3/22/23 US vs Grenada Sat 8 pm HBO Max, 11th NWSL season starts Sat, Euro Qualifying on FS1 &2, Indy 11 home opener next Sat 7 pm,

So this is officially the first Ole Ballcoach coming from overseas as I am in France today before heading to London next week with my wife – before I meet the Carmel FC contingent next Friday for 10 glorious days of soccer training and game in and around London.  First stop will be Liverpool and Everton on Friday followed by Wrexum and Wales on Saturday before heading to London.  No games – (international break-read all about the games below) just stadium visits as I look forward to taking my lovely wife to the loveliest Cottage on the Teims and London’s oldest football club Fulham on Tues night for England U21 match action.  Full updates will be on this link if you would like to follow along. 

USA vs Grenada Sat 8 pm HBO Max & Peacock

The full USMNT has reconvened this week for a pair of Nations League games that should assure us moving into the Finals this summer in Vegas.  The first is Saturday’s home match with Grenada at 8 pm Sat on HBO Max and Peacock (Spanish).  Pregame starts at 7 pm with post game after.  The biggest news involves controversial winger Gio Reyna returning to the fold (after his parents fiasco in getting Berthalter booted from the US Top job) along with Centerback Miles Robinson returning after his injury last year kept him from this winters World Cup.  Also back is Zack Steffan in goal along with West Broms hot forward Daryl Dike and Ricardo Pepi up front.  The US will have a chance to cap tie winger Alex Zendejas who has declared for the US over Mexico,while Alan Sonora of Juarez could do the same.  Definitely worth the watch Sat as we see who might make important statements they should be included in this summer’s Nations League title defense – assuming we win the next two @ Grenada Sat and home in Orlando Tues 8:30 pm vs El Salvador. 

Who Shane Starts Sat

Pulisic //Dike //Zendejas


Jedi///Ream, Robinson/Dest

Matt Turner  

NWSL Season Starts this Saturday on Para + & CBS Sports Network

the NWSL kicks off its 11th season with optimism after an offseason of controversy involving coaching harassment and ownership issues at certain clubs has been mostly resolved.  The season will feature a Women’s World Cup down-under in July (yey my Daughter Courtney is going – so jealous) as well as a host of US Women’s National Team players vying to show they should be chosen to help defend their World Cup title.  Here’s a quick glace ahead at the season and predictions.  Full Season Previews are below.  The opening weekend features 7 games on Paramount plus Sunday along with a Sat 2 pm on Para+ and 10 pm Sat on CBS Sports Network featuring the San Diego Wave (Alex Morgan, Taylor Kornieck, Naomi Girma) and the Chicago Red Stars (Swanson, Davidson, Naeher).   Megan Rapino voted Women of Year by Time

Indy 11@ Detroit City Sat 4 pm ESPN+ / Season Opener April 1 7 pm

Following a second away affair to start the season at Detroit City FC this Saturday, March 25 (4:00 p.m., live on ESPN+), Indy Eleven will kick off the home portion of its USL Championship campaign on Saturday, April 1, when the Boys in Blue welcome Las Vegas Lights FC for a 7:00 p.m. ET kickoff in the Circle City. Indy Eleven midfielder Aodhan Quinn’s 96th minute penalty kick conversion helped Indiana’s Team claim a hard-earned point via a 1-1 draw with the Tampa Bay Rowdies at Al Lang Stadium in week 1 – new Goalkeeper Oettl was Named to USLC Team of the Week just edging out reigning GK of the year and former Carmel FC and Indy 11 GK Jordan Farr for week 1 honors.Single-game tickets for all home games at IUPUI Carroll Stadium along with 17-game Season Ticket Memberships, specially-priced group tickets, and an increased portfolio of hospitality options are available for purchase now via indyeleven.com/tickets or by calling 317-685-1100   Full Schedule   Promotions 

The 24-man roster for the USMNT:

GOALKEEPERS (3): Ethan Horvath (Luton Town), Zack Steffen (Middlesbrough), Matt Turner (Arsenal)

DEFENDERS (8): Sergiño Dest (AC Milan), Mark McKenzie (Genk), Tim Ream (Fulham FC), Bryan Reynolds (Westerlo), Antonee Robinson (Fulham FC), Miles Robinson (Atlanta United), Joe Scally (Borussia Mönchengladbach), Auston Trusty (Birmingham City)

MIDFIELDERS (6): Brenden Aaronson (Leeds United), Johnny Cardoso (Internacional), Luca de la Torre (Celta Vigo), Weston McKennie (Leeds United), Yunus Musah (Valencia), Alan Soñora (Juárez)

FORWARDS (7): Taylor Booth (Utrecht), Daryl Dike (West Bromwich Albion), Ricardo Pepi (Groningen), Christian Pulisic (Chelsea FC), Gio Reyna (Borussia Dortmund), Tim Weah (Lille), Alex Zendejas (Club América)


(American’s names in Parenthesis)

Thurs, Mar 23

3:45 pm Fox Sport 1        Italy vs England  

Fri, Mar 24

3:45 pm                              France vs Netherlands

3:45 pm Fox Sports 1       Sweden vs Belgium

Sat, Mar 25                        NWSL Starts

1 pm FS2                             Belarus vs Switzerland

2 pm Para+                         NC Courage vs KC Current NWSL

3:45 pm FS2                       Spain vs Norway

4 pm ESPN+                Detroit City vs Indy 11

4:30 pm Fox                       Portland vs LA Galaxy  MLS

8 pm HBO Max, Peacock    Grenada vs USA Men

8:30 pm Apple+                Nashville vs Cincy MSL

830 pm Apple TV               Sporting KC vs Seattle MLS

10 pm CBS SN                    San Diego Wave (Morgan ) vs Chicago Red Stars (Sophia Smith)

1:30 pm Apple TV             LAFC vs Dallas

 Sun, Mar 26

1 pm FS1                             Denmark vs Kahastahn  

3 pm FS2                             England vs Ukraine ?   

4 pm Para+                 Washington Spirit vs Seattle Reign

5 pm Para_                         Portland Thorns (Rapino) vs Orlando Pride

7 pm Para+                         Houston Dash vs Racing Louisville

9 pm Para+                         Angel City vs NY Gothem FC

Apple +                                Nashville vs Cincy MLS

Tues, Mar 28

12 noon FS2                       Georgia vs Norway

3:45 pm                              Turkey vs Croatia  

8:30 pm HBO Max, Peacock   USA Men vs El Salvador

April 1: Kansas City Current vs. Portland Thorns — CBS, 12:30 p.m.

