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The 23 players who will represent the U.S. women’s national team at the 2019 World Cup were announced on Thursday, with the usual names like Alex Morgan, Carli Lloyd and Megan Rapinoe on the squad. As it goes with every squad selection, there are some perceived snubs who maybe should have made the team over others.

Two of the biggest surprises on the team are midfielder Morgan Brian who has suffered through injuries and defender Ali Krieger, who is 34 years old. As a result, the general consensus of the two players who maybe deserved to be ahead of them are defender Casey Short and midfielder McCall Zerboni. Here’s what to know:

The case for Short
The U.S. needs some depth at left back, and the 28-year-old is a more than viable option. She’s been in great form with the Chicago Red Stars and showed that form at the SheBelieves Cup and the CONCACAF Women’s Championship. She has pace, she hustles, and she’s someone who will do the dirty work for her team. She’s also proven she can help in attack with four goals in 47 games for her club.

She’s been consistent with the U.S. over the last few years and there isn’t really any depth behind Crystal Dunn on the left flank. Certainly, her absence is the most questionable decision.

The case for Zerboni
At 32, she’s a late bloomer but somebody who has really impressed. She was called up for the first time in 2017, two months shy of her 31st birthday, making her the oldest player to earn a first cap for the USWNT. McCall is a high-quality midfielder who is calm on the ball, doesn’t make a lot of mistakes and has a ton of experience. The one downside was a broken elbow against Chile in September which saw her miss the CONCACAF Women’s Championship. Had she been able to continue to impress there on a more difficult stage than friendlies, who knows what would have happen.

With coach Jill Ellis, it certainly makes sense to trust her after the last World Cup. But if Brian doesn’t bring enough to this team in the middle, if there is an obvious hole behind Dunn, and if the U.S. doesn’t win, hard questions will be asked.

You can watch the 2019 World Cup on fuboTV (Try for free).

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Good morning! I put too much water in my oatmeal. Let’s talk about soccer.

But first: the District Ultras are raising money for Maryland’s Special Olympics program by participating in the Polar Bear Plunge on January 25. If you can, donate to the cause right here!

D.C. United re-signings and rumors: Filibuster! | Black and Red United
Our latest episode covers D.C. United finalizing Bill Hamid’s transfer back to the club, Frederic Brillant’s new deal, and eating horrible pizza.

“Soccer In The City” aims to tell a new story of the American game | USSoccerPlayers.com
Amazon Prime has a new documentary with a ton of connections to the region (Hamid, Briana Scurry, local coaching legend Lincoln Phillips, DC Scores, and even some support from the District’s government).

USWNT, Mount Notre Dame soccer star Rose Lavelle giving back to Cincinnati, Mason Dec. 21 | Cincinnati Enquirer
Not that too many people reading this are going to be in Cincinnati, but if you are, next week you can go meet Rose Lavelle, who is doing a toy donation drive/meet-and-greet.

Rose Lavelle and Andi Sullivan host soccer clinic at Greater Binghamton Sports Complex | BU Pipe Dream
Lavelle and Washington Spirit captain Andi Sullivan just held a soccer camp in what is apparently the largest “air-supported dome structure” in the country.

Utah Royals re-sign Jonsdottir, Lytle, Barnhart; waive Farquharson | RSL Soapbox
Kind of an odd one here, as Utah Royals FC have both picked up and released former Spirit midfielder Cali Farquharson in the space of about a month.

Restructured competition format for 2020 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup provides opportunity for more “David vs. Goliath” matchups in 107th edition of U.S. Soccer’s National Championship | USSoccer.com
Some major and needed changes to the Open Cup here. Last year, MLS teams all came in at the same time, giving us a ton of MLS vs. MLS pairings that were a lot less fun than having some potential big upsets. This year, some MLS clubs will enter in the 3rd round, and some (including, by virtue of being one of the four best non-CCL-qualifying American teams in the East, United) will be waiting for them in the round of 32.

The Open Cup will also start much, much earlier, with the first round coming in late March. That might raise some real issues for teams in the NPSL and USL League Two, both of which feature many college players:

By NCAA rules, college soccer players cannot be released to other clubs until May 1 (unless it’s during a school vacation)

The first round of #USOC2020 being March 24 puts those players participation in serious jeopardy. We’ll have more on this developing story tomorrow.

— TheCup.us (@usopencup) December 12, 2019
Speaking of MLS, apparently the new Charlotte team has picked a truly terrible name from the pile of terrible names they restricted themselves to:

As you may have seen, an LLC operated by David Tepper submitted trademarks for eight potential Charlotte MLS club names last week (see attached image). Industry sources have told @frntofficesport that Charlotte Town FC is expected to be the choice for its name. pic.twitter.com/SCdsgJsmms

— Ian Thomas (@byIanThomas) December 13, 2019
Don’t be like Charlotte. Have fun this weekend!

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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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Before the final whistle, before the chants of “Equal pay!” ricocheted around Stade de Lyon, before Megan Rapinoe’s arms were filled with all the trophies a soccer player could possibly earn in one year, first came the tears.

On July 7, in the 61st minute of the 2019 World Cup final against the Netherlands, Rapinoe scored to put the U.S. up 1–0. To her, though, this was more than the goal that would win the Americans a record fourth title. It was the equivalent of flashing double-barrel middle fingers. She’d have loved to have done that just once. But, she says, “there are lines.”

The goal itself, on a penalty kick drawn by teammate Alex Morgan, was, like Rapinoe, more about brains than brawn. She reminded herself, Your opponent is more nervous than you are, then she went low and a bit right, breaking her tendency of high and left. Dutch goalkeeper Sari van Veenendaal flinched toward Rapinoe’s usual side, the net rippled, teammates swarmed and the whole scene ended with the pink-haired lesbian winger posing near the corner flag in defiance and triumph and joy: arms outstretched, chin up, head tipped just back.

