12:00 PM – Juventus v. Atletico Madrid – UEFA Champions League – B/R Live

12:00 PM – Reading v. Leeds United – EFL Championship – ESPN+

7:00 PM – Motagua v. Deportivo Saprissa – CONCACAF Champions League – TUDN