6/24/22  Indy 11 New Home, US Ladies Play Sat 7:30 pm FS1, Indy 11 W into 1st, Regional Championships at Grand Park this weekend

Indy 11 Announce Indy 11 Park]

A new 20,000 seat stadium and mix use apartments/business park and retail on 18 to 20 Acres just West of Lucas Oil Stadium along the White River has been announced by the Indy 11.  Video  The Eleven Park stadium will host Indy Eleven games for both its men’s and women’s professional soccer teams. The facility will also be designed to host field sports (soccer, lacrosse, football, rugby, and field hockey) events for partners such as the NCAA and IHSAA; international matches; concerts; and various community events.“This announcement is the culmination of years of hard work and partnership between countless individuals and entities who believed in our vision, and we are beyond excited to share the results of that effort today with our community,” said Indy Eleven President & CEO Greg Stremlaw. “While there is still more work to do, today the Indy Eleven family is thrilled to put a pin in the map and celebrate what Eleven Park will provide the country’s premier city for sports and all Hoosiers who will experience and benefit from this world-class destination.”  After approximately two years of construction, Indy Eleven expects to begin play at its new Eleven Park stadium home in Spring 2025.Due to a myriad of factors, including the rise in construction costs, inflation, and an increase in the scale and scope of the project, Eleven Park is expected to exceed a $1 billion investment in the largest piece of property in an under-developed area of downtown Indianapolis. All facets outside the stadium project – retail, restaurants, hotel, apartments, and office space – will be developed by Keystone Group.

USA Ladies vs Colombia Sat 7:30 pm FS1

The US Ladies start the summer prep for CONCACAF Qualification in early July with 2 games over the next week against Colombia starting Sat.  Night at 7:30 pm at FS1.  The US bring the youngest team they have fielded for a tournament in years.  A front line of youngsters including Trinity Rodman, Sophia Smith and Mallory Pugh will mix in with veterans Megan Rapinoe, Ashley Hatch and NWSL leading scorer Alex Morgan.  Of course the US will pound Colombia – look for 4 to 5 to zero with Morgan scoring at least 1 if not 2.  Too bad we don’t qualify as a European Team where we could face the best teams in the world this summer in European Cup play July 6 – 31 across the ESPN network of stations.   The US will face Colombia again Tuesday night on ESPN2 at 10 pm before starting CONCACAF play in Mexico July 4th on ESPN. Read all about the Summer of Women’s Soccer.

Shane’s Starting Line-Up





The USWNT Concacaf roster

Goalkeepers: Aubrey Kingsbury (Washington Spirit), Casey Murphy (North Carolina Courage), Alyssa Naeher (Chicago Red Stars).

Defenders: Alana Cook (OL Reign), Emily Fox (Racing Louisville FC), Naomi Girma (San Diego Wave FC), Sofia Huerta (OL Reign), Kelley O’Hara (Washington Spirit), Becky Sauerbrunn (Portland Thorns FC), Emily Sonnett (Washington Spirit).

Midfielders: Lindsey Horan (Olympique Lyon), Taylor Kornieck (San Diego Wave FC), Rose Lavelle (OL Reign), Kristie Mewis (NJ/NY Gotham FC), Ashley Sanchez (Washington Spirit), Andi Sullivan (Washington Spirit).

Forwards: Ashley Hatch (Washington Spirit), Alex Morgan (San Diego Wave FC), Midge Purce (NJ/NY Gotham FC), Mallory Pugh (Chicago Red Stars), Megan Rapinoe (OL Reign), Trinity Rodman (Washington Spirit), Sophia Smith (Portland Thorns FC).

Indy 11 Women Race to First Place in the League

The Indy 11 Women’s 3-1 win at home over Louisville catapulted them into sole possession of first place in the league.  They return home next weekend as part of a Indy 11 Double Header on Saturday  – The action starts at 2:00 p.m., when Indy Eleven’s new pre-professional women’s side will conclude its successful inaugural regular season in the USL W League. Indy Eleven is looking to break the single-game attendance record for a women’s soccer game in Indiana of 4,137 (U.S. Women’s National Team vs. France in 1996 at Kuntz Stadium). Fans are encouraged to back their undefeated and first-place Girls in Blue in numbers and help them make a deserving piece of Hoosier State history! After some time for some afternoon tailgating, we’ll pack Carroll Stadium once again to back the Boys in Blue as they launch one of the USL Championship’s most anticipated rivalries against DCFC at 7:00 p.m. The boys in blue return home Sat, July 2 at 7:30 pm with a fire-works display after so make your plans to be there- tix are just $15 @ indyeleven.com/tickets.

World Cup Memories

This week marks the anniversaries of some legit big World Cup memories – like Maradona’s Hand of God.  The US Men of course have gone thru their own qualification triumph see video.   

2022 Midwest Regional Championships @ Grand Park June 24 – June 29, 2022 Westfield, Indiana

The 2022 US Youth Soccer Midwest Regional Championships takes place June 24 – June 29 in Westfield, Indiana. The event will feature Boys and Girls teams in the 13U through 19U age groups who will compete for a regional championship and a spot at the 2022 US Youth Soccer National Championships. (Schedule)

• Preliminary Round – Friday, June 24 // Saturday, June 25 // Sunday, June 26

• Semifinals – Tuesday, June 28

• Finals – Wednesday, June 29


Sat, June 25

3 pm ABC                          Seattle Sounders vs Sporting KC 

3:10 pm fubo tv                France vs Cameroon women

5 pm ESPN                          DC United vs Nashville FC

7:30 pm Fox Sport 1` USA Women vs Colombia

7:30 pm ESPN+                  CF Montreal vs Charlotte

8 pm TUDN                         Chicago Fire vs Houston Dynamo

Sun, June 26

3 pm ABC                             LAFC vs NY Red Bulls

6 pm Fox Sport 1              Philly vs NYCFC 

6 pm ESPN+                        San Diego Loyal vs Las Vegas Lights USL

Tues, June 28

10 pm ESPN                        USA Women vs Colombia

Wed, June 29

7 pm ESPN+                        Orlando City vs Nashville US Open Cup

10:30 pm FS1                      LAFC vs Dallas

10 pm ESPN+                     Seattle vs CF Montreal

Thur, June 30

7 pm ESPN+                        NY Rd Bulls vs Atlanta United

Frir, July 1

8:30 pm Para+                   Houston vsKC NWSL

10:30 Para+                         Angel City vs Portland NWSL

Sat, July 2

7 pm Para+                         NY Gotham vs Chicago NWSL

7:30 pm ESPN+                  Toronto vs Seattle 

7:30 pm TV23             Indy 11 vs Miami FC (fireworks)

Mon, July 4

10 pm ESPN                        USA Women vs Haiti CONCACAF

Wed, July 6

3 pm ESPN                          England vs Austria  Euro Women’s Cup

Thur, July 7

3 pm ESPN2                        Norway vs Northern Ireland Euro Women’s Cup

10 pm Para+                       USA Women vs Jamaica

Fri, July 8

12 pm ESPN+                     Spain vs Finland Euro Women’s Cup

3 pm ESPN2                        German vs Denmark Euro Women’s Cup

Sat, July 9

12 pm ESPN+                     Portugal vs Switzerland Euro Women’s Cup

3 pm ESPN2                        Netherlands vs Sweden Euro Women’s Cup

Sun, July 10

12 pm ESPN2                      Belgium vs Iceland Euro Women’s Cup

3 pm ESPN+                        Italy vs France Euro Women’s Cup

Mon, July 11

12 pm ESPN2                      Austria vs N. Ireland Euro Women’s Cup

3 pm ESPN2                        England vs Norway Euro Women’s Cup

10 pm Para+                       USA Women vs Mexico

Mon, July 11

12 pm ESPN2                      Austria vs N. Ireland Euro Women’s Cup

3 pm ESPN2                        England vs Norway Euro Women’s Cup

Indy 11 Schedule

Indy 11 Women’s Schedule

NWSL Women’s Schedule

MLS National TV Schedule

World Cup Schedule

Soccer Saturday’s are every Sat 9-10 am on 93.5 and 107.5 FM with Greg Rakestraw

======================RackZ BAR BQ ====Save 20% ====================== 

Heading over to the Field House at Badger Field for Training?  Try out the Best BarBQ in Town right across the street (131st) from Northview Church on the corner of Hazelldell & 131st. RackZ BBQ

Save 20% on your order 

(mention the ole ballcoach) 

Check out the BarBQ Ribs, pulled Pork and Chicken, Brisket and more.  Sweet, Tangy or Spicy sauce. Mention you heard about it from the Ole Ballcoach — and Ryan will give you 20% off your next mealhttps://www.rackzbbqindy.com/ Call ahead at 317-688-7290  M-Th 11-8 pm, 11-9 Fri/Sat, 12-8 pm on Sunday.  Pick some up after practice – Its good eatin! You won’t be disappointed and tell ’em the Ole Ballcoach Sent You!  