The Pose, the signature sporting image of 2019, was more than a celebration, just as Rapinoe’s goal was more than a tournament-winner. No one knew this better than Rapinoe’s mom, Denise, and fraternal twin, Rachael, who together had traversed France for a month with the U.S. team and on the day of the final were sitting just down the sideline. They were there because Megan had laid it on thick that this might be her last World Cup (she’ll reassess after the 2020 Olympics) but also because they know she can be as sensitive as she is tough, and even those who appear superhuman need support. Especially if they’ve been publicly questioned by the leader of the free world.

For 34 years, since Megan was born 11 minutes after Rachael—since they learned to play soccer together at age five, since they came out to each other as gay when they were sophomores at the University of Portland—one sister has fortified the other. In France that meant Rachael pulled Megan aside during a family visitation hour in a hotel lobby, sheltering her from all the fuss and all the paranoia from U.S. Soccer officials who feared the muscle stimulator on Rapinoe’s ailing right hamstring might tip off the world that she’d be missing the semifinal against England. It had meant, years earlier, hiding from Megan the hateful emails that came pouring into Rapinoe SC, a clinics-and-online-apparel company that the sisters run together, after Megan joined an NFL quarterback’s lonely protest during the national anthem.

All of which had led to this day. Rapinoe was the hero of the World Cup, achieving everything she’d ever dreamed of, but in so many ways it was unlike anything she’d imagined. And so, 16 minutes after her final goal, in her 428th minute of play over five matches, she was substituted out and sat down, just across a divider from the U.S. family seats. As the final seconds ticked off the clock, the sisters locked eyes. And they started bawling.

****

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Jeffery A. Salter

Megan Rapinoe is Sports Illustrated’s Sportsperson of the Year. She is just the fourth woman in the award’s 66-year history to win it unaccompanied, a feat that is both a remarkable athletic achievement and a reflection of entrenched gender biases. Rapinoe challenged perceptions of her, of female athletes, of all women. She led her teammates, three months before their tentpole tournament, to sue the U.S. Soccer Federation for equal pay; to declare in advance that they would not visit the White House when they won the Cup; to score 13 goals in a group-stage match against Thailand, without apology.

As for The Pose? “It was kind of like a ‘F— you,’ but with a big smile and a s— eating grin,” Rapinoe says. “You are not going to steal any of our joy.”

Yes, the U.S. women have been here before. But the ’19ers were more dominant than the team that won four years ago—they never trailed in France; they scored a record 26 goals—and they were even bolder than the ’99ers who collectively captured SI’s year-end award two decades ago. Julie Foudy, co-captain of that team, asked her old cohort Mia Hamm about the equal-pay lawsuit, “Do you think we would’ve done this?” And Foudy says they concluded, “We probably would have said, Let’s plant that flag after we’ve won. We had been socialized not to stir the pot. Which I love about Rapinoe, this freedom to speak her mind in a way we didn’t feel we had.”

megan-rapinoe-celebration-world-cup
Simon Bruty

Since bursting onto the scene with a perfect left-footed cross to Abby Wambach in the 2011 quarterfinal, Rapinoe has been a change agent for the U.S. But the meaning of that change has evolved over time. In ’19 she was the anchor of the left side, coaching up Sam Mewis and Crystal Dunn; she was the captain who walked into the locker room after a tough first half of one elimination game and declared the U.S. was playing “Awesome!”—coercing her teammates to accept said awesomeness; she was the veteran champion of equality who had history on her side when it came to persuading teammates to sue. Most of all, she was a galvanizing force on a team that is now looked up to by any woman who doesn’t want to be told she’s come far enough, who’s taking matters into her own hands. But even Rapinoe couldn’t have predicted how this year would play out.

Before the opening game in Reims, she and Morgan were sitting at their lockers. “One of us has to win the Golden Boot” for the World Cup’s top scorer, Rapinoe told her co-captain. But what she really meant was: You have to win it. Rapinoe never would have bet on herself to take that award (for which she ultimately edged out Morgan) or the Golden Ball (for MVP) or to be named FIFA’s Women’s World Player of the Year two months later. “I’m not sure I’m the best player on my own team,” she admits.

Hers is another kind of magic. Sure, she scored six times, five of those in elimination rounds. But in her three decades preparing for this stage, she never expected to have to perform while the president of her country taunted her and a nonzero percentage of Americans rooted for her to fail.

megan-rapinoe-trophy-kiss
Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Rapinoe and her teammates were busing to their training grounds in the western outskirts of Paris on June 26, in advance of a quarterfinal against France, when Donald Trump fired his Twitter salvo. A video, recorded earlier in the year, was making the rounds; in it Rapinoe declared, “I’m not going to the f—— White House” if the U.S. wins. And now POTUS was tweeting: “. . . Megan should WIN first before she TALKS! Finish the job!” Midfielder Allie Long saw this and leaned forward in her seat, toward Rapinoe in front of her. “Pookie,” she said, “you a G.”

In so many ways. Two days later, in a game that felt more like a final, Rapinoe lined up for a fifth-minute free kick from just outside the penalty box. When she saw only two French players in the defensive wall, she said to herself, Well, thank you, and smashed a low kick that bounced through traffic into the goal. Consider The Pose (which she struck after both of her goals in a 2–1 win) her direct response to the President. Says Rapinoe, “I’m going to do me.”