Indy 11 Schedule

NWSL Schedule

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

Christian Pulisic’s comments on Gregg Berhalter show a new willingness to be vocal

AL KHOR, QATAR - NOVEMBER 25: Gregg Berhalter, Head Coach of United States, speaks with Christian Pulisic after the 0-0 draw during the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 Group B match between England and USA at Al Bayt Stadium on November 25, 2022 in Al Khor, Qatar. (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)

By Paul Tenorio

Mar 17, 2023


U.S. men’s national team star Christian Pulisic gave a strong endorsement of former U.S. coach Gregg Berhalter in a wide-ranging interview with ESPN.

Pulisic noted that he was “not here to appoint the next manager” and “whoever it is, I’m gonna play and give 100 percent,” but when asked if he would be “reasonably content” if Berhalter returned as coach, Pulisic made his thoughts clear.



“Yeah, no doubt about it,” Pulisic said. “The strides we have taken in recent years with him appointed I think has been evident. I think it’s quite clear.”

The initial clip published by ESPN on Thursday included Pulisic commenting on the investigation and drama that surrounded Berhalter and Pulisic’s World Cup teammate, Gio Reyna, after the World Cup, calling it “childish” and “youth soccer” to see “people complaining about playing time” and saying “Gregg has been extremely unfortunate to get into the position he is now.”  Pulisic also pushed U.S. Soccer to not meander or delay in appointing a sporting director and coach so that the U.S. team could move forward into the next cycle.

“I think we want to continue as soon as we can and build from this World Cup,” he said. U.S. Soccer president Cindy Parlow Cone has said her hope is a manager is appointed by the end of the summer, which could mean the U.S. goes eight months without a permanent coach.

But the full interview dropped on Friday revealed much more from Pulisic, including 10 minutes speaking specifically about Berhalter and his work as national team manager.

The comments from Pulisic are notable because few players from the World Cup team had stepped up to speak publicly about the investigation or Berhalter — Pulisic’s comments are the strongest of any player so far. The interview seemed to signal Pulisic’s intent to be a public voice for the U.S. team moving forward, something he had yet to do over the past six years, even as the USMNT’s biggest star.

It was undoubtedly the most revealing interview Pulisic has given, with real depth as to his experiences and feelings around the last cycle — which wasn’t an easy four years for the star winger.

At one point, Pulisic was dropped from the starting lineup during World Cup qualifying, coming off the bench to score a goal against Honduras in February 2022. Pulisic recalled that benching under Berhalter, saying he “wanted to kill the guy” when he was dropped, but that his understanding of Berhalter’s decision evolved over time. Pulisic said Berhalter “has grown on me a lot over the years.”



“There were moments when he benched me and I wanted to kill the guy — I hated him, I was so angry — but then the next game comes along, and then I find myself in a better place,” he said. “The way he handled a lot of situations, I have to give him a lot of credit.”

Pulisic may not have worn the captain’s armband in Qatar, but his influence on the team is very real. He’s the most impactful attacking player on the team, as his performances at the World Cup showed, and his accomplishments on the club level have made him the focal point of the U.S. team almost since his debut in the failed 2018 World Cup cycle.

There have been questions about Pulisic’s relationship with Berhalter, in part because of public moments between the star and the coach. Notably, Pulisic was subbed off during a 2-0 loss to Canada in the Nations League in 2019 and the winger was in tears on the bench after the decision. His departure from a friendly against Japan in September 2022 — he sprinted off the field and past Berhalter — also raised eyebrows.

But Pulisic made clear in the interview with ESPN that he developed an understanding for Berhalter’s way of communication from his first camp under the coach. In that camp, Pulisic scored against Chile, but suffered a slight injury. After getting a scan on the injury, Pulisic told ESPN he returned to the team hotel and was summoned by Berhalter for a meeting. The coach suggested that the injuries may have been happening because Pulisic wasn’t training with the intensity at which he played in games. Pulisic was taken aback at first, he said, but eventually he took in the advice and “it changed the way I look at training, even today.”

“Listen, it wasn’t easy, and it took me a little while, but I said ‘Let me take this onboard,’ and since then I’ve been in a much better place,” Pulisic told ESPN. “It’s things like that. The way that he deals with players, you can tell he is passionate, and he cares about his players. He’s not going to tell you it easy, or what you want to hear, he is going to tell you what he feels is going to improve you.”



Pulisic also spoke about the way the U.S. team played at the World Cup and multiple times confirmed the strength of the team culture — something multiple players noted during the course of qualifying and at the World Cup tournament.

“I think he did a good job of showing the team and helping everyone to understand, ‘Look, this is how we’re gonna play in a short period of time,’” Pulisic said.

The interview also included several other answers from Pulisic about scoring at the World Cup, the bond within the team during and after the tournament and learning to deal with disappointments and injuries in his career.

The takeaway, though, seemed to be Pulisic’s willingness to open up — about Berhalter, about the coaching search and about his own experiences in Qatar. It was a notable change for a player whose introverted personality has often prompted him to shy away from a bigger media presence.

After starring in Qatar, it could signal a shift in the 24-year-old’s approach as a more willing vocal leader, both within the team and, potentially, in the public eye.

“I’m not a man of many words,” Pulisic said. “I like to be very particular in what I do say, but I do hope to improve on that as I get older, and I think I have already in recent years.”

Champions League quarterfinal reaction: Predictions, lines, stats, more

ar 17, 2023 Mark Ogden Julien Laurens

Now that the quarterfinal matchups for the UEFA Champions League are set, ESPN’s Mark Ogden and Julien Laurens look at how each team fared in the draw, the players who could decide each tie and which teams are the safest bets to advance.

– Full UCL quarterfinal draw: Man City vs. Bayern, more

The quarterfinal first legs will take place April 11-12, with the return legs held April 18-19. The semifinals will be staged May 9-10 and May 16-17.This year’s final will be held at the Ataturk Olympic Stadium in Istanbul, Turkey on June 10.

 logo logoReal Madrid vs. Chelsea

How these two sides match up

This is a rematch of last season’s incredible quarterfinal. Karim Benzema scored a hat-trick and Real Madrid won 3-1 at Stamford Bridge before Chelsea shocked the Bernabeu in the second leg by leading 3-0 with a dominant performance, until Rodrygo and then Benzema again, in extra time, led Madrid to victory and knocked the Londoners out.

This time around, Real Madrid are even more favoured compared to a year ago. The European champions are not firing in all cylinders in LaLiga, where they trail Barcelona by nine points, but when it comes to the Champions League, they have this remarkable savoir faire and experience; they rarely panic and always keep control of their destiny. The way they won at Anfield against Liverpool (5-2) in the last round reminded everybody of their strength.