Save 20% on these Succulent Ribs at Rackz BarBQ when you mention the Ole Ballcoach – Corner of 131 & Hazelldell. – Call 317-688-7290.

=====================RackZ BAR BBQ ======Save 20% ======================

USA Women

Summer of Women’s Soccer

USA vs Colombia Preview
Foudy: Will USWNT’s young World Cup/Olympic qualifying roster pay off?

Rapinoe’s USWNT role has changed and she’s at peace with it

Rapino responds to Roe v Wade decision

Women’s Euros 2022 kits: England, France, Netherlands jerseys unveiled
USWNT training at Broncos’ facility ahead of weekend friendly

Title IX Helped Forge a U.S. Soccer Legacy That Continues Today

Indy 11

Indy 11 Park Announced

Indy 11 Park

Indy 11 Bike Night & Fireworks July 2

Colorado 4-3 Review

USLW RECAP | ZOO 0:1  Indy

Indy 11 beats Louisville


Best Saves Nations League Last Week

NL best saves Match Day 2

What a Save by American Sean Johnson vs Uruguay

Real’s Courtois Record 9 Saves in Champions League Final

NWSL Great Saves Week 7

Former Indy 11 & Carmel FC GK Coach Jordan Farr USL Save of Week Candidate

Great Saves

Gigi Buffons Reaction is Classic

Thoughts on Austrailian GK throwing Peru’s GK Waterbottle w/shooter tendencies in stands?

US Men

USMNT to play Japan, Saudi Arabia in friendlies
Transfer chat: USMNT players potentially (or already) on the move this summer

Sullivan’s hat trick leads the U.S. U-20s past Cuba 3-0 and into the knockouts

U.S. U-20s control the game but are forced to rally for a 2-2 draw vs. Canada

US U20s Advance in CONCACAF


Sacramento Republic scores late goal to stun Galaxy in U.S. Open Cup quarterfinal
Sacramento Republic beat MLS’ Galaxy to reach Open Cup semifinal

Transformative Neighborhood Project Anchored by 20,000-seat Multipurpose Stadium;
Construction Anticipated to Start Spring 2023 Ahead of Targeted Spring 2025 Grand Opening;
Populous to Serve as Stadium Project’s Lead Architect

INDIANAPOLIS (Friday, June 24, 2022) – In collaboration with Keystone Group, Indy Eleven today announced the acquisition of over 20 acres of land in downtown Indianapolis that will serve as the future home of Eleven Park, the transformative neighborhood village development that will forever impact the skyline of the Circle City.Keystone Group is a construction, development, management, and investments company headquartered in downtown Indianapolis that specializes and invests in complicated transformational mixed-use developments that are located in premier locations. Ersal Ozdemir  is the Founder and Chairman of Keystone Group as well as Indy Eleven, which has provided a professional club for Indiana’s thriving soccer community to rally behind since its successful launch in 2013.As per the conceptualization of the development project outlined in 2019, today’s news confirmed the Eleven Park development will include hotel, office, apartments, retail and public spaces – all anchored by a 20,000-seat multipurpose stadium built with soccer at its core. Eleven Park will be constructed on the plot of land previously owned by The Diamond Chain Company, bordered by West Street, Kentucky Avenue, and the White River – an area that was recently acquired and is now 100% owned by Keystone Group.“We have been working diligently for the last several years to secure a large area of land downtown for Eleven Park, and with our prime location now secured we are eager to take the next steps for this groundbreaking development,” said Ozdemir. “This village will be a 365-day-a-year live, work, and play community that will transform this section of Indianapolis, providing jobs and significant economic development to downtown Indianapolis and surrounding areas.”The Eleven Park stadium will host Indy Eleven games for both its men’s and women’s professional soccer teams. The facility will also be designed to host field sports (soccer, lacrosse, football, rugby, and field hockey) events for partners such as the NCAA and IHSAA; international matches; concerts; and various community events.“This announcement is the culmination of years of hard work and partnership between countless individuals and entities who believed in our vision, and we are beyond excited to share the results of that effort today with our community,” said Indy Eleven President & CEO Greg Stremlaw. “While there is still more work to do, today the Indy Eleven family is thrilled to put a pin in the map and celebrate what Eleven Park will provide the country’s premier city for sports and all Hoosiers who will experience and benefit from this world-class destination.”Keystone and Indy Eleven are continuing their ongoing discussions with the City of Indianapolis and the State of Indiana to finalize project terms this year, which would allow for tear down of existing buildings and additional site work to begin in Spring 2023. After approximately two years of construction, Indy Eleven expects to begin play at its new Eleven Park stadium home in Spring 2025.Due to a myriad of factors, including the rise in construction costs, inflation, and an increase in the scale and scope of the project, Eleven Park is expected to exceed a $1 billion investment in the largest piece of property in an under-developed area of downtown Indianapolis. All facets outside the stadium project – retail, restaurants, hotel, apartments, and office space – will be developed by Keystone Group. As per the State legislation that was passed and signed into law in 2019 , the City of Indianapolis Capital Improvement Board (CIB) would own the Eleven Park stadium, while Indy Eleven would lease and operate the venue.“We believe this site is the best place to invest knowing it will have a transformational impact to the southside of Indianapolis, serving as a new neighborhood village within the Stadium Village Neighborhood that bridges the central business district, Victory Field, Lucas Oil Stadium, Indiana Convention Center, the White River, and the Elanco campus,” continued Ozdemir. “This location, along with the new Henry Street bridge and extension of the Cultural Trail, will serve as an important gateway to the city and bring connectivity and a pedestrian connection to the heart of downtown.”Indy Eleven and Keystone also announced three key additional partners for the Eleven Park project as part of today’s announcement. Populous, the global industry leader in soccer/multipurpose stadium design, will serve as the stadium project’s lead architecture and design firm, partnering with Indianapolis-based Browning Day Architects. In addition, D3i, a Baltimore-based international design firm with award-winning mixed-use projects that span five continents, has been hired as the master planner for the project.While the initial design process is already underway, Indy Eleven will meet with fans, community members, and other constituents regarding specific design elements to make Eleven Park a special place to create a vibrant village . Indy Eleven expects to share updated renderings of the Eleven Park stadium with the public in the coming months.For more information on this transformative neighborhood project, follow the ElevenParkIndy and IndyEleven channels on FacebookInstagram and Twitter and visit elevenpark.com.

Blockbuster summer of women’s soccer: Your guide to Euros, USWNT World Cup/Olympic qualifying and more

7:00 AM ET  ESPN

Ahh, summer — ’tis the season for the beautiful game’s biggest and best international tournaments. This year, however, with the World Cup in Qatar set to start in November, the spotlight will be on what the women’s game has to offer — and there is a lot on offer.

Almost every region in the world has a big women’s soccer tournament starting in July where the best and most exciting players will be squaring off. In every competition, the stakes are incredibly high: Either a spot at the 2023 Women’s World Cup in Australia and New Zealand is on the line, or in the case of the European championship, there’s a most-ever €16 million prize pool and some major bragging rights up for grabs.

Let’s just put it this way: The month of July is going be fun. If you’re not up to speed, we’re here to help. This is your guide to an epic summer of women’s soccer, with input from a global team of ESPN’s Caitlin Murray, Cesar Hernandez, Sophie Lawson, Ed Dove and Tim Vickery.