Which has had costs and benefits. After celebrating the championship with teammates in New York City and then Los Angeles, Rapinoe and her girlfriend, WNBA player Sue Bird, were on their way to LAX to catch a flight home to Seattle when U.S. teammates began texting warnings: You cannot go through airport security! They were getting mobbed, even without the pink-haired national hero. Rapinoe had no idea what to do. She didn’t have the means for personal security or a private flight. In the end, her agent hastily arranged for access to a VIP entrance to the airport, something Rapinoe had never considered before.

megan-rapinoe-parade-girl
Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

In the months since: Michelle Obama recruited Rapinoe to join in a voter-participation initiative. Gloria Steinem, the original feminist icon, thanked Rapinoe for carrying her torch. A high school girls’ soccer team in Burlington, Vt., staged its own campaign in support of equal pay, and an 11-year-old boy in Geneva, Ill., went viral for his pink-haired Halloween costume, each inspired by Rapinoe. She has been invited to Washington by New York congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez; talked politics on Meet the Press, Pod Save America and CNN; and turned into a coveted endorsement for the 2020 election. No, she’s not running for office anytime soon. “I don’t have plans for policies and how to implement them,” she says. “I’ll just be the jabber.” (The White House did reach out privately to the team about a visit, a U.S. Soccer rep confirms. Rapinoe says she heard about the outreach on the plane ride home from France, from USSF president Carlos Cordeiro. He suggested a visit to both the White House and Capitol Hill; Rapinoe and another player reiterated they didn’t want to meet with Trump. Rapinoe would like to visit Congress with her team, but she doesn’t think U.S. Soccer is willing to organize a trip that skips the White House, with the World Cup coming to the U.S. in 2026. The team rep says ’26 “has absolutely zero bearing” on the issue.)

Obama, AOC, CNN. . . Rapinoe has a name for all of this. Her “newfound fame.” When she travels, she enters what her teammates have dubbed “IncogPinoe” mode, often slipping on a Supreme ballcap with a hidden message stitched in white thread on white canvas: f— you. It’s her way of poking fun at this temporary status; she knows how easily the cheers can turn to boos.

Megan Rapinoe is Sportsperson of the Year, though, not because of her newfound fame but because of how she’s handled it. She owned the biggest moment of her life and silenced all the doubts. Except, perhaps, her own.

***

It’s early November and Rapinoe is standing on a frosty field in Greenwich, Conn., popping cough drops to combat a cold she picked up after having spent maybe three days at home in the last month. She and Rachael held a soccer clinic in Farming­ville, N.Y., last night; today they have two more sold-out sessions, 175 kids each, before Megan will rush to catch a flight to Columbus for the last national team camp of the year. Denise and the twins’ Aunt Melissa are working the check-in desk, and there’s no security here—which is fine, except when it comes to Megan separating from the crowd for a bathroom break, which proves more challenging than getting one past Van Veenendaal in Lyon.

megan-rapinoe-kids-camp
Erick W. Rasco

Away from this chaos, one dad sits in the bleachers, talking on a cellphone while Rapinoe guides girls and boys through a shooting station, and his words remind an eavesdropping interloper of what preceded All of this. “. . . When Megan was kneeling,” the man says, “it was a big deal. . . .”

It’s hard to imagine now, but Rapinoe SC almost went under after Megan joined Colin Kaepernick in protesting police brutality and systemic racism by taking a knee during the national anthem in 2016. A youth club that was hosting a clinic near D.C. that fall felt compelled to request security for its event, fearful of protesters. (No protestors showed.) Enrollment and merchandise sales nosedived. “Maybe those parents are kicking themselves now,” Rapinoe shrugs.

megan-rapinoe-kids-camps-group
Erick W. Rasco

In Greenwich the sun peeks out and a swarm descends on the star instructor. Rapinoe waves over some high school field hockey players who’ve been hovering nervously, while off to another side a soccer mom coaches up her young daughter to approach for a picture. (“It’s now or never!”) The girls gush thank-yous, and Rapinoe thanks them back.

Megan remembers what it was like sitting with Rachael in the Stanford Stadium stands for the 1999 Women’s World Cup semifinal, watching in awe as the U.S. beat Brazil en route to its second trophy. But, for the most part, female athletes were invisible when Rapinoe was growing up. The posters she had in her room were all of Michael Jordan. The point of these camps is not to teach the kids some magical skill that will land them on the national team. It’s to be visible. Now, gathering her campers at midfield before she leaves for Columbus, Rapinoe opens up the session to questions. Which is how we land on fear.

“My biggest fear is claustrophobia, being stuck in small places,” Rapinoe says. “And also that people will think I’m a fraud.”

On one hand, Rapinoe is very much the person captured, post–World Cup, on U.S. goalkeeper Ashlyn Harris’s rollicking Instagram story: standing on a parade float in lower Manhattan, trophy in one hand, bottle of bubbly in the other, announcing, “I deserve this!” But there’s also a part of her that is deeply uncomfortable with all the accolades and attention over her outspokenness. Following the Greenwich camp, in a hotel lobby in Ohio, after one wheel on her suitcase finally gives out from months of travel, she explains, “I never want to be seen as trying to leverage something for personal gain. A lot of the stuff I talk about has a personal benefit. Equal pay. Even kneeling with Kaepernick, there was a lot of personal gain from that.”

For Kaepernick, kneeling during the national anthem meant, seemingly, the end of his career. For Rapinoe, it was a rebirth of hers, eventually. And she wrestles with those outcomes. Not that she ever could have guessed how things would play out.