– Stream on ESPN+: LaLiga, Bundesliga & more (U.S.)
– Read on ESPN+: Data picks the world’s best male player

Chelsea, on the other hand, are not the team they were a year ago — far from it. Despite three wins in a row, including a victory in their last-16 second leg against Borussia Dortmund, Graham Potter is still looking for consistency and momentum. The Blues will have to be an improved team in a month’s time when they travel to Madrid if they want to cause problems. Time could play in their favour in this case.

The key player who could decide it for each team

REAL MADRID: Karim Benzema. Despite an up-and-down season because of injuries at age 35, Karim Benzema is still the most important player in this Real Madrid side. Of course, ViniciusLuka ModricAntonio Rudiger or Thibaut Courtois are massively important but the 2022 Ballon d’Or is the X factor, the leader, the soul, the scorer and the guide of the team.

Since the restart, he has been in great scoring form when he plays and his record in knockout rounds of the Champions League since last season is unreal: 13 goals in his past eight matches beyond the group stage. His consistency — 89 Champions League goals now in his career, the only player along with Lionel Messi to have scored in 18 European campaigns in a row — is outstanding and he is clutch by definition. A man for the biggest occasions.

Pulisic’s Champions League warning: I wouldn’t want to play Chelsea

Christian Pulisic has high hopes for Chelsea in the Champions League, with Graham Potter’s side starting to click.

CHELSEA: Wesley Fofana. If Chelsea are currently doing better, it’s mostly because of the defender’s form. Since coming back from injury and settling into the Blues’ back three, the former Leicester defender has made this team much more solid, and even scored the winner against Leeds in the Premier League. His partnership with Kalidou Koulibaly is excellent and whoever is named as the third man in the defense — Marc CucurellaBenoit BadiashileThiago Silva — will fit in nicely.

His duel with Benzema, if both of them are fit to play, will be the biggest key in this game. At 22, Fofana is learning quickly about the demands of the top level and this could prove his biggest test yet. Didier Deschamps even called him up for France for the first time on Thursday, which will boost his confidence before what will be a huge end of the season for him.

Who advances?

Real Madrid. I don’t think this will be an easy tie at all for the European champions. I expect Chelsea to be better by the time the first leg comes and to make this competitive. Yet the experience and recent success of Real Madrid in this competition make them favourites. — Laurens

Inter Milan logo logoInter Milan vs. Benfica

How these two sides match up

A very long time ago, they faced each other in the European Cup final and neither of them would have started this current Champions League campaign back in September thinking they could meet again in the quarterfinals this time. But here they are, enjoying two very different styles and seasons.

SATURDAY, MARCH 25 (all times ET)
• Barnsley vs. Ipswich Town (11 a.m.)
• Detroit City vs. Indy Eleven (4 p.m.)
• Sac Republic vs. SD Loyal (10 p.m.)
• Oakland Roots vs. Memphis 901 (10 p.m.)
• Orange County SC vs. Las Vegas Lights FC (10 p.m.)

Benfica are one of the best teams in Europe right now, with Roger Schmidt’s team only losing one game all season. They play great football with intensity, movement and intelligence. Even the departure of Enzo Fernandez to Chelsea at the end of January doesn’t seem to have hurt them.

They will face an Inter Milan side who have struggled at times. It’s not the nice ball-playing team of last season, but rather more pragmatic, having defended for its life against Porto in the last-16 second leg and managing to keep its 1-0 advantage from the first leg. They are capable of good football but we have not seen it enough this season. They still beat Napoli in Serie A, which says a lot about their ability on their day.

The key player who could decide it for each team

INTER MILAN: Andre Onana. It’s incredible to think that manager Simone Inzaghi took so long to give him the starting spot ahead of Samir Handanovic, but since he did, the Cameroon international has been great — particularly in Europe. He was incredible against Porto in the two games: his incredible double save in the first leg was one of Inter’s most important moments this season.

Onana’s perfect distribution helps the team when under pressure and on his line, he is capable of miracles, even if sometimes there is still a mistake or two in him. For a back-to-back trip to Portugal, he will probably have even more work to do against the formidable Benfica attack than he did against Porto. And he will have to be ready.

BENFICA: Goncalo Ramos. Darwin Nunez left Benfica last summer for Liverpool, but Goncalo Ramos has made Benfica a better team than when Nunez was there! The 21-year-old Portuguese striker, who scored a hat-trick at the World Cup against Switzerland, has been on fire all season: In 12 Champions League games so far, he has seven goals and three assists, with 15 goals and one assist in 20 league matches.

He is not just a great finisher; Ramos is already a complete forward with quick feet and great awareness. He has been a handful for every opponent this season, even when he has not been scoring. Inter’s back three will have to find a way to keep him quiet.

Who advances?

Benfica. I think the Portuguese side will have too much for Inter. Roger Schmidt and his players have been unplayable at times this season, and their intensity will be a problem. Inzaghi will have a plan and this Inter side can defend well, but they also have too many weaknesses to beat Benfica over two games. — Laurens

Man City logo logoMan City vs. Bayern Munich

How these two sides match up

This fixture could have been a sensational final between two Champions League heavyweights, but despite both sides having ambitions to win this season’s competition, neither has reached their usual high standards during this campaign. Bayern have won all eight Champions League games this season — City have won five and drawn three — but they have been inconsistent in the Bundesliga. City have been similarly unconvincing in the Premier League.


But while there is a sense that each team enjoyed its peak maybe two or three years ago, both are capable of producing a big performance to win this tie. Bayern overcame Paris Saint-Germain in the last round with a blend of youth and experience — the precocious talent of Jamal Musiala, the Champions League pedigree of Kingsley ComanSerge Gnabry and Leon Goretzka, plus the ageless Thomas Muller.

City displayed their ruthless side by beating RB Leipzig 7-0 in the second leg, with Erling Haaland scoring five goals, and that display was a warning to all of their Champions League rivals. But Kevin De Bruyne and goalkeeper Ederson are struggling for form, just as Bayern have had to overcome the injury that ruled keeper Manuel Neuer out for the season.

Both these teams have weaknesses, even coaches Julian Nagelsmann (no European success) and Pep Guardiola (too prone to erratic tactics at this stage of the competition), so neither can claim to be the favourite. It may all come down to Haaland and whether he is unstoppable again or contained by Bayern.

The key player who could decide it for each team

MAN CITY: Rodri. This game will be won in midfield and City need to control Bayern much better than PSG were able to in the last round. If Rodri is at his best, City should dictate the tempo of the game and that will be decisive. But if Goretzka and Muller run the show, as they did against PSG, it will give Bayern the edge. Guardiola may need to deploy Ilkay Gundogan alongside Rodri in order to tilt the tie in City’s favour.