High-stakes tournaments across the globe

UEFA Women’s Euro 2022: July 6-31
Often simply called the Euros, it’s the third-oldest confederation tournament in the world, and arguably the most prestigious. That’s because of the parity and quality throughout Europe, and also because it is a rare standalone tournament that does not double as a World Cup qualifier. Initially a four-team tournament, the Euros have gradually expanded to 16 teams now, and the tournament has seen 19 different nations compete over the years. England will host this summer, with the monthlong Euros starting at Old Trafford and wrapping up at Wembley Stadium.

CONCACAF W Championship: July 4-18
The newly formatted CONCACAF W Championship for North America and the surrounding region may not boast the competitiveness of the Euros — the reigning World Cup champion, the U.S. women’s national team, remains the perennial favorite — but it will certainly offer the high stakes. This tournament, hosted in Monterrey, Mexico, is a new one devised by CONCACAF to serve as both the qualifiers for the World Cup and the Olympics, so teams have to go all-out to win — even the mighty Americans.

Africa Women Cup of Nations: July 2-23
Kicking off in Morocco, the Africa Women Cup of Nations — called AWCON for short — is Africa’s premier women’s soccer competition. For three weeks, the continent’s finest women’s sides will contest the 14th edition of the competition, with the winner to be decided in a final in Casablanca, Morocco. Three stadiums in two cities will be used as the tournament makes its comeback following a hiatus of three years, and World Cup qualification is on the line. The four semifinalists advance automatically to the 2023 World Cup, with losing quarterfinalists getting another chance via a playoff.

Copa America Feminina: July 8-30
The women’s Copa America tournament comes to Colombia for the first time, and it’s perhaps overdue — the women’s game is well-established in the country. This Copa will qualify three South American nations for the 2023 World Cup, with another two going into playoffs. In this tournament there are two groups of five, with the final stages taking place in Bucaramanga, and an expectation that most of the matches will be played in front of big crowds.

Where to watch: FS1, FS2 (U.S.)

OFC Women’s Nations Cup: July 13-30
Oceania’s World Cup qualifying tournament in Fiji will look a little different this year because the reigning champion of the last four tournaments won’t be participating. That team is New Zealand, and as co-host of the 2023 Women’s World Cup, they’ve automatically qualified for the big stage. (Australia, the other co-host, qualifies through Asia fter it left the Oceania confederation in 2006.) But that means the OFC Women’s Nations Cup is guaranteed to have a first-time winner when it’s over. (No U.S. broadcast available yet)

Storylines to watch, questions to answer

Can the Netherlands repeat at the Euros?
At the last Euros five years ago, the Dutch were buoyed on by an ever-growing home crowd to win it all, and the question is whether or not they can do it away from home. A team undergoing something of a personality change since Mark Parsons took over, the European champs could be viewed as a wild card this tournament, still in a transitional stage.

How will hosts England do?
There is plenty of buzz around England and their potential ability to harness home support as the Dutch did at the last Euros. The English FA even went as far as to bring in the Dutch coach from 2017, Sarina Wiegman, as their new manager.

Will France falter again?
As we head into another major tournament, it’s impossible to escape rumblings around France, who are in their own mini group of death at the Euros. France have long been considered a top contender in global women’s soccer, but despite so much promise, they have little to show for it. Just like Germany, Les Bleues will have to be at their best from their first match against Italy, an outing against Belgium something of a reprieve before they end the group stage against an improving Iceland.

– Euro 2022 teams: Squad lists for all 16 countries
– Euro 2022 kits: New jerseys revealed

Will the USWNT’s youth movement pay off?
While the U.S. are fully expected to qualify for their ninth consecutive World Cup, there are lingering questions about how they’ll do it. Despite the presence of long-time veterans Megan RapinoeAlex Morgan, and Becky Sauerbrunn, the U.S. roster boasts plenty of untested youth. Ten players on the roster have never competed in a senior World Cup qualifier, and the last time the USWNT came close to missing out on a World Cup, it was during a qualification tournament in Mexico in 2011. Might Mexico have a repeat of history in store this July?

Who can challenge Nigeria’s supremacy?
Nigeria have enjoyed remarkable dominance during the AWCON’s 31-year history, winning 11 of the 13 previous editions. They’ve never lost a final — failing to reach it only twice — and to suggest they’re the team to beat would be an understatement. The Super Falcons are massively popular in Nigeria, and having won 52 of the 62 matches they’ve played in tournament history, they will be heavily expected to romp through again.

Is the opposition to Brazil’s dominance stronger than ever?
Brazil have won all but one of the eight previous Copas — Argentina came out on top when they hosted the 2006 tournament — and Brazil would still seem to be way ahead of the pack. But the opposition are getting stronger — fitter, more talented and more organized — and contenders like hosts Colombia, Argentina and Chile shouldn’t be written off. For Brazil, then, the tournament is a staging point on the way to the 2023 World Cup. An upset is always possible, but for Brazil, missing out on the title is hard to imagine, while failing to qualify for the World Cup is unthinkable. For the others, making it to the 2023 World Cup is the main priority.

Players to watch, from known stars to potential breakouts

Alexia Putellas, midfielder/forward, Spain
Considered by many to be the best player in the world, Alexia Putellas will be tasked with leading Spain to their first Euros title ever. Putellas’ accolades are plenty — she won the Ballon d’Or last year and was named UEFA’s top player of the year — but Spain hasn’t had similar success. If La Roja can top their quarterfinals appearances in the previous two Euros, they will be counting on Putellas’ creative playmaking to do it.

Marie-Antoinette Katoto, striker, France
She wasn’t picked for France’s World Cup squad in 2019 and Marie-Antoinette Katoto may yet be an unknown quantity to fans around the world regardless of a stunning goal scoring record for PSG or her increasing tally for France, which includes 24 goals in 28 appearances. A determined striker, Katoto is the goal scorer the great French teams of 2011 and 2015 were crying out for, the type of player who only needs service to score. The 23-year-old is certain to impress during the Euros if her teammates can get her the ball.

Lauren Hemp, forward, England
A talented player who has already caught the wider eye for her exploits with Manchester City as well as Team GB at the Tokyo Olympics, Lauren Hemp is set to cement herself as one of the most talented players in her age group this summer. The pacey 21-year-old winger has been delighting for the Lionesses since 2020 and is sure to be one of England’s best attacking outlets at the Euros.

Damaris Egurrola, midfielder, Netherlands
Having declared her intention to play for the Netherlands, rather than Spain or the United States, the American-born Damaris Egurrola is the natural replacement for an aging Sherida Spitse at the heart of the Dutch midfield. Despite only earning her first cap in April, Egurrola has quickly settled into the Oranje side. As well as being a reliable midfielder, she has already shown her prowess at set pieces, with two goals in her two appearances. She may not be a star yet, but she just might announce herself on the Euros stage.

ayMegan Rapinoe, winger, U.S.
Does she still got it? The 37-year-old’s inclusion on the roster for the CONCACAF W Championship raised eyebrows and drew pushback from critics, but Rapinoe has that special undefinable it-factor that coach Vlatko Andonovski said couldn’t be ignored. She probably won’t be starting every game, but her clutch play could be a key factor for the USWNT. Rapinoe, for her part, told ESPN earlier this week that she is excited by her new role as a mentor to the youngsters and isn’t worried about the critics: “If people don’t like that, that’s fine. They’re not the coach of the national team,” she said.

Trinity Rodman, forward, U.S.
On the other end of the spectrum, it’s worth keeping an eye on the youngest player on the USWNT’s roster for World Cup/Olympic qualifying. Named ESPN’s top U21 player, Trinity Rodman is more than the hype surrounding her famous family. She is the youngest player ever drafted into the NWSL, was named NWSL Rookie of the Year for her debut season last year and led the Washington Spirit to an NWSL Championship in November. The thing is, for all her club success, she hasn’t proved herself at the senior international level — at least, not yet. Andonovski has cautioned against expecting too much from her too soon, but the CONCACAF W Championship could be her big breakout.