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Kaepernick’s peaceful protest first caught the eye of the nation in August 2016. Rapinoe joined nine days later, before a game with her NWSL club, Seattle Reign. “He needs support,” she remembers thinking, “and I can help.” That September she warned U.S. teammates: She would kneel again before a friendly against Thailand, and she knew it might be uncomfortable for them. “All of us were a little timid about it,” says defender Ali Krieger, who supported Rapinoe but told her she wouldn’t join in. “We didn’t want to lose our jobs, and we weren’t sure how U.S. Soccer was going to react, how the country was going to react. She took all of that criticism.”

When U.S. Soccer released a statement during the Thailand match saying that players and coaches were expected to stand for the anthem “as part of the privilege to represent your country,” and when Rapinoe was benched or kept off the roster for friendlies in October and November, and when again she was left off the roster for the ­SheBelieves Cup the following spring, yes, she worried that it all spelled the end of her days as a U.S. player. At the time coach Jill Ellis chalked up the moves to roster churn and to the right ACL tear that Rapinoe was still rehabbing. But Rapinoe insists “that’s not the reason I was not on those rosters.” She says the decisions were never fully explained, but the time line married precisely: She didn’t play again for the national team until after the federation passed a rule stating that all players “shall stand respectfully” for the anthem. (Ellis, who stepped down from her U.S. job in July, maintains she made “football decisions” without any direction from the federation. “Was [kneeling] the appropriate thing to do in a national team jersey? I didn’t know,” Ellis says. “But I certainly understood it, and in no way was I saying, You can’t do it.”)

In the end, “it just so happens that I came back with a vengeance, better than I had ever been,” Rapinoe says. “And then it was like, Well, you are stuck with me now.”

****

Denise Rapinoe is making the rounds at Jack’s Grill on a recent Wednesday night. After helping out at her daughters’ camps, she later followed Megan to New York City, where mother and daughter attended Glamour’s Woman of the Year awards. Now she’s back home in Redding, Calif., at this dimly lit, 81-year-old steakhouse with linoleum floors and tin ceilings.

A group of women ask Denise to see her photos from the Glamour event, and they coo over the black lace dress Denise found at Nordstrom, over Megan’s Gucci ensemble, over the picture they posed for with Charlize Theron. “You must be so proud,” one woman says, squeezing Denise’s hand.

megan-rapinoe-sports-illustrated-cover
Proud Mom smiles and slips her phone back into a pocket of her black pants. Then she pulls out her pad and pen and takes an order at the next table.

Denise began waitressing here when Megan and Rachael were 22 months old, working nights while her husband, Jim, a contractor, worked days. On Tuesdays, her day off, she would drive the twins 2½ hours each way to their club soccer practice near Sacramento.

Today Megan is an international star, one of the most famous athletes in the world, but growing up Denise made sure to tell her daughters You’re not the s— just because you’re good at sports. Later, as a senior at Foothill High, Megan was voted Most Likely to be Famous, but she was also the kind of kid who wrote her assistant principal a lengthy thank-you note at graduation.

Denise and Jim have been asked about Megan’s origin story enough times over the past six months that they have a rotation of anecdotes. Among them: the middle-school assembly where Megan gave a rousing speech about each of the grades coming together, like a hot dog folded between the sides of the bun; or the time in fifth grade when she and Rachael stood up to eighth-grade bullies on the playground. But the most salient aspect of Rapinoe’s upbringing doesn’t fit into a tidy narrative. She was part of a big, messy and (eventually) politically divided American family.

Together Denise and Jim raised seven children, not all their own. Denise has a son and daughter, Michael and Jenny, from a previous marriage; then came Brian and the twins. They also took in Denise’s youngest sister, CeCé, after their parents died, in 1981, and Brian’s son, Austin, who needed a home when Brian struggled with drug addiction.

Redding is firmly in the red part of Northern California, such that when Rapinoe knelt during the national anthem, the owner of Jack’s, spurred on by disapproving patrons, took down the photos of Denise’s daughter that a bartender had hung at the restaurant.

Even Jim admits, “I wasn’t thrilled” with Megan’s kneeling. He was still hurt, though, by all the hate mail he received, all the people calling his daughter unpatriotic. He and his father, Jack, both served in the Army. And he has a cousin, John, he points out, who served in Vietnam and remains a huge supporter of Megan. Her right to protest, Jim says, is “what he fought for.” (Megan: “I don’t understand the [idea] that it’s un-American to criticize your country. That’s what an open democracy is about—civil discourse and being able to protest. Clearly, we are not perfect. Until we address the problems we have, it is not going to be better.”)

Over the years, all the differing viewpoints have allowed Rapinoe to grow more comfortable with uncomfortable conversations. When she told her mother she was gay, in college, she thought about everything from Denise’s perspective, knowing Mom would need time to wrap her head around this new reality. As Denise recalls, “She said, ‘Mom, I get it. Things are going to look different from what you thought, and you have to grieve that.’ That was really helpful.”

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In 2016, after the November presidential election in which Jim voted for Trump, Megan and Rachael refused to talk to their father, outside of a happy-birthday text, until finally they came home for the family’s traditional Italian-sauce dinner on Christmas Eve. Eventually the wine got flowing and everyone engaged in a heated living-room debate that lasted for hours, but by the end of the night everyone said “I love you” and went to bed.

“I’m thankful I have this understanding,” Rapinoe says, “from the place I’m from, from the career and the life I’ve had, the things I’ve been able to do, the people I’ve known . . . the brother I’ve had,” meaning Brian, with his dependency issues. “It’s all given me this full view. I’m from Trump country. But I’m able to travel the world and live in very liberal places now. I am sort of in all the worlds at once.”