BAYERN MUNICH: Jamal Musiala. Bayern might seem like a team in transition right now, with the team still adjusting to last summer’s loss of Robert Lewandowski, but Musiala is their shining light and the 20-year-old surely causes Pep Guardiola the greatest concern. The Germany attacker can run at defenders, pick a pass and score goals — in many ways he fits the profile of a perfect Guardiola player — so he will be a major problem for City and Bayern’s best hope.

Who advances?

Bayern Munich. This tie is so tough to call, but Bayern have the edge due to playing the second leg at home. Clubs such as Bayern — you can compare them to Real Madrid and Liverpool in this sense — possess an X factor in European games because of their history and the belief that it gives to players and supporters.

City only have the pressure to deliver after consistent Champions League failure, and I expect that to work against them again. — Mark Ogden

 logoNapoli logoAC Milan vs. Napoli

How these two sides match up

On paper, this tie looks like a mismatch, with Napoli 20 points clear of Milan in Serie A and on course to win a first Scudetto since 1990. Luciano Spalletti’s side beat Milan 2-1 at San Siro in September and they are the top scorers in the Champions League with 25 goals this season. But Milan are the reigning Italian champions and despite enduring a difficult recent period, they remain a European giant, with only Real Madrid (14) winning more Champions Leagues than the Rossoneri (7).

If this tie goes to form, however, Napoli will reach the semifinals for the first time. They have arguably been the most impressive team in this season’s competition because of the performances of Victor Osimhen, Kim Min-jae, Khvicha Kvaratskhelia and so many others. They’re not just a formidable force going forward, either: they have the best defensive record in Serie A and have conceded just six goals in eight Champions League ties this season.

Even as overwhelming favourites, Napoli will have to cope with the pressure of expectancy against a domestic rival and Champions League history is littered with examples of upsets in ties between teams from the same country. Milan simply have to find a way of stopping Napoli’s formidable forwards, though it seems an impossible task.

The key player who could decide it for each team

AC MILAN: Fikayo Tomori. If Milan are to pull off a shock in this tie, they simply have to stop Napoli forward Victor Osimhen. And having kept Harry Kane quiet during the round-of-16 tie against Tottenham, England defender Tomori is likely to be tasked with doing the same job here. Of course, Napoli have threats in all areas of the pitch, but Milan will look to stifle the game in order to remain in the tie when the play the second leg in Naples. Their defenders have huge responsibility on their shoulders and Tomori will carry most of it.

NAPOLI: Khvicha Kvaratskhelia. The Georgia international has been the breakout star of this season’s Champions League. He tore Liverpool apart in the first group game back in September and he has continued in a similar vein throughout the campaign. His stats of two goals and four assists in the competition so far do not do justice to the impact he has had for Napoli, where he has been nicknamed Kvaradona, after club legend Diego Maradona, because of his game-changing ability.

Who advances?

Napoli. Milan have the pedigree and that always counts for something in the Champions League, but Napoli are so superior to Stefano Pioli’s team that the ghosts of Milan’s glorious past won’t be able to knock them off their stride. Napoli can go all the way this season; don’t expect Milan to stop them. — Ogden

Who will reach the final based on the full draw?

Real Madrid and Napoli: Bayern have a great record against Real over the years, but Carlo Ancelotti’s team are too strong to falter against the Germans again this time around and they will also be too good for Manchester City. Napoli are the outstanding team in the other half of the bracket: it’s tough to see Inter or Benfica beating them over two games in the semis if they get beyond Milan. — Ogden

Manchester City and Napoli: Napoli are the outstanding favourites in the side of the draw and unless something crazy happens to their star players, they are way too good for Inter, Benfica or Milan. The road to the final for City is much harder but Pep Guardiola and his players have learned from their mistakes and disappointments of the past. This could be their year and beating Bayern Munich and Real Madrid or Chelsea will make them stronger. — Laurens

MLS Power Rankings: Atlanta, St. Louis climb into top five as LAFC cement status at the top

11:07 PM CET Ryan Rosenblatt

Are we finally getting an idea for how the field of MLS teams stack up? It sure feels like it as sides find their footing, offseason signings have mostly all found the field and new managers’ philosophies take hold.Then again, we have D.C. United adding Lewis O’Brien, Minnesota United bringing in Jeong Sang-bin, the LA Galaxy signing Julian Aude and the Houston Dynamo acquiring Erik Sviatchenko. Those are just a few of the new signings being finalized, plus the many more certain to come with the close of the transfer window still weeks away.As per usual, you think you have a handle on the league, but do you ever really?

Let’s rank these ever-changing teams.


Previous ranking: 1

The Black and Gold played to their first scoreless draw in more than 100 matches over the weekend, but it was indicative of how much the team has grown in the past couple of years that it could play that type of match against an excellent Seattle team and not look out of sorts. This team is comfortable in so many styles of play now.

2. Seattle Sounders

Previous ranking: 3

What was so telling about the Sounders’ draw with LAFC is not just how good both teams are, being able to match each other at such a high level, but how, despite playing in very different ways, they both have the capability to be malleable and meet the style and quality of the opposition. It’s a versatility that you don’t usually see teams be capable of, especially so early in the season.

3. Atlanta United FC

Previous ranking: 5

Imagine being a defender and having Atlanta United running at you. You have to pick up the numbers coming at you, track their smart runs, be aware of their array of clever passes and scramble in front of any shots. Most of all, you cannot foul them because if you do, Thiago Almada is just going to add to his free kick highlight reel like he did in Atlanta’s 5-1 shellacking of Portland. Good luck!

4. FC Cincinnati

Previous ranking: 2

Should Cincy need Luciano Acosta to come off the bench and rescue a draw against Chicago? Probably not, but no team is going to apologize for having a guy who can turn a match on a dime.

5. St. Louis City SC

Previous ranking: 11

A comprehensive win over San Jose and the complete list of expansion teams to win their first four games in the history of MLS is as follows: St. Louis City.

6. Philadelphia Union

Previous ranking: 4

Jim Curtin called their loss to Montreal “a s—show.” This may have been the worst example of Philly failing to control games this season, but it’s not the only one, which is astounding considering how supremely good at it the Union were a year ago. And somehow, this still feels like a blip and not a serious flaw in the team.

7. Nashville SC

Previous ranking: 7

There’s no reason to question Nashville’s ability to play when things go its way, but can it chase a game? Nashville couldn’t against the Revs when it conceded its first goal of the season and thus took its first loss of the season. Whether it can play from behind may dictate how far this team goes in 2023.