-Exclusive Trinity Rodman interview: The future has arrived
-ESPN’s best players under 21: Trinity Rodman tops the list

Alicia Cervantes, forward, Mexico
Mexico will have no lack of forward options in the CONCACAF W Championship, but none have been as deadly as Alicia Cervantes of Chivas. The 28-year-old, who was the Liga MX Femenil leading goal scorer in both the 2021 Apertura and 2022 Clausura tournaments, is a constant threat in the 18-yard box with her potent finishing and aerial capabilities. Cervantes has averaged a goal every 83.3 minutes of regular season play since last summer and scored five times in Mexico’s four CONCACAF W qualifiers this year. If Mexico is going to qualify for a World Cup and the Olympics, Cervantes needs to play a big role.

Asisat Oshoala, striker, Nigeria
She is the undisputed superstar of African women’s soccer. A Barcelona forward, Champions League winner, and four-time African Women’s Footballer of the Year, Asisat Oshoala is the most decorated player in the history of African soccer — and many would argue she’s the greatest the continent’s game has ever seen. She’s already won the title on three previous occasions, but after recovering from a recent injury, she’ll be raring to add further Golden Balls and Golden Boots to her expansive trophy haul.

Deyna Castellanos, forward, Venezuela
There will be a lot of eyes on the Venezuelan striker, who at club level is now swapping Atletico Madrid for Manchester City. Venezuela are one of five South American nations never to have made it to a World Cup at senior level or an Olympics, but the nation has high hopes of the generation who did well in under-17 soccer back in 2014, and Deyna Castellanos is the leader of the pack. Back in 2017, she was placed on the shortlist for FIFA’s best player of the year. Castellanos should now be keen to show that her time has arrived.

Key dates and matches for your calendar

July 4: Nigeria vs. South Africa
Heavyweights Nigeria and South Africa were pitted together in their Group C opener at AWCON, which will take place at the Stade Moulay Hassan in Rabat. Not only is this a blockbuster bout between two of the tournament favorites, but it’s also a rematch of the 2018 final — the last match played in the competition — as underdogs Banyana Banyana looked poised for an upset over the Falcons before eventually succumbing on penalties.

July 6: England vs. Austria
As the opener of the 2022 Euros, this match is already worth scribbling on your calendar for the pomp and circumstance alone. The last time England hosted the Euros back in 2005, a record crowd showed up for the opener, and the atmosphere for this one ought to be even better. But luckily, this is also a solid matchup. England and Austria both reached the semifinals at the last Euros in 2017 and will be eager to issue a statement of intent.

July 9: Netherlands vs. Sweden
This promises to be an intriguing group stage match to set the tone, not just for Group C of the Euros, but the whole of the tournament and who we’re likely to see in the last four. The past two competitive meetings of the two nations have seen the Dutch triumph, knocking Sweden out at the quarterfinal stage of the last Euros before dispatching them in extra time of the World Cup semifinals in 2019.

July 9: Brazil vs. Argentina
Brazil meet Argentina in Armenia, Colombia on the second day of the Copa America Femenina. This is a meeting of the only two teams ever to have won the trophy. Argentina, as was clear from their past World Cup campaign, have worked hard on tightening their defense, while the Brazil side are not scoring as many goals as they would like. The script for this match, then, would seem to revolve around whether Argentina can frustrate the Brazilians.

Women’s European Soccer Pick ‘Em

Make picks throughout the Women’s European Championship for a shot at $5,000. Make Your Picks

July 11: USA vs. Mexico
While the rivalry between these two nations is red-hot on the men’s side, it’s been tempered a bit on the women’s side by the dominance of the U.S. and Mexico’s struggles to keep up. However, there is a huge wrinkle to keep in mind: The only time the U.S. almost failed to qualify for a Women’s World Cup came in 2011 in a loss to — you guessed it — Mexico, in Mexico.

July 12: Germany vs. Spain
Die Nationalelf and La Roja will square off in a match that pits one longtime European powerhouse against a new kid on the block. It would be prudent to remember that when these two sides met earlier this year at the Arnold Clark Cup, the match ended 1-1 and it figures to be an even affair again. With Germany and Spain both viable candidates to win the Euros in a very difficult Group B, this will be a key match.

July 15: England vs. Northern Ireland
The hosts of the Euros take on a team that is appearing in their first major tournament ever. England are the heavy favorites, and given that the Lionesses rolled Northern Ireland the last time they met, it probably won’t be close, but a scrappy performance from the debutante could keep things fun.

July 16: Denmark vs. Spain
After you watch Germany face Spain on July 12, you’ll have to come back for this one. With Group B slated to be the so-called “group of death” because it has three viable Euros contenders in Germany, Spain and Denmark, this match could deliver the final blow for one of these teams.

July 18: Olympics spot-decider
By this day, we will already know which teams in the CONCACAF W Championship have clinched their World Cup spots — we will know some berths before the knockout games start — but the final of the tournament will decide the lone automatic qualification spot for the 2024 Olympics. While most of the other tournaments in July do have World Cup spots on the line, no other tournament will decide who’s going to the Paris Olympics. The favorites are the U.S. and Canada, but anything is possible.

USWNT: Vlatko Andonovski chose a young World Cup/Olympic qualifying roster. Will it pay off?

Jun 23, 2022Julie FoudyContributor, espnW.com

When U.S. Soccer sends out press releases to announce upcoming match rosters, there are always a few stats and facts included. But I think this bullet from the announcement of the 23-player roster for CONCACAF’S World Cup qualification tournament sums up the state of the U.S. women’s national team perfectly:

  • Just 10 of the 23 players on the CONCACAF W Championship roster have experience in World Cup and Olympic qualifying. The other 13 players will get the opportunity to make their CONCACAF qualifying debuts at the senior level.Honestly, when was the last time we have read that well over half of a USWNT roster has not had any qualifying experience? Other than our very first World Cup qualifier ever in Haiti before the 1991 Women’s World Cup, my best guess is never. In fact, these 13 qualifying debutants all have 27 caps or fewer, including eight in single digits: Alana Cook (9 caps), Ashley Hatch (8), Ashley Sanchez (7), Casey Murphy (4), Trinity Rodman (3), Naomi Girma (1), Aubrey Kingsbury (1) and Taylor Kornieck (0).What does that tell you about the roster head coach Vlatko Andonovski has chosen in this moment? It tells me the youth transformation is official, and Andonovski didn’t need the USWNT’s upcoming friendlies against Colombia on Saturday and Tuesday to know the direction he will take the team. So much so that Christen Press, even before her recent torn ACL, was still not even in the final 23-player roster. And given the high-level play by the younger group in the NWSL this year, if I were Andonovski I’d be confident in them as well.

– Watch live: USWNT vs. Colombia (June 28, 10 p.m. ET)– Don’t have ESPN? Get instant access

Sure, it was a major setback and disappointment when Catarina Macario recently tore her ACL given the season she had for Lyon, helping them win both the Champions League title and French league title with her team-leading 23 goals across competitions. But Sophia Smith and Mal Pugh are both equally hot with their respective NWSL teams, and with Alex Morgan scoring seemingly at will for the San Diego Wave, leading the league with 11 goals, that front three of Smith, Morgan, and Pugh will be a handful for every single CONCACAF opponent.

The midfield sitting behind them — if healthy (the ultimate qualifier in a year like this) — should be Lindsey HoranRose Lavelle and Andi Sullivan, although I know more than just San Diego Wave fans are excited to see what Taylor Kornieck can do at this level, given her dominance for the Wave.It is the back line where I think the most question marks fall. With Tierna Davidson‘s ACL injury and Abby Dahlkemper‘s continued bouts of injury, Alana Cook and Naomi Girma may be given the nod again as the chosen center-back pairing, as they were in the previous USWNT games in April.

But with Becky Sauerbrunn returning to the fold healthy, will Andonovski choose to bring the veteran captain into the starting 11? I think he probably goes with the same starting back-four he used in the last friendly the USWNT played vs. Uzbekistan — it was Sofia Huerta on the right, Cook and Girma as the center-backs, and Emily Fox on the left.