Brian, five years older than the twins, is the one who set up cones in the yard to teach them how to dribble, whose games first mesmerized the future World Player of the Year. The girls were in second grade when he started using drugs; they were 10 when he first got in trouble. Later, Jim had the radio on one morning during breakfast when they all heard a bulletin: Brian Rapinoe has been arrested for burglary. Other times, the girls’ achievements would appear in the sports section of the local paper while their brother was written up in the news section the same day. “It was all out there,” Denise says. “The good, the bad, the dirty.”

Now 39, Brian watched his little sister’s first two World Cups, in 2011 and ’15, from prison, his drug addiction and related criminal offenses having consumed most of his adult life. This summer, though, he was able to cheer her on from a transitional facility in San Diego, where he finished out his latest sentence in a reentry program. “Being able to watch the World Cup outside of bars,” Rachael says, “meant a lot to him and to our family.”

megan-rapinoe-action
Simon Bruty

In early August, two weeks before he was paroled, Brian secured a 12-hour pass to travel to a victory-tour game at the Rose Bowl, and Michael drove him up. Megan wasn’t playing that afternoon (she was nursing the same left Achilles injury that’s nagging her today; just old age, she says), but at the team hotel before the match she reunited with her brother for the first time in more years than she could remember. Nine, maybe?

Looking back on that visit, Rapinoe wipes at her eyes, but she pushes forward. The subject is not off-limits. “It’s fully on-limits,” she says. In an era when everything can feel over-filtered, over-curated, she doesn’t want her life story to be just the highlights. The raw footage links her to others with loved ones battling addiction; it has shaped her opinions on the need for prison reform. “Being able to understand these different perspectives, it maybe gives some white people incentive to care about these things. . . . It’s given me a tremendous amount of empathy and understanding.”

When it’s suggested that empathy—this ability to see the world as others are experiencing it—may be something of a theme here, Rapinoe seizes the chance to lighten the mood. “Oh, that’s good,” she says, dryly. “You don’t think I’m a psychopath.”

***

Today Rapinoe stands during the national anthem, hands crossed behind her back instead of over her heart, reflecting silently. Sometimes, she says, the names of people of color who have unjustly lost their lives run through her mind. Trayvon Martin. Michael Brown. Tamir Rice. She stops herself. She doesn’t want to seem like she’s leveraging their names. “But I think about Why?” she continues.

For her the anthem is no longer a reflexive experience, Rapinoe says, “whereas I feel like most people who put their hand over their heart and sing, it’s a totally unconscious act.” She thinks about her decision three years ago to kneel and walks through all the subsequent possibilities, knowing Kaepernick has not had the chance to return to his sport.

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Harrison Barden-USA TODAY Sports

“I considered [continuing to kneel],” she says. “It’s still something I’m a little conflicted about. I don’t know what would have happened [if I’d continued]. Can you do the same thing without kneeling? Did I make my point? How long do you need to protest? It certainly was better for me to stop kneeling. So, that’s a little, like—” Rapinoe scrunches up her face. As she graces magazine covers, as she appears on stages and fields and podiums across the world, she carries the question with her: Am I doing enough?

Several hours after pondering this she finds herself at Detroit Metropolitan Airport, on her way home to Seattle, when a passenger walks over to say hello. Jen Fry runs her own social justice education firm, working with athletic departments and conferences across the country, and here she introduces herself to Rapinoe, explaining that her job tackles the intersection of race and sports. “Really, there’s no intersection,” Rapinoe replies, meaning: You can’t talk about one without the other; they’re intertwined.

Fry agrees, hands over a business card and everyone’s on her way. . . . Only, a few minutes later, Fry looks up to see Rapinoe walking back toward her. Can we chat a little more? What more can I do as a white person? How can I best use the platform I have?

“I told her she should talk about her whiteness, and name it”—normalize it—Fry recalls. “Homegirl knelt in support of Kaepernick, and she still was like, What more can I do? That shows: You don’t have to know everything to do something.”

megan-rapinoe-podium
Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

But part of Rapinoe’s power is that she typically does seem to know everything, to say the right thing (with a few f-bombs mixed in), to deliver off-field moments as memorable as those on. At the Glamour event she thanked Kaepernick, whose courage lit the path she followed, and acknowledged the role that white privilege plays in her being feted as an outspoken World Cup champion while he remains unemployed. Named last week as the winner of the second-ever Ballon D’Or Féminin award, she challenged the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi to join her fight against racism and sexism in soccer. And on a September night in Milan, when she was handed her FIFA award, she used her platform to call attention to Raheem Sterling (of Manchester City) and Kalidou Koulibaly (Napoli), two players, among many, for whom the cost of playing the game they love is enduring racist chants; and Iran’s “Blue Girl,” who disguised herself as a man in order to attend a soccer game, and who then set herself on fire to avoid charges for violating a ban against women in stadiums; and MLS player Collin Martin, then the only openly gay male in America’s big five professional sports.

“I couldn’t believe it,” says Martin. “It’s probably her greatest personal achievement as a soccer player, and she decided to talk about others.”

That ability to see the bigger picture is something Rapinoe’s teammates have experienced more personally. Two years ago Rapinoe and Bird were in Turks and Caicos on vacation with a group of friends that included fellow national teamers Harris and Krieger, who by then had been dating for several years, when over dinner one night the conversation turned to the idea of coming out. Harris and Krieger had until then kept their relationship out of the public eye, but that was starting to feel inauthentic, and they were wrestling with the pros and cons of being open about it all.

“Megan said something,” Krieger recalls, “that I will never forget: that there are young kids who are too scared to be themselves, and if we keep hiding, it doesn’t make it normal to be in a lesbian relationship.” (The couple announced their engagement in People magazine this year, and when they wed later this month, Rapinoe will be Harris’s maid of honor.)