NWSL TV schedule 2023: Broadcast and streaming on CBS networks

Pro Soccer Wire Staff  March 16, 2023 1:20 pm ET

The NWSL has announced its broadcast schedule for the 2023 season, with all 176 matches available either on TV or streaming.CBS Sports will carry all of the leagues matches, which will be split between the CBS broadcast channel, CBS Sports Network (CBSSN), and the Paramount+ streaming platform.The CBS broadcast channel will carry six games, with CBSSN carrying 23 and the rest all streaming on Paramount+.“In this ever-changing media landscape, multi-platform coverage is key to ensuring the NWSL’s sustained growth and exposure in the U.S. and abroad. We are proud to once again make all 176 matches available to our global audience through a variety of viewership platforms,” said NWSL commissioner Jessica Berman.“We have also made a number of enhancements to our broadcast production, from headcount to equipment to on-air talent, and we are excited to provide an improved viewing experience that matches the quality of play on the pitch this season.”Below are all of the games available on television in 2023, with the matches not listed available on Paramount+. Games in italics are part of the Challenge Cup.

2023 NWSL TV schedule (all times ET)

March 25: San Diego Wave vs. Chicago Red Stars — CBSSN, 10 p.m.

April 1: Kansas City Current vs. Portland Thorns — CBS, 12:30 p.m.

April 14: Portland Thorns vs. Houston Dash — CBSSN, 10:30 p.m.

April 15: Angel City FC vs. Racing Louisville — CBSSN, 10 p.m.

April 19: Houston Dash vs. Kansas City Current — CBSSN, 7:30 p.m.

April 19: Angel City FC vs. OL Reign — CBSSN, 10 p.m.

April 29: San Diego Wave vs. Orlando Pride — CBSSN, 10 p.m.

May 6: Washington Spirit vs. San Diego Wave — CBS, 1 p.m.

May 10: Washington Spirit vs. Orlando Pride — CBSSN, 7:30 p.m.

May 27: Racing Louisville vs. North Carolina Courage — CBSSN, 8 p.m.

June 3: OL Reign vs. Portland Thorns — CBSSN, 8 p.m.

June 7: NJ/NY Gotham FC vs. Orlando Pride — CBSSN, 7:30 p.m.

June 11: Orlando Pride vs. Portland Thorns — CBSSN, 7 p.m.

June 17: San Diego Wave vs. Angel City FC — CBS, 4 p.m.

June 18: Racing Louisville vs. NJ/NY Gotham FC — CBS, 4 p.m.

June 28: Angel City FC vs. San Diego Wave — CBSSN, 10:30 p.m.

July 1: Portland Thorns vs. Kansas City Current — CBSSN, 10 p.m.

September 3: Washington Spirit vs. Chicago Red Stars — CBSSN, 5 p.m.

September 6: Challenge Cup semifinal — CBSSN, 7:30 p.m.

September 6: Challenge Cup semifinal — CBSSN, 10 p.m.

September 9: Challenge Cup final — CBS, 12:30 p.m.

September 17: Chicago Red Stars vs. Angel City FC — CBSSN, 6 p.m.

September 21: Angel City FC vs. Orlando Pride — CBSSN, 10 p.m.

October 1: NJ/NY Gotham FC vs. Houston Dash — CBSSN, 6:30 p.m.

October 8: Houston Dash vs. Angel City FC — CBSSN, 7 p.m.

October 22: NWSL quarterfinal — CBSSN, 5 p.m.

November 5: NWSL semifinal — CBSSN, 7 p.m.

November 5: NWSL semifinal — CBSSN, 9:30 p.m.

November 11: NWSL championship — CBS, 8 p.m.

NWSL reference guide 2023: Everything you need to know for the upcoming season

Jason Anderson  March 21, 2023 4:57 pm ET

The 11th NWSL season kicks off this Saturday, and it feels like a pivotal one for the league.For one, it’s a World Cup year, and the NWSL has always looked to the world’s biggest tournament as an accelerant when it comes to driving interest. With nearly the entire U.S. women’s national team playing for NWSL clubs, and dozens of other players for other nations doing the same, it’s not hard to see why.Just as significantly, the league has come through two extremely fraught years off the field. A first-ever Collective Bargaining Agreement between the NWSL Players’ Association and the league is in effect, instituting some badly needed standards when it comes to player safety, resources, and salary. Teams that badly needed to clean house have done so, while the league headquarters has grown in terms of staff, experience, and capabilities.All of that change means some longstanding NWSL basics have been altered. That brings us to this piece, a quick reference guide for some important NWSL regulations, including competition formats and rosters.

Regular season format

The 2023 regular season will begin March 25, with the North Carolina Courage and Kansas City Current’s 2:00pm Eastern kickoff officially getting things under way.Each team will play 22 regular season games, with a balanced schedule involving two games (one at home, and one away) against the other 11 teams in the league. The regular season runs until October 15, which will see all 12 teams play games scheduled for 5:00pm Eastern in what is the league’s first “Decision Day.”The NWSL will only have one mid-week regular season game out of 132, a major improvement over years past that players, fans, teams, and league officials all agreed was a must going forward.The top six teams in the regular season standings will advance to the playoffs, which are set to begin “in late October.” As was the case in 2022, the third- and fourth-placed teams will host first-round games, with the winners advancing to play road semifinals against the winners of the 2023 NWSL Shield (given to the top regular season team) and the regular season runners-up.The NWSL’s semifinals are set for November 4, while the final will be played at a to-be-announced venue on November 11.

Is there a break for the World Cup?

Yes, but only for the regular season. NWSL will pause its regular season after the July 7-9 round of fixtures, and will not resume until the weekend of August 18-20.The Challenge Cup, however, will play nearly half of its group-stage games during that span.The 2023 World Cup begins on July 20, and will run until August 20. While it’s not entirely clear how long U.S. women’s national team players will be gone (for major tournaments, U.S. Soccer generally manages to convince clubs to release players before FIFA-mandated deadlines), it is likely that a USWNT run to the final will result in many players missing at least three rounds of regular season fixtures.

Oh right, the Challenge Cup. What’s happening there?

The Challenge Cup is back, but after intense criticism over a frankly unworkable and borderline dangerous schedule, it has been changed significantly.Some things are still the same: the four-team groups based on geography from last season are still in place.

  • East: NJ/NY Gotham FC, North Carolina Courage, Orlando Pride, Washington Spirit
  • Central: Chicago Red Stars, Houston Dash, Kansas City Current, Racing Louisville
  • West: Angel City FC, OL Reign, Portland Thorns, San Diego Wave

The competition format is also identical. Each team will play home and away games against the others in their group, for a total of six matches. Each group winner, and the group runner-up with the best record, will advance to single-game semifinals hosted by the team with the superior record on September 6.The final, hosted by the team with the best record between the two finalists, will take place just three days later on September 9.