That rare positional battle where a veteran may hold onto a spot challenged by a rookie is where the pair of friendlies against Colombia before the qualifiers can sway Andonovski’s approach. His focus is clearly on the qualification tournament at the start of July, and his roster selection makes it clear his mind is made up in pushing the team younger — but still, the Colombia friendlies are his last pit stop on the road to qualifiers in Mexico, and we ought to see him test his on-field partnerships.

The one head-scratcher for many fans with the roster announcement was the fact that Megan Rapinoe made the final roster. And I say “head-scratcher” because Rapinoe had not played much at all with her OL Reign team. She was just coming back from injury and had played a total of 154 minutes for the entire season.Despite the wave of young talent, 37-year-old Megan Rapinoe made the roster for both a pair of friendlies vs. Colombia and the World Cup/Olympic qualifiers. Brad Smith/Getty Images

Given Andonovski’s insistence that all national team call-ups must prove themselves at the club level, the reason for the call up suddenly became quite clear: It’s Megan Rapinoe.

Andonovski called in Rapinoe because he loves the swagger that a player like Rapinoe brings. I don’t think he is planning on giving her tons of minutes, but wants her there as an option to bring off the bench if they need a goal, if they need a lift, and mostly, to give this younger group confidence. It is her leadership and mentality that he seeks more than anything.

Yes, you get that leadership and veteran experience with players like Becky Sauerbrunn, Kelley O’Hara and Alex Morgan, but there is only one Megan Rapinoe when it comes to that swagger. And I take you back to the first bullet above: With over half the team never having gone through a qualifier, Rapinoe brings stability more than anything. She has done it at every level — and the brighter the lights, the more she glows. That confidence is contagious.

Remember, these CONCACAF W qualifiers are interesting particularly because they double as the Olympic qualifying tournament.

Women’s European Soccer Pick ‘Em

With four CONCACAF teams getting an automatic spot in the 2023 World Cup thanks to the expanded 2023 World Cup field, qualifying for the World Cup should be a given for the United States. The USWNT simply has to finish in the top two of its group of Haiti, Jamaica and Mexico, and which means reaching the semifinal round of the tournament is enough to qualify for the 2023 World Cup. They don’t have to win the semifinal game to qualify for the World Cup either — they just need to get there.

But to get to the Olympics, this is where things get interesting: The U.S. must either win this CONCACAF W Championship tournament out-right or finish in 2nd or 3rd place for the right to play a playoff game to get to the Olympics. Only two teams from CONCACAF will compete in the 2024 Olympics in Paris.

So buckle up: There could or could not be turbulence when it comes to these qualifiers. Given how young this group is, you just never know. And that is a variable I absolutely love.

USWNT vs. Colombia, 2022 friendly: What to watch for

We get ready for the final preparations.

By Donald Wine II@blazindw  Jun 24, 2022, 7:00am PDT  

1 Comment

Share this story

Photo by Brad Smith/ISI Photos/Getty Images

The United States Women’s National Team begin their final preparations for the Concacaf W Championship when they host Colombia in a pair of friendlies, beginning tomorrow in Denver. The USWNT are hoping to figure out the best combinations of players as they prepare for the confederation championship, which also serves as qualifying for the 2023 World Cup and the 2024 Olympics.

The USWNT look to use their lessons learned against the 28th ranked Colombia, who are preparing to host the Copa America Femenina next month. Both teams will likely be aggressive on the ball, and the two teams have a history of physical play when they face each other. We’ll see who will own the day in Denver.


GOALKEEPERS (3): Aubrey Kingsbury (Washington Spirit), Casey Murphy (North Carolina Courage), Alyssa Naeher (Chicago Red Stars)

DEFENDERS (7): Alana Cook (OL Reign), Emily Fox (Racing Louisville FC), Naomi Girma (San Diego Wave FC), Sofia Huerta (OL Reign), Kelley O’Hara (Washington Spirit), Becky Sauerbrunn (Portland Thorns FC), Emily Sonnett (Washington Spirit)

MIDFIELDERS (6): Lindsey Horan (Olympique Lyon), Taylor Kornieck (San Diego Wave FC), Rose Lavelle (OL Reign), Kristie Mewis (NJ/NY Gotham FC), Ashley Sanchez (Washington Spirit), Andi Sullivan (Washington Spirit)

FORWARDS (7): Ashley Hatch (Washington Spirit), Alex Morgan (San Diego Wave FC), Mallory Pugh (Chicago Red Stars), Midge Purce (NJ/NY Gotham FC), Megan Rapinoe (OL Reign), Trinity Rodman (Washington Spirit), Sophia Smith (Portland Thorns FC)

Additional Players for June Friendlies Roster vs. Colombia:

DEFENDERS (1): Carson Pickett (North Carolina Courage)

https://7d14c4d5a7f2d49fbbeb990675f5d0d3.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-38/html/container.html MIDFIELDERS (2): Sam Coffey (Portland Thorns FC), Jaelin Howell (Racing Louisville)

What To Watch For

Avoid the chippiness. Colombia’s physical play against the United States over the years has on several occasions become more on the dirty side. The USWNT can’t let Colombia get them off their game while at the same time matching that intensity and physicality.

Midfield should step up. The American midfield has to keep the pressure on Colombia’s defense while also ensuring the ball doesn’t get into the defensive third. They have the better talent on paper, but they have to be able to absorb the intensity that Colombia’s going to bring.

End the game early on offense. Create scoring chances, and the USWNT attackers should show no mercy. They’ve recently given opponents fits as they put big numbers on the board. Colombia is a team that will take an opposition’s scoreless droughts and turn them into momentum. The USWNT should end that quickly by capitalizing on scoring chances and ending any hope for the Colombians.


It starts out fast for the USWNT with a couple early goals, and they cruise to a 4-0 victory.

Megan Rapinoe’s USWNT role has changed and she’s at peace: ‘A weight has been lifted’

Jun 22, 2022Jeff Kassouf

Megan Rapinoe is aware of the elephant in the room.

She turns 37 soon and she has started only one game for OL Reign this season in the National Women’s Soccer League season due to injuries. Still, U.S. women’s national team head coach Vlatko Andonovski selected her for the 23-player roster for the upcoming World Cup qualifying tournament, which starts July 4, one day before her birthday.

Rapinoe — both she and Andonovski say — will play a very different role from the one that the world is accustomed to seeing her in.”We have a really young squad,” Rapinoe told ESPN, “and I feel like what I can bring to them in a mentor role, at training, being in their ear, the level of professionalism and understanding the style that Vlatko wants to play, and [being] that conduit to what the coaching staff wants and what the players are going to ultimately do on the field, was part of the roster selection.”If people don’t like that, that’s fine. They’re not the coach of the national team. Vlatko’s the coach, and ultimately it falls on him and what he wants and what he’s willing to put his reputation on and the team’s reputation on. Ultimately, if he’s unsuccessful, he’ll be fired, and he knows that, and I think he’s OK with that. If we’re unsuccessful — if I’m unsuccessful — I’ll be cut from the team, and that’s fine, too.”Most of the world knows Rapinoe for her role as the leader of the United States’ triumph at the 2019 Women’s World Cup. With her unmistakable pink hair, Rapinoe won the Golden Ball and Golden Boot as the top player and scorer while the U.S. clinched a second straight World Cup title, all while fighting the U.S. Soccer Federation for equal pay and protesting against the Trump administration.

After that magical month in France, Rapinoe says now, she felt stuck in a “hamster wheel.” Her life changed completely as her celebrity increased, and she found herself struggling to balance the emotional, mental and spiritual aspects with the usual physical demands made harder as she aged. The Olympics were delayed a year until 2021, and the U.S. eventually slogged through some poor stretches of play at that tournament to win a bronze medal. Rapinoe scored twice in the 4-3 win over Australia in that third-place game.Then came the break. Beginning in November, Andonovski purposely left out longtime veteran national team players — including Rapinoe — from training camps. His plan was to get a better look at young, less experienced players in order to determine whether they could contribute to more important moments like qualifying and, ultimately, the World Cup. Andonovski revealed earlier this month that he and Rapinoe had a discussion in late 2021 about her eventual return to the team.