Denise Rapinoe watched her own daughter go through the same process years ago, opening her true self to the world. She’s seen Megan go from an awkward preteen grappling with her identity, to the first prominent women’s soccer player to come out, to an American icon. “She’s the voice so many people don’t have,” Denise says, tearing up. “It’s hard to be ­really open and vulnerable like [Megan does]. There are a lot of people who probably want to, but they just don’t have the voice, haven’t found it yet. Megan has it now.”

****

Thirty minutes before she poses for yet another magazine shoot—Marie Claire, Glamour, GQ—Rapinoe is touching up her famous coif with Walmart dye. Ever wonder why the color varies between pink (it started, in May, as Pravana Neon Pink, at a Seattle salon) and purple, sometimes with a brown undergrowth? She’s a busy lady, and hair upkeep is not high on her list.

The Olympics are in seven months, and at times soccer feels like the furthest thing from Rapinoe’s mind. It’s easy to see why no women’s team has ever followed a World Cup win with an Olympic gold. “That’s a frustrating thing,” Rapinoe says. “Through our [U.S. Soccer contract] we are not able to secure our financial futures. In order to [do that] you have to win everything, catch lightning in a bottle, like this summer. Then you can blow up. But to secure your financial future you have to undevote yourself to your sport, which does not put you in a position to catch lighting in a bottle again.”

megan-rapinoe-portrait-screaming
Jeffery A. Salter

About that lightning in a Walmart bottle. Denise’s first thought on her daughter’s pink do was that it looked like cotton candy. She didn’t like it. But then she thought about it, and something came to her. “You’ve been in the trenches for so long,” she said. “You take on a lot of heavy stuff, and this is your way of being light.” Rapinoe doesn’t know if it was that deep—not consciously, at least—but she filed it away as she’s tried to make sense of the craziest year of her life.

Back in the studio, pink-haired Megan Rapinoe is gliding in a gauzy Valentino gown with black Maison Margiela shoes, a light moment made more enjoyable by all the heavy ones. Her brother . . . Kaepernick. . . . The lawsuit, which is headed for a May trial after mediation talks in August broke down. . . . Trump, which she says her experience kneeling “positioned me perfectly” to handle. . . .

She FaceTimes Denise and texts a photo to Harris, who replies, “You look like a goddam goddess.” Then she puts down the phone and a photographer asks her to pose with a prop sledgehammer, the concept being that she’s smashing the patriarchy. Someone suggests that she roar, too, the way she does after a goal. She dislikes this idea. The face and the sledgehammer, she scoffs, say the same thing.

“What about a smirk?” she asks. “It’s kind of like a little, F— you, I’m coming.”

She knows the look well. Everyone does by now. Rapinoe first struck The Pose after a goal in an April friendly against Australia. It was her way of asking fans, “Are you not entertained?” As the year progressed, though, it grew to take on greater meaning, purpose, prominence. Maybe you saw self-love, or defiance, or something else entirely. Today, even Rapinoe struggles to explain The Pose. It’s against her nature, after all, to see things in their simplest terms.

“It’s clearly more than a celebration,” she says, but “I’m still trying to articulate exactly the way I feel in it. This is me in the full. We’re not going to be a certain way for anyone. This is me, and you know you love it.”

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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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About five months ago, Mallory Pugh and Lindsey Horan competed on soccer’s biggest stage. They played for the U.S. Women’s National Team and helped the team to its fourth FIFA World Cup title and back-to-back championships.

On Sunday, they were more anxious to pump up the more than 50,000 fans at Empower Field at Mile High than they were to compete against the best soccer players in the world.

“I think we were more nervous about pumping up the crowd than playing a soccer game at the World Cup,” Horan said laughing.

“I would definitely say the same,” Pugh said.

When asked how two world champions could be nervous to encourage Broncos Country to pound their chests and get loud, the pair offered a simple explanation for their nerves.

“We’re not used to pumping up the crowd,” Horan said and laughed. “It was nerve-wracking.”

“We’re better at [playing soccer] than pumping up the crowd,” Pugh said.

Though they felt out of their element, Horan and Pugh were as successful on Sunday as they were in July in France — they successfully riled up thousands of Broncos fans, just as they successfully won the FIFA World Cup with the USWNT.

Trading their white U.S. soccer jerseys for personalized blue Broncos’ jerseys — gifts from Broncos President and CEO Joe Ellis — was a homecoming of sorts for the Colorado natives.

Horan grew up in Golden and played for the Colorado Rush Soccer Club. Pugh grew up in Highlands Ranch and competed on the rival Real Colorado Soccer Club.

“It’s awesome, us being home in our hometown and seeing all these fans and a team that we’ve supported our whole life,” the 25-year-old Horan said. “Getting to celebrate with them was really cool.”

Pugh, 21, echoed Horan’s statements about the raucous cheers that came from the Broncos’ fans when they were introduced as USWNT players and Coloradans.

“We have so many fans here, and just to come back home and be surrounded and feel the support, it makes us proud to be from Colorado,” Pugh said.

Horan and Pugh first met when they played at a U-20 World Cup tournament, and they weren’t immediately good friends, but their friendship grew over time. Once Pugh became the youngest player to make the USWNT four years ago, she and Horan bonded over their Colorado heritage and appreciation for the state’s youth soccer.

So, it was natural that “Mal” ran up to Horan and jumped on her back on the sidelines before the game as a way of saying hello. And, it was more fun to plan what to say into the stadium microphone together than it would have been alone.

“I think we’re always on the same email when it’s anything Colorado,” Horan said and shrugged and smiled, looking at Pugh. “We always do it together.”