The major change is to the tournament’s calendar. Rather than last year’s needlessly tight timeframe — the group stage lasted just 37 days, with the semifinal and final forcing multiple regular season games to be rescheduled — the Challenge Cup will be sprinkled throughout the spring and summer.NWSL got out of the business of mid-week regular season games, but the Challenge Cup will see plenty of Wednesday night action. The first 20 of the 36 group stage fixtures will be on Wednesdays scattered through April, May, and June.However, once NWSL begins a 39-day break from regular season play for the World Cup, the Challenge Cup will become a weekend event. The final 16 group stage games will be played exclusively on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.In announcing this shift in timing, the NWSL said that the Challenge Cup will “be the first-ever women’s professional soccer tournament to achieve pay equity with its U.S. peers in the men’s game.” In that case, the closest analogue is the U.S. Open Cup, which doles out $300,000 to its winner and another $100,000 to the losing finalist.

Roster size changes

The 2023 season is the first that will operate under the Collective Bargaining Agreement between the NWSL Players’ Association and the league, and that includes roster sizes.In 2023, NWSL teams are required to have 22 players on their senior roster at a bare minimum, and can carry up to 26 players.Furthermore, a team has flexibility with spots 23-26. Teams are free to use these spots for more senior players, or for supplemental contracts. Team A could sign 26 players to senior contracts, while Team B could have 22 senior contracts and then four more players on supplemental deals, and so on.That’s a pretty nuanced change. On a surface level, it looks like two jobs lost per team, but it’s not that simple. In 2022, teams were required to have just 18 players on senior contracts, with a maximum of 24. Teams could then carry up to four players on supplemental contracts, meaning a hypothetical team in 2022 could carry a total of 28 active players.In 2023, the raise in minimum requirements means that the new CBA has locked in four more senior contracts per team, or 48 in total. The new rules also expand the maximum number of possible senior contracts, which has gone from 288 (24 per team) to 312 (26 per team).What’s the difference between a senior contract and a supplemental contract? Here are the relevant passages from this year’s competition manual:

Senior Roster Players are eligible for any compensation, including bonuses, as allowed by NWSL policies. Salaries of Senior Players count against the Salary Cap, except as otherwise noted.

Supplemental Roster Players are Domestic Players who sign a Semi-Guaranteed SPA for the League Minimum Salary and the only bonus they are eligible for is the League-provided Post-Season and Award Bonuses. Salaries of Supplemental Roster Players on the Roster do not count against the Salary Cap.

Salary cap is up

The 2023 NWSL salary cap is $1,375,000, a jump of $275,000 (or a raise of 25% from 2022’s cap of $1.1 million). Allocation money, meanwhile, remains capped at $600,000, and teams still only get to use it if their ownership group puts the money up first.

The NWSL minimum salary for 2023 is $36,400, while the maximum cap charge per player is $200,000.

Why “cap charge” and not “salary?” Let’s consult the NWSL competition  manual on what the former term means:

At last, NWSL players hopefully have a season in which they can focus on soccer, not scandal

4:46 PM CET ESPN Jeff Carlisle U.S. soccer correspondent ESPNFC

The run-up to the start of the 2023 National Women’s Soccer League season is a time for the organization, its teams and its players to take a deep breath. The marathon — and one that’s being sandwiched around the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup — is about to begin. The preseason preparations have been completed, and the time is now to see the extent to which those will pay off for each of the NWSL’s 12 teams.

But the upcoming campaign is also a chance for the players to exhale. Over the course of the past two seasons, the NWSL has been rocked by multiple player abuse scandals that were investigated in excruciating and traumatizing detail. One investigation was conducted on behalf of the U.S. Soccer Federation, and another by the league and the NWSL Players Association. Coaches and/or executives from nine of the league’s 12 teams lost their jobs for charges ranging from verbal and emotional abuse to sexual coercion. Two teams — the Portland Thorns and the Chicago Red Stars — are now for sale. Yet the tremor-like effects on the players are still being felt.

“I personally have had two coaches who have been exposed through the reports and the investigations,” midfielder Meggie Dougherty Howard told ESPN in an exclusive interview. Howard was previously with the Washington Spirit and Orlando Pride, prior to joining the San Diego Wave ahead of this season. “So within my time in the league, I honestly don’t think I’ve ever had a season when I’ve been able to fully focus on soccer without, unfortunately, things going on in the background.”While reforms are ongoing, others — like mechanisms to report instances of abuse and ensuring teams have fully staffed human resources departments — have been put in place. That has created a different climate for players, one where the focus is shifting back to the on-field product.”My feeling coming into [San Diego] was that it was somewhere that really wanted to be professional, top to bottom, and create a culture that was one where players were safe and players were put first, and that would allow having a successful product on the field,” Howard said. “And I think that’s something I haven’t been in before.”Now the heaviness players were collectively feeling has begun to ease, and there’s a chance to maximize the momentum that has been generated on a wide range of topics.San Diego Wave teammate and U.S. national team forward Alex Morgan told ESPN: “I think that this league is really hopeful in showcasing our quality on the field and our growth in the NWSL in general. I think that it’s going to be a groundbreaking year for the NWSL because the fans are only continuing to tune in.”

There certainly are some compelling aspects of the NWSL as it heads into the 2023 campaign. Commissioner Jessica Berman said on a conference call with reporters that season ticket sales leaguewide are up 20% from where they finished last year. Tickets sold for this weekend have matched last year with several days to go. Investment in infrastructure is continuing, with the Kansas City Current‘s stadium set to be completed in March 2024.

The appetite for expansion teams shows no signs of letting up, with the return of the Utah Royals already announced last week. New teams in the San Francisco Bay Area and Boston are expected to come on board soon as well.

The fact that this is a World Cup year doesn’t hurt, either. The tournament, be it the men’s or women’s version, has in the past driven up interest in the sport in the U.S. and Canada, and with the U.S. women’s national team aiming for a third consecutive title, that figures to continue. The NWSL figures to play a prominent role as well, with Berman estimating that between 25% to 30% of the league’s players will take part.

“We know that the World Cup invites tailwinds into this league historically and as recently as 2019,” Berman said, “and we’re going to be really intentional in our partnership with U.S. Soccer to invite those tailwinds in.”Not that Berman is content to simply ride momentum. She indicated that the NWSL plans to leverage the World Cup as much as possible, and will have “boots on the ground” — herself included — in Australia and New Zealand.”I have made an intentional effort to spend time overseas with some of the key stakeholders and influencers as we think about some of the nuts and bolts that will position the league for success, including the schedule footprint and how we think about interweaving the priorities of the pro game with the national team activities,” she said. “And that’s an area that we’re going to be doing more intentional strategy work and beginning to get ahead of the planning cycle so that we’re planning one, two, three years ahead.”Gomez can’t believe FIFA overlooked Girma in NWSL best XI

Herculez Gomez questions the FIFA 23 NWSL best XI as the #1 pick of the 2022 draft Naomi Girma is left out.