“With that conversation, she understood that we are going to bring in a lot of players, we are going to test a lot of players,” Andonovski said. “We want to give the young players lots of minutes and opportunities to play and give us a chance to evaluate as much as possible. But after everything is said and done, if she is healthy and if she is fit to get minutes, that she will be on the roster. We know what Megan is capable of doing.”

From thoughts of retirement to reinvigoration

At some point during qualifying, Andonovski says, younger U.S. players will need Rapinoe’s experience to navigate a difficult situation. Rapinoe was around for qualifying in 2010 — the previous time Mexico hosted the tournament — when the U.S. lost to Mexico in the semifinals and had to eke through a playoff with Italy to become the final team to qualify for the 2011 World Cup. It was the closest the U.S. women’s national team had ever gotten to not qualifying for a World Cup.Several veterans from that near disaster remain active. Rapinoe said that no two players’ situations are the same, and that people very generally grouped veterans together over the past nine months of this roster overhaul process. (Alex Morgan also returns to the squad for qualifying. She leads the NWSL with 11 goals in 10 games.) Everyone who got called up deserves to be, Rapinoe said, and even players who did not get the call deserved inclusion, too.”Rosters are not a compilation just of, go pick the best players and hope for the best,” Rapinoe said. “It’s about constructing an organism that works together on and off the field, that works not necessarily harmoniously all the time, but that the right pieces fit for certain reasons and for reasons most people don’t understand.”Injuries played a role in the public skepticism of Rapinoe’s return to the national team. A day after feeling like she completely recovered from a nagging ankle injury this spring, she pulled her calf muscle. Her return to the field for OL Reign, something she needed to do to show she was fit for national team selection, was then delayed.Personal frustrations mounted for Rapinoe during that time, she says, so much so that sometimes retirement became a thought of hers — not because it was what she wanted to do, but because it felt like the only way to break the cycle. Rapino credits her fiancée, Sue Bird — who announced last week that she would retire at the end of this WNBA season, her 21st — with helping her manage those feelings as someone going through a similar process. Those are thoughts of the past, Rapinoe says.”I think being able to have someone who intimately knows what it means when I say, ‘I want to retire right now I’m so frustrated,’ it may not actually mean that,” Rapinoe said. “It actually means a lot of different things. So, being able to be there for her, and her be there for me, is the greatest gift ever.”

As U.S. national team training camp convenes in Colorado this week ahead of World Cup qualifying, Rapinoe said she’s in a much better place now. The outside world saw some of her physical struggles as she tried to get back on the field this spring, but they did not see her daily, internal battles with herself.”I feel like I’m just now on the other side of healing, physically and emotionally, and getting to a place where this feels new,” Rapinoe said. “Because I couldn’t have done what I was just kind of continuing to do after 2019. That felt like a hamster wheel, and it didn’t feel like a choice, and now I feel like I’m actually making a choice. My role is different, and I think I understand what my role is and I’m comfortable with it — I’m really excited about that. It’s kind of a combination of those things where I feel like in the last couple of weeks, I feel like a weight has been lifted. But also, I’m like, ‘Oh my God, I’m excited again.’ “Beyond leadership, Rapinoe still has an uncanny ability to change results on a dime by being unpredictable from both open play and set pieces. She is also just reliable, and that matters to coaches in pressure-filled situations. As Reign head coach Laura Harvey said in May, “I would put my mortgage on Megan Rapinoe to score a penalty.”

Growing her game

Harvey and Andonovski played significant roles in Rapinoe’s career arc. The affable winger is best known for her triumphs at the world stage, but Rapinoe credits the evolution of her game — one that helped the Americans win both the 2015 and 2019 World Cups — to her time with the Seattle-based club, and specifically Harvey and Andonovski, who have both served as her coaches at the Reign.”I feel like I owe so much of my national team career to the Reign,” Rapinoe said. “I’ve had two of the best, if not the best coaches in the world, coach here and to be able to play under them. Some of the best players in the world [were here]… I feel like it’s where my game grew up. I think up until I got here it was like, ‘Yeah, I’m talented, I’m on the national team, we’re doing stuff, we’re successful.’ But I feel like when I got here, my game changed completely, and I really took it to the next level. I just owe so much to this club.”ndonovski coached the Reign prior to taking over the national team job and in that role he insisted that Rapinoe could still be better by improving her crossing accuracy and influencing the game in small moments, like a quick throw-in to catch an opponent off guard. He said that one year before Rapinoe dominated the 2019 World Cup.”I didn’t want her to be known as Pinoe who can serve the ball,” Andonovski said in 2018, as coach of the Reign. “I wanted her to be known as Pinoe who can change the game. How? Who cares? One time she’ll serve, one time she’ll slice a through ball, one time she’ll shoot. One time she’ll get a restart — it doesn’t matter. Be unpredictable.”Harvey was the original coach of the team — then called the Seattle Reign prior to being bought by the owners of Olympique Lyonnais — and she oversaw arguably the most dominant team in NWSL history in 2014 and 2015. The Reign went 16 games unbeaten in 2014 on their way to the first of two consecutive NWSL Shields, but they lost the NWSL championship each year to Andonovski-coached FC Kansas City sides.Ten years into the NWSL and many great Reign teams later, a playoff championship trophy still eludes the franchise. Rapinoe is one of three original Reign players to have been with the team from the inaugural season in 2013 (among 21 who remain active leaguewide from that first season). Jess Fishlock is one of the others, and while she was the league MVP in 2021, she will turn 36 before next season. Add that context to the short-term loan acquisition of Kim Little — who was the engine of those Reign glory teams and the 2014 league MVP — and the arrivals of Tobin Heath and striker Jordyn Huitema, and it suggests the Reign are all-in on finally ending the drought this year.

Women’s European Soccer Pick ‘Em

I’m really motivated and focused to bring a title to a club that I feel like really deserves it and has done things the right way,” Rapinoe said. “I feel like [we play] a style of soccer that has been inspirational not only here but around the world.”Before she returns to the Reign for the stretch run of the NWSL season, Rapinoe will help guide a very different-looking U.S. team at World Cup qualifying in Mexico. Four automatic qualification berths from the region lower the stakes a bit, but only the winner of the CONCACAF W Championship tournament will earn an automatic berth to the 2024 Olympics. (Second and third place go to a playoff.)Rapinoe’s inclusion in World Cup qualifying both reinvigorated her and provided clarity for her path ahead. If Rapinoe is to play in a fourth World Cup next year, it will have to be in a much different capacity than the previous cycles. She is at peace with that, so long as it is the best path for the team.”Now, I can imagine myself in qualifiers,” Rapinoe said. “Now, I can imagine, potentially, what a run to a World Cup would look like and what’s going to be required of me, where I feel comfortable and where I can push myself, where I can be of the utmost help to the team. Ultimately, that’s what it’s about. It’s about winning, period. It’s about getting another championship and going for a three-peat, which is f—ing ridiculous and amazing. If I can be a part of that, that excites me.”

After a successful group stage, Hadjuk Split’s Pukstas sets sights on qualifying

Rokas Pukstas has had a great 2022 with his promotion into Hadjuk Split’s first team and being named to the U.S. U-20 roster for World Cup and Olympic qualifying. Now the Oklahoma native will be looking to qualify for both tournaments and perhaps follow in his family’s Olympic legacy. ASN’s Brian Sciaretta spoke with Pukstas from Honduras. 