Friends and family stood with the pair on the sidelines during the Broncos’ pregame warmups, and they snapped pictures of Horan and Pugh with Ellis, John Elway and Von Miller – documenting world champions greeting fellow world champions.

Horan and Pugh’s conversations were casual with the Broncos greats, but family ties to Broncos Country made the interactions, and the day, exciting.

“I think both my parents were huge Broncos fans,” Horan said. “My mom is a die-hard John Elway fan, so she was jealous to see us meet him today. I think we kind of grew up in a Broncos household, so [it’s] very cool for us to be here.”

Added Pugh: “Growing up with a Broncos household … it’s just kind of natural.”

Horan and Pugh were natural hype-women, as Pugh called into the mic, “Come on, Broncos Country!”

Horan followed with, “We need to hear ya!” before the two pounded their chests and watched both fans and Broncos players jump around and pound their chests to the same rhythm.

The pregame encouragement from the soccer stars worked, as the Broncos went on to beat the Los Angeles Chargers 23-20.

“We thought it was awesome,” Horan said before the win. “We thought it was really cool to get the support from a different sport. And we’ve been Broncos supporters, so now them seeing us and seeing what we’ve done, it brings a whole new level of support for each sport.”

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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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The MLS Hot Stove is starting to heat up as teams try to fill and improve their rosters. Liverpool keep their place atop the league, Vivianne Miedema simply refuses to stop scoring goals, and Mexico unveils a new jersey. Weston McKennie’s going to be out for a bit, and Julie Ertz is the US Soccer Female Player of the Year.

Seattle/Tacoma
The Seattle Sounders ranked 3rd behind Atlanta United and Tigres for attendance among all teams in professional leagues in US and Canada, and Liga MX. Taking Attendance 12/8/2019: This One Goes To 112 – kenn.com blog

The organizations unveiled a completely made-over gym at Valley View Early Learning Center. Seattle Sounders FC, RAVE Foundation & MLS WORKS unveil 2019 MLS Cup Legacy Project at Valley View Early Learning Center | Seattle Sounders FC

No club could match the Seattle Sounders’ combination of consistency and excellence, argues Bobby Warshaw in ranking them his MLS club of the decade. MLS best clubs of the decade: No. 1, Seattle Sounders | MLSsoccer.com

MLS/USL
The swing from a possible $6.5 million contract to a TAM one is quite the shift. BREAKING: Toronto FC have reportedly re-signed captain Michael Bradley to TAM contract – Waking The Red

LA Galaxy safe-standing section is Victoria Block – LAG Confidential
It’s pretty nice.

Another South American starlet may be on the way to MLS. This time it’s…another young Paraguayan attacking midfielder, 19 year-old Ivan Franco. Highly touted Paraguayan attacking midfielder bound for MLS? | MLSsoccer.com

There are worse positions to stockpile talent, but picking up a second presumably DP striker on the heels of also grabbing Khiry Shelton does seem like potential over-kill. Report: Sporting Kansas City make bid for Red Star Belgrade striker | MLSsoccer.com

Houston don’t have a goalkeeper, so they’re trying to sign one. They seem to think they’ve found their man in a Czech ‘keeper playing in Scotland. Report: Houston Dynamo in pursuit of St. Mirren goalkeeper Vaclav Hladky | MLSsoccer.com

Getting to know SKC’s new star with some of the folks who know him best. Rigo Ayala from Chivas Del Norte joins the folks of the Blue Testament to answer their questions. Is Alan Pulido Really a Striker for Sporting KC? – The Blue Testament

Carlo Ancelotti isn’t doing anything right now, so he might as well come coach in MLS. I personally think it would be funny to see it happen, so I hope that it does. Seltzer: Three good destinations in MLS for Carlo Ancelotti | MLSsoccer.com

A club record transfer fee is a club record transfer fee, but the money the Quakes shelled out to sign Espinoza on a permanent deal is a long way from what SKC paid for Pulido. Transfermarkt has the number at $2.3 million. What the Cristian Espinoza, Sacha Kljestan deals mean for San Jose Earthquakes, LA Galaxy | Tom Bogert | MLSsoccer.com

“Which players will be bought and sold in January” is a remarkably broad question, and one that will certainly shape what the beginning of the season looks like at the very least. Wiebe: Five unanswered questions this MLS offseason | MLSsoccer.com

It looks like LAFC have swooped up another promising young player in Uruguayan central midfielder Francisco Ginella. He’s reportedly moving from Montevideo Wanderers after LAFC paid $2.5 million for 75% of his rights. Gran paso | Urugol

Charlotte has a billionaire owner in David Tepper, so they shouldn’t be reliant on public money. They’re still apparently getting it, though, to the possible tune of $110 million. Here’s how other cities handled MLS public funding | Charlotte Observer

USL League 2 is losing a team, but the professional soccer landscape in Canada appears to be growing as Victoria Highlanders FC leave for the newly formed Pacific Coast Soccer League. Highlanders League Update 2020, 2021 and beyond – Victoria Highlanders

I don’t know that they necessarily needed the rebrand, but it’s nice to see a team do it well for a change. Battery Unveil New Branding, New Logo

Look, this is terrible, and we definitely shouldn’t laugh about it, but I can’t help but imagine the coach who punched the referee yelling “Yoo think yuh bettah than me,” as he did it. UPSL playoff match abandoned after coach punches referee

Atlanta United today announced a multi-year contract extension with FOX Sports South and FOX Sports Southeast to remain as the club’s exclusive regional television rights holder. The networks have televised all regionally available matches since the inaugural season in 2017 and will continue to do so through 2022. Atlanta United Announces Multi-Year Contract Extension with FOX Sports South and FOX Sports Southeast | Atlanta United FC