The league will release World Cup-bound players on June 26 and while no coach wants to be without top performers, OL Reign manager Laura Harvey noted that she views the schedule as being “the best schedule we’ve ever had” in terms of time missed. She recalls that players missed 10 games in 2015, and between eight and 10 in 2019. This time around only six games will be missed, with the league introducing two weeklong breaks during the tournament, three of which will be in the NWSL Challenge Cup, the league’s cup competition. The ramp-up time is also longer than in the past.

“Normally, it’s like three games and then they’re gone,” Harvey said of players’ limited availability before departing for the World Cup. “I think they might be available for 12, which is nuts.” (It’s actually 13 regular-season games and three Challenge Cup games that players could appear in before leaving for Australia and New Zealand.)But the proximity of the World Cup can play tricks on the psyche of players. Delivering the level of performances needed to get selected to a World Cup roster butts up against the understandable desire to not get injured. For the moment, the first aspect is occupying more of the players’ thoughts.”I think if I don’t do my job here, then there is no World Cup to think about,” said OL Reign defender Alana Cook. “So as much as that is the goal and the childhood dream, I think my focus is here and my focus on getting better every day for this team. I think if I do that, then the rest takes care of itself.”That is something that San Diego Wave manager Casey Stone is keenly aware of and to which she is committed.”Having played in World Cups myself — I’ve been at three — I understand the mentality around it,” she told ESPN. “I also understand you want to go in a place where you’re performing at your peak, so for us it’s about preparing players to perform at their peak for us as a club, but also send them there fit, healthy, in form, at their peak, and then to do that and they need to play games. So I don’t think there’ll be any distractions.”The good news is that there is more emotional bandwidth to focus on such things, and there’s a bit more trust in the league that it will follow through and enforce the reforms that have been put in place.

Berman said, “I think it’s [the players’] hope that we at the league, and through ownership and management, can really take on the burden and work behind the scenes to offer the playing environment that meets the standard that certainly I’ve committed to, which is a place that makes the players proud to play.”

2023 NWSL season will have VAR, a World Cup, new contenders and a chance to move past abuse headlines

Mar 21, 2023 Sophie Lawson and Caitlin Murray ESPNFC

As the National Women’s Soccer League embarks on its 11th season, it’ll hardly be business as usual.With the abuse allegations and fallout now in the rearview, the league is ready to move on, and part of that will be showing that the problems of the past are being addressed and the league’s culture has evolved to be safer for players. But the other part of moving on is being able to focus primarily on the soccer.To that end, the stakes have been raised in 2023 for the topflight women’s league in the U.S., with the debut of VAR, a Women’s World Cup happening in midseason, new coaches and the potential for new dominant teams raising the stakes on the soccer side for the NWSL in 2023. There are no new expansion teams this year — two teams are expected to be added next season — but there’s been enough shuffling of players and a dizzying coach carousel to make many teams feel new.The NWSL’s 2023 season opens Saturday, March 25, when the North Carolina Courage host the Kansas City Current, and all of the league’s 12 teams will be in action this weekend. Here are the key talking points ahead of the new season.

Moving on from abuse headlines as World Cup looms large

Hanging over the entirely of last season were allegations of abuse by coaches that emerged toward the end of 2021, which prompted investigations from U.S. Soccer and the league itself. Those investigations both came out last year, revealing a culture where team owners and executives knew about inappropriate behavior and enabled it.

Multiple coaches have been barred from coaching. The owners of the Portland Thorns (Merritt Paulson) and the Chicago Red Stars (Arnim Whisler), who both were identified in investigations as knowingly allowing abuse, have vowed to sell their teams. A number of new policies and safeguards have been put in place or are in the process of being implemented with the help of the NWSL Players Association.

And now, everyone hopes, the league can fully move on from this difficult chapter and get back to the soccer.


The league might get some help in the form of the Women’s World Cup this summer in Australia and New Zealand. The World Cup tends to be a disruption — national team players will leave their NWSL clubs as early as June 26 for the tournament, which starts on July 21, and the league will take almost six weeks off while the tournament goes on.

But the post-World Cup “bump” for the NWSL in terms of new fans, bigger attendances and more attention has been undeniable after the previous two World Cups. That influx of new fans and fresh eyes could be just what the NWSL needs to turn the page. — Murray

Will the managerial carousel finally stop spinning?

Owing in a large part to the aforementioned allegations of abuse, 2022 was a season of great upheaval and multiple managerial changes over the course of the season. Coming into 2023, there are again a number of new and returning managerial appointments. In fact, one-third of NWSL teams are heading into unknown territory, from Laura Harvey’s former assistant Sam Laity taking charge of the Houston Dash to Juan Carlos Amorós’ move to NJ/NY Gotham FC, Mike Norris’ promotion to head coach at the Thorns and Mark Parsons’ return to the Washington Spirit, as well as Seb Hines taking charge of the Orlando Pride on a full-time basis.

But at a time when coaches are given shorter and shorter spells before being ousted when results aren’t favorable, how much time is too much time before teams are willing to shuffle the deck yet again? The upheaval and fallout off the pitch last year from the abuse allegations had a sizable impact, but now there will be the added challenge of World Cup disruptions and expected player turnover to contend with as well.

Give all that, those in positions of power need to be mindful of not coming across as hasty in rushing to judgment. Because of the large-scale team rebuilds and/or roster reboots needed in some cases, this is a season where teams might benefit from resisting the urge to take another spin on the managerial carousel without reasonable cause. In this league, and this season, stability could be a real asset. — Lawson

The NWSL will debut VAR in 2023, but will it fix referee problems?

The NWSL will become the first professional women’s soccer league in the world to introduce video assist refereeing, or VAR, in the hopes of alleviating years-long complaints about the quality of the refereeing in the league. The firm hired by the NWSL, Hawk-Eye Innovations, already works in some NWSL stadiums with Major League Soccer teams, and the company has also worked with the Premier League and FIFA, the governing body of soccer. So, if VAR can fix the NWSL’s refereeing woes, then this season’s implementation should be successful.

The question, though, is whether this will end the complaints about refereeing or merely change them. The NWSL has been stuck with a pool of referees who are less experienced than those in the pool for MLS, its top counterpart in the U.S., and while the league has vowed to increase its investment in developing referees, it might be a long process. It’s unclear just how well those efforts have gone in the short term since they were announced in the offseason, or how long it might take.