BY BRIAN SCIARETTA    JUNE 24, 2022  11:00 AM

THE UNITED STATES U-20 national team is now entering the pivotal stage of the CONCACAF Championships that will serve as qualification for both the 2023 U-20 World Cup and the 2024 Olympics. It is a massively important tournament for the U.S. Soccer to secure participation for key American prospects in two global tournaments .Rokas Pukstas, 17, is one of the team’s central midfielders and he has been part of the cycle since the start when the team participated in November’s Revelations Cup in Mexico just days after head coach Mikey Varas was hired. Since then he has watched the team grow while also making huge strides at his club, Hajduk Split in Croatia, where he made his first team debut in April.For both club and country, it has been a huge year for Pukstas and these CONCACAF Championships are where he wants to see that progress translate into tangible results.“When I was in November camp I was still training with the U-19s at Hajduk, barely with the first team,” Pukstas told American Soccer Now from Honduras. “Once I progressed to first team in January preseason and then I was full time since then, my comfort level got so much better, especially in these camps, I have more confidence. Definitely I see myself bringing the kind of that European style – the calmness, less frantic – into these camps. I see the progress in myself, but also our team. You can see the progress from the November camp, individually too. The individual success can also bring team success.”It has been quite a journey for Pukstas to get to this point and it differs from many other top American prospects. He did not come from a major U.S. metropolitan center with professional soccer academies nearby. He also did not come from a soccer family who was able to give him proper instructions at a high level.Instead, Pukstas is from Stillwater, Oklahoma – where American football reigns supreme. His parents are both Lithuanian immigrants who participated in other sports at the highest levels. His father, Mindaugas Pukstas, even represented Lithuania at the 2004 Olympics in Greece for the marathon.Getting pushed and getting high quality games was always a challenge for Pukstas once he discovered he had the talent and drive to go far.“In Oklahoma, soccer is the fourth most popular sport there,” Pukstas said. “It all started with rec. I was from a small town. Once I competed there, once I develop, I need a place to move. So, I went to Oklahoma City to train. It’s just different there because there’s was no Development Academy. They had a lot of good players but they’re just not pushed how they should be. It was better for me to go to Sporting KC rather than stay in Oklahoma. Dike, he went away to college. Oklahoma has the talent, but we lack the system.”Like many top American kids, Pukstas had ambitions to play in Europe but there are always questions over where to being a career. Many players on the U.S. team have begun there careers domestically in MLS before heading abroad and for Pukstas, that was an option as he initially moved away to join the Sporting Kansas City academy.But with his Lithuanian passport, he was able to go on trials at an earlier age and Hadjuk Split was the first place he trialed. In the end, it was the place he decided to sign his first pro deal. In April, he signed a new deal with the club through 2025.“It was the next steppingstone from Oklahoma,” Pukstas said of Sporting KC. “Like always, it was a struggle at first, but I got comfortable and started executing. It was great. I learned a lot there. But I felt it was better to continue to go to Europe. But Sporting was great. It was a great steppingstone.”“I went on trial in a couple of places and I looked into Hadjuk,” Pukstas added. “Hadjuk was actually the first spot I went, and I was hooked. I saw the pathway and it’s been working great. Croatia is known for their really good development. I felt like my best option was to go there, learn the system, learn the best techniques for everything and grow from there.”The past six months in 2022 have seen Pukstas take his game to another level. He’s now on the first team at Hajduk Spit and has ambitions of becoming a regular next season for one of Croatia’s biggest clubs.
“I’m not going to lie, it was really tough for me at the beginning,” Pukstas said. “I was confused about the tactics.  I wasn’t getting a lot of minutes. I was being pushed down and I was kind of the guy who was different. Most of the guys there were Croatian. But once you start performing, the teammates will accept you more and it just became better and better every day. But it was really, really tough in the beginning getting used to the culture, the food, everything’s different there.”“Right now, it’s great” he added.He has also been growing in importance to Varas throughout the cycle this qualifying tournament has shown that as he was given the starting job for the group stage finale against Cuba where the U.S. team won 3-0 to secure a first-place finish in Group E. Due to the fact that the roster size is small and games taking place every two to three days, players have to get rotated into the starting XI frequently and are often asked to play multiple positions.Rokas describes himself as a box-to-box midfielder who can play either the No. 6 or the No. 8. Stylistically, he says he enjoys being the “fireman of the group” who can defensively respond to situations when the opponents create a dangerous possession (“being there defensively, aggressive with tackles, covering a lot of ground, being that leader and to win the midfield battles and just controlling the tempo of the game”).Now in Honduras, Pukstas is happy, but he knows the responsibilities of the tasks ahead. He enjoys the progress the U-20 team has made this cycle and hopes that it will be on full display in the knockout rounds where the opponents will be better and the intensity will be raised.“The first two camps we would play intrasquad matches where we would all outplay the press pretty easily. But now once we learned the system, everybody’s more disciplined. It is really hard to beat our press and trainings are more intense. It’s hard to break everything. So once people got more disciplined, got more into the tactics, it has just been a lot smoother process. We feel confident… Everybody’s been talking about the importance of qualifying but Mikey really does a good job of telling us the focus on the next game.”There is a lot of pressure on this U-20 team to end U.S. Soccer’s skid of failing to qualify for the Olympics. For this to happen, the U.S. team will have to win its semifinal game in Honduras, quite possibly against the hosts.The Olympics play a big part the Pukstas family given his family’s athletic history and his father’s participation in the 2004 Games. Even though it was a different sport, for a different country, coming from that background has helped Pukstas mentally adjust to the pressures of international sports.“It makes me really proud to show what my parents have done for their country also,” Pukstas said. “They’ve basically been through these processes. It’s a different sport, but they know what could happen. They’ve been really helpful and to help me get through this because they went through it, too.”Even though Pukstas is from a Lithuanian family, he looks forward to representing the United States (which has has represented since the U-15 level) and believes in the future of soccer in this country. Earlier this year, Lithuania’s soccer federation met with Pukstas to gauge interest and see if he would be interested in following in his father’s footsteps. Pukstas politely declined, however, with seeing the potential of the current younger generations of American players.  “My whole family is from Lithuania,” Pukstas said. “When I was from six to 10, I’d go every summer and stay with my grandparents and play for the academies there. Lithuania definitely has a place in my heart. But the future in the U.S. is great to see. I want to be part of that process. I want to help in that process for the U.S. to be good. Lithuania is in my culture but my whole family agrees that this is the best pathway for me.”

Megan Rapinoe Speaks on the Supreme Court Overturning Roe v. Wade

   Grant Wahl  Jun 24 

ON THE DAY BEFORE the USWNT meets Colombia in a friendly in the Denver area, star winger Megan Rapinoe gave her reaction to the Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade in a press conference. Here’s what she said:


Hi everybody. I mean, first of all, obviously it’s good to be back in the crest and seeing all of you. I wish that we could just talk about soccer today. But obviously with the ruling on Roe v Wade, that takes precedence over everything. It’s hard to put into words how sad a day this is for me personally, for my teammates, for just all of the people out there who this is going to affect. I say this all the time, but pro-choice means that you get to choose. Pro-choice allows other people to be pro-life if that is what works for them, or that is what their beliefs are, or if that is where they’re at in their life.

Pro-life doesn’t allow anybody to make a choice. Obviously you can understand from an individual perspective how difficult it is to live in a country where you have a constant, unrelenting, violent tide against you, an onslaught as a woman. And it would be as a gay person and as a non-binary person, as a trans person, whoever this is going to affect, because it affects a lot more than just women, or cis women, it really does affect us all. If people are seeing this, beyond that I would just encourage people to try to understand the intersectionality of this.

I am a cis-gendered rich white woman that lives in two of the most progressive cities in the world with protection of not only myself and my resources, but this resource and this protection, as are all of my teammates, not everyone is afforded that. We know that this will disproportionately affect poor women, Black women, brown women, immigrants, women in abusive relationships, women who have been raped, and girls who have been raped by family members. Who, you know what, maybe just didn’t make the best choice. And that’s no reason to be forced to have a pregnancy. It will completely exacerbate so many of the existing inequalities that we have in our country.

It doesn’t keep not one single person safer. It doesn’t keep not one single child safer, certainly. And it does not keep one single inclusive term woman safer. We know that the lack of abortion does not stop people from having abortions. It stops people from having safe abortions. I would encourage people to understand all of the different aspects that overturning Roe v Wade will have on so many … actually on everyone in the entire country. I just can’t understate how sad and how cruel this is. I think the cruelty is the point, because this is not pro-life by any means.