A Whitecaps FC branded tank with the No. 9 on it has rolled into downtown Vancouver and was spotted parked outside BC Place Sunday morning. There’s a Whitecaps tank parked outside of BC Place right now | Offside

Paul Rothrock, a Sounders Academy product, scored the first goal for Georgetown to tie the game up in the first half. He and the Hoyas would go on to win their first ever national title in penalties. Georgetown outlasts Virginia in 2019 College Cup for first national championship | NCAA.com

Kyle Beckerman is out of contract, Tyler Miller is likely pursuing his options in Europe, and Diego Valeri’s return to Portland isn’t yet official. Five MLS players whose futures are still in limbo ahead of 2020 | Charles Boehm | MLSsoccer.com

NWSL
Jess Fishlock claims her rightful place in the XI. Which other ten players join her in the list of standouts over the past seven seasons? The NWSL Team of the Decade – All For XI

USA
This was the right decision for overall on-the-field contributions. Julie Ertz is US Soccer’s female player of the year – Stars and Stripes FC

What’s that they always say about never meeting your heroes? Well, Gregg Berhalter’s team faces a tough test. USA to play Netherlands in 2020 friendly – Stars and Stripes FC

It’s hardly ideal to have a budding star potentially out or limited for 3 to 4 months. That appears to be the situation for McKennie after picking up an injury in his game this weekend. Weston McKennie carted off early in Schalke match with dislocated shoulder | MLSsoccer.com

World
Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp rejects suggestions top clubs want more Champions League games as Liverpool prepare for two games less than 24 hours apart. Jurgen Klopp: Liverpool boss rejects Champions League expansion claims – BBC Sport

It’s a beautiful image to be shaped in, frankly. Liverpool are thriving as the team becomes more and more like the manager. Jürgen Klopp Has Shaped Liverpool in His Image – The Ringer

Racism is a scourge of the world of sports, just as the rest of society, and like every other part of life it’s moved to the internet. The anonymity and ability to dish out hate without seeing the immediate impact are just part of why racism is so able to fester online. Foul play: how racism towards black footballers is moving online | Football | The Guardian.

It’s good to see Lukaku flourishing again, and all the better if he and Martinez can help Inter push Juventus for the title. Romelu Lukaku and Lautaro Martínez give Antonio Conte’s Inter Milan a superstar strike partnership | StatsBomb

Kim Little put away a penalty and Miedema scored what I only assume were here 100th and 101st goals of the season, but an injury cast a shadow over Arsena’s win against Everton. Vivianne Miedema keeps Arsenal clear at summit but Mead injury mars win | Football | The Guardian

Mexico’s newest jersey is pretty sharp. I personally really like the different colored bands and stripes on each side, and the fact that the pattern apparently continues on the back. Adidas Mexico 2020 Away Kit Revealed – Footy Headlines

Good thing they’ll be out from under the ban in January. It took a while, but the burden of Chelsea’s transfer ban is finally here – We Ain’t Got No History

We’re happy too, Trent. Honestly, who wouldn’t be? Trent Alexander-Arnold Is Happy To Play For Klopp For Years To Come – The Liverpool Offside

What’s on TV today?
11:30 AM: Boston United Vs. Rochdale (FA Cup) – ESPN+

11:45 AM: Crystal Palace Vs. Brighton & Hove Albion (Premier League) – NBCSN

11:45 AM: Cagliari Vs. Lazio (Serie A) – ESPN+

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Imani Dorsey will get an opportunity to show off her skills to the new USWNT coach. (Photo courtesy of Sky Blue)

Three Sky Blue FC players — Imani Dorsey, Sarah Killion and Paige Monaghan — Wednesday were named to the 24-player roster for a U.S. women’s national team identification camp that will take place in Bradenton, Fla. Dec. 9-14.

Those three National Women’s Soccer League players have never played for the USWNT. Dorsey is a defender, Killion a midfielder and Monaghan a forward.

Head coach Vlatko Andonovski’s second training camp roster – he officially came on board on Oct. 28 – will not include any players from the U.S.’s World Cup team.

This event is being staged to evaluate younger players from the college game and those who have performed well in the National Women’s Soccer League or in pro leagues abroad, with the goal of deepening the player pool and positioning players for possible future call-ups in 2020.

The roster

GOALKEEPERS (2): Jane Campbell (Houston Dash; 3/0), Casey Murphy (Reign FC; 0/0)

DEFENDERS (9): Maycee Bell (UNC; 0/0), Malia Berkely (Florida State; 0/0), Imani Dorsey (Sky Blue FC; 0/0), Emily Fox (UNC; 3/0), Naomi Girma (Stanford; 0/0), Sarah Gorden (Chicago Red Stars; 0/0), Hailie Mace (Rosengård FC, SWE; 3/0), Kiara Pickett (Stanford; 0/0), Margaret Purce (Portland Thorns FC; 1/0)

MIDFIELDERS (7): Danielle Colaprico (Chicago Red Stars; 2/0), Vanessa DiBernardo (Chicago Red Stars; 0/0), Jordan DiBiasi (Washington Spirit; 0/0), Sarah Killion (Sky Blue FC; 0/0), Kristie Mewis (Houston Dash; 15/1), Brianna Pinto (UNC; 0/0), Ashley Sanchez (UCLA; 0/0)

FORWARDS (6): Bethany Balcer (Reign FC; 0/0), Madison Haley (Stanford; 0/0), Ashley Hatch (Washington Spirit; 2/0), Paige Monaghan (Sky Blue FC; 0;0), Sophia Smith (Stanford; 0/0), Ally Watt (Texas A&M; 0/0)

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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