GrantWahl.com is a reader-supported soccer newsletter. Quality journalism requires resources. The best way to support me and my work is by taking out a paid subscription now. Free 7-day trials are available.

Subscribe now

Give a gift subscription

This way of thinking or political belief is coupled with a complete lack of motivation around gun laws. It comes with pro death penalty. It comes with anti health care, anti prenatal care, anti child care, anti pre-K, anti food assistance, anti welfare anti-education, anti maternity leave, anti paternity leave.

This is not pro-life. And it’s very frustrating and disheartening and frankly just infuriating. To hear that be the reason that people are wanting to end abortion rights and this vital aspect of a woman’s not only healthcare and general basic safety in this country, but her bodily autonomy and the right to freedom and the pursuit of happiness and liberty is being assaulted.

And it’s just incredibly disheartening. Um, there are an infinite amount of reasons why a woman chooses to do what she does with her body or what they do with their body, none of which are anybody else’s business. And I just, again, like, it’s just so disheartening and so sad because some people will be okay, but most people will not, most people are not in a position or have the resources or whatever the case may be to protect themselves. And so to have the entirety of the U.S. government say to people’s faces, say to women’s faces, we do not care. We are going to force our belief system, which is deeply rooted in a white supremacist patriarchal Christianity. We are going to force that upon you. First of all, your religion is a choice and it is a belief that you have. It is not my belief and it is not many people’s beliefs, and it certainly is not the law of the land. And it certainly in the context of Roe v Wade is not the will of the country, and that has been explicit for so long. The makeup of the court is ill-equipped to handle this kind of decision. Frankly, a majority male court making decisions about my body or any other woman’s body is completely misguided and wildly out of touch with the desires of the country, the will of the country and the will of the people. And I think they acting incredibly irresponsibly and inappropriately.

Again, I think I’ll just end with pro-choice means that we all get to decide what is best for us, because that is our right as a human being in this country. And frankly, I believe in the world and pro-life does not allow anything other than one very strict religious view, frankly, and belief system to be forced upon everyone else.

So this will obviously have very wide ranging effects when it comes to racism and transphobia and homophobia and inequality and will exacerbate so many of the existing issues that we have in our country. Particularly as we come out of COVID as the economic situation will likely continue to deteriorate for so many people.

It’s a really sad day. It’s a really hard thing to deal with for all of us. And again, I encourage people to take a step back and come from a place of compassion and humanity. And understand that just because I believe something doesn’t mean everybody else has to, and we all get to make our own choices, but ultimately we need to come from a place of love, respect, and autonomy to do what we feel is best for us.


Megan, thank you very much for taking the time to do this. You were one of the 500 female athletes who submitted an amicus brief to the court in this case, making the link between Title IX and Roe v Wade that without Roe, the gains of Title IX would not be possible. Obviously yesterday was the 50th anniversary of Title IX. Can you just talk about what, first of all, the fact that this decision came down a day after that, and also just from an an athlete’s perspective, just put into perspective what Roe allowed you to do, how it allowed you to take advantage of everything that Title IX provided?


I think Title IX, first of all, it’s just oddly cruel for this to happen during this time, obviously with Title IX, celebrating a piece of legislation that gave so many women the opportunity to make our own choices about what we wanted to do with our life. And obviously in the context of athletics gave us the opportunity to pursue a unicorn talent that all of us have to be professional athletes or to go to college, or honestly gives people so many opportunities to go to college and get an education and potentially change their situation or choose for themselves what they what they want their situation to be.

I mean, for me personally, I obviously have this once in a lifetime talent that I’m able to use to take me into the rest of my life. It’s what brought me to college. And it’s what obviously has brought me beyond, but it was very clear, very early on. My parents were not in position to financially support both my twin sister and I going to college where they had to pay for it. So I was able to use Title IX to get an education. And my sister was able to use Title IX to get an education. God forbid soccer doesn’t work out, which it does not work out for almost everybody who tries to play professional soccer. So I can’t understate the importance and the impact of Title IX in the world, not just in our country, but in the world at large. And how this is yet again, another assault on women’s autonomy to do what they want. Because it won’t stop here. And this isn’t the first place that it has started. Lack of healthcare, the disgusting and cruel attack on trans kids, the bathroom bills.

A lot of the decision I believe, from what I’ve read. Obergefell comes up a lot in this decision about Roe v Wade. I think gay marriage is under attack. I think that trans rights are under attack. I think that women’s rights are under attack. We know voting rights are under attack. We know civil rights are under attack of all kinds.

So I don’t think you can understate the importance of Title IX and also the dire situation which we are in, in which a very small number of people are dictating the lives of quite literally hundreds of millions of people.


Thanks Megan. That was a lot of emotional labor. So please feel free to skate right past this. You’ve got me crying in the club too. So, sorry about that. And my voice is like crazy right now. You did just mention Obergefell and gay rights and you know, I’ve got colleagues in this space who are talking about, let’s go get married at the courthouse today, just in case, things like that. And I was just wondering if there was any discussion amongst you and other teammates about the impact of this on queer communities, not just in terms of gay marriage but for queer communities, bodily autonomy is also a really huge issue.


Listen, I hold space for that. And it’s a very emotional day. Of course, of course. I see everything in intersectionality. As an intersection, I absolutely think gay rights are under attack. I absolutely think we will see legislation pop up state by state by state that will eventually come to this radical court. I have zero faith that my rights will be upheld by the court. I have faith in our country and I have faith in people and I have faith in the voters. And if you ever needed a fucking motivation to vote, to get involved. Quite literally people’s lives depend on it. Like actual lives, we’re talking life and death, and also, you know, your life in terms of what does it mean to even be alive if you can’t be your full self, like what the fuck is the point? So yeah, I mean, we’ve absolutely had these conversations.

I think we’ll continue to have these conversations. I think this is obviously very new and very raw, you know, a few of us. I mean, obviously we heard about the leak. I mean, to whoever leaked that, thank you for giving us a heads up, because this is a lot to take in, and to be surprised by this would’ve just been fucking out of control.

But yeah, people are scared, you know, and it’s like, for me, I’m scared because this is just awful. And I know how important it is for me to express myself and to be who I am, but I’m going to be fine. I said that I’m rich and white and super privileged and famous. And live bicoastally. I will not be subjected to so much of the impact that this will have, but other people are not that lucky and they will be affected immediately. They’re likely already being affected. So yeah. It is an emotional day. It is a scary day. We have to be vigilant. If again there is any needed motivation for getting out and voting and using our voice and by any and all means necessary protecting the progress we’ve made, but also fighting like hell for what we still need, please let this be the siren that you need.


Hi, Megan. Your team plays in Utah a couple of days. I’m not sure what the laws are in Colorado. My understanding in Utah is that they have some sort of trigger law, anti-abortion law, that goes into effect. What do you want to see U.S. Soccer do when they schedule games in certain locations in states that have anti-abortion laws? How do you feel about playing in Utah in a few days?


I mean, obviously we’re not moving the game, and we’re not protesting the game. I think, as you guys have seen, the most powerful thing we can always do is show up and not only express our supreme skill and talent and joy on the field, but to be able to have that platform. I think moving forward we should do any and all things necessary as people, organizations, the media, corporations, government, national governing bodies and everybody to ensure the rights and liberties of every single American. So I don’t know exactly what that looks like. Thus far we’ve felt extremely supported by U.S. Soccer, by everyone here individually.

We spoke to Kate [Markgraf] last night, a group of us. Obviously, I’ve been given this platform and had conversations with [Aaron Heifetz] already. We will always be supported to use our voices, and we always have been in this federation and we will continue that. And I think we understand that as a team we have an incredible platform to do good in the world. And to me, this is not a political issue at all. This is a human rights issue.

And I think the players in U.S. Soccer and everyone in this environment and back home in Chicago feel that same way and will support a group of women who rely on the autonomy of their body to do the thing that they love and to make this circus run. So I think it is only in the benefit of everyone to do whatever we can to provide an environment where the players feel protected, supported, and have the utmost autonomy in their bodies.

Thanks for subscribing to Fútbol with Grant Wahl. This post is public, so feel free to share it.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.