After all, reviewing video footage after the fact is undoubtedly helpful for referees, but as we’ve seen in other leagues with VAR, wrong calls still happen, and the training and experience for VAR officials will be the key. — Murray

Cascadia’s dominance could be poised for an end

With longtime powerhouse the North Carolina Courage going through their own rebuild last season in the fallout of the abuse investigations, the Portland Thorns and OL Reign in Seattle continued their run of bringing either the Shield or Championship back to the Pacific Northwest. The only seasons without either trophy landing in the Cascadia region were when the Courage managed the double in 2018 and 2019.

Yet, strong debut seasons last year from Angel City FC and the San Diego Wave, and the Kansas City Current‘s impressive roster building in this offseason suggest that the league is only getting tougher with more competition for spots at the top. For the California expansion teams, that extra year of experience in the league could be the difference, while Kansas City has signed the likes of Swedish wing-back Hanna Glas, Brazilian star Debinha and No. 2 overall college draft pick Michelle Cooper.

North Carolina looks unlikely to surge to its former glory now that Debinha and stars Diana OrdonezAbby Erceg and Carson Pickett all departed in this offseason, so the Courage might not be the ones who can get in Cascadia’s way this season. It’s unlikely that the Reign or the Thorns will simply drop off in 2023, but they’ll be facing trickier opposition from coast to coast this season. — Lawson

Longtime basement dwellers are due for a boost

From Racing Louisville, who have had back-to-back ninth place finishes in their first two years, to the Orlando Pride, who’ve finished above seventh only once in their six NWSL seasons, there are a number of teams that have repeatedly struggled to lead with their best foot.

Although the Washington Spirit will be hoping their 11th-place finish last season is the outlier after winning the NWSL Championship in 2021, there are deeper questions around teams like Orlando and NJ/NY Gotham.

Formerly known as Sky Blue FC, Gotham are a team that has rebranded but not successfully rebuilt itself yet, though there should be plenty of positivity around the club following the hire of former Houston Dash interim manager Juan Carlos Amorós. Similarly for the Pride, it’s about the rebuild that Hines will oversee as coach in a bid to correct the fortunes of a team that has consistently struggled for collective performances.

The job for Laity in Houston is a slightly different one, as the team was righted last season by Amorós, but for a coach stepping into his first head coaching role, he has plenty to prove. At Racing, it’s about the caliber of player Kim Björkegren has brought in to address the failings of the team during his first season in charge.

When looking at every team’s roster, and with the caveat of the incoming World Cup, there’s no reason why any team should struggle to compete with the players available to its managers. As a result, we might finally see teams like Gotham and the Pride race up the table and cement themselves higher up. — Lawson

Gomez can’t believe FIFA overlooked Girma in NWSL best XI

Herculez Gomez questions the FIFA 23 NWSL best XI as the #1 pick of the 2022 draft Naomi Girma is left out.

NWSL Challenge Cup drama returns but evolves again

The NWSL Challenge Cup, an annual stand-alone competition for all teams, started in 2020 as a pandemic-prompted replacement for a normal regular season. By the time it became feasible to have NWSL teams traveling for a regular season again, no one wanted to say goodbye to the Challenge Cup, which was fun and unpredictable, so the league brought it back as a preseason tournament in 2021 and 2022. Now, this league-wide tournament is evolving again for 2023.

Instead of being played as a condensed, one-month tournament before the start of the season, the Challenge Cup will run concurrently with the regular season over six weeks from April through September, with a winner being decided in the final on Sept. 9.

What is the point of the Challenge Cup, then? Why is there a separate trophy available to NWSL teams beyond those awarded to the best team in the regular season (NWSL Shield) and the overall playoff winner (NWSL Championship)? Well, it’s fun, for a start, and it’s another chance for teams to win hardware in a women’s soccer landscape that lacks a domestic cup, like a U.S. Open Cup equivalent or a CONCACAF Champions League. With prize money of $300,000 for the winner funded by a sponsorship with UKG, expect the players to compete like it matters. — Murray

Press confirms third knee surgery as World Cup doubts grow

Jason Anderson 

Christen Press’ path to another World Cup is more difficult than anyone imagined.The star U.S. women’s national team forward tore her ACL back in June 2022 during an NWSL match with Angel City FC, and has yet to return to full training. With the injury timeline for a torn ACL generally running between six months and a full year, many fans and observers were hopeful that the veteran goalscorer would be in action sooner rather than later.Press posted an update to her Instagram account Wednesday, with photos of herself off and on crutches, and in one case a photo as she prepared to undergo surgery. Nine months is often a common time for players to return to training, but it doesn’t sound like that’s in the cards for Press at the moment.It is not exactly news that Press might be on a longer return-to-play timeline than normal. Back in October 2022, USWNT coach Vlatko Andonovski said the forward had “a slight setback” that would put her recovery timeline slightly behind that of Catarina Macario, whose own torn ACL happened 10 days before Press.At that time, Andonovski said Macario could be doing at least some training by the end of February, a timeline that was shortened by a couple of weeks when the USWNT manager gave another update on February 1.However, that doesn’t appear to be the case with Press. With the World Cup roster selection looming — the Washington Post reported on Tuesday that NWSL players will report to USWNT camp after the league’s slate of matches from June 23-25 — the timeline for Press to be in the conversation for a roster spot appears to be very short indeed.

Press also vital for Angel City

Angel City, meanwhile, will face a double-edged sword: a situation where Press isn’t quite ready for the World Cup, but does return to play while the tournament is going on, would undoubtedly boost her club team’s fortunes. With most of the league’s very best players on the other side of the world, there would be an opening for Press to go on a tear akin to Crystal Dunn’s MVP season with the Washington Spirit in 2015.On the other hand, it’s currently unclear how long Press will be out. Pro Soccer Wire reached out to Angel City concerning the date of Press’ third surgical procedure, but had not received comment at the time of publication.

In a February conference call with reporters, Angel City coach Freya Coombe was asked about the timeline for Press to make her return to training. Her answer was largely positive, but notably did not commit to any sort of timeline:

“With Christen we’re really, really pleased with her progress and the way that she has been developing,” said Coombe. “We’ll continue to support her along the way. It’s about being there and celebrating her milestones as she achieves them and as part of her return-to-play [protocol]. But you know, everyone’s journey is unique, and we’ll just continue to support hers.”

If Press were to remain in the return-to-play protocol through the preseason, her return could be delayed even longer. Once a season begins, most of the team will have travel days for games, regeneration days, and other training occasions where a large enough squad for a “normal” session won’t be possible. Fewer sessions means a slower path when it comes to taking the step from being cleared to train to suiting up on gameday.

In the meantime, Angel City’s front line will largely consist of Simone Charley, Claire Emslie, and Sydney Leroux. That also comes with some injury-related concern: Charley spent much of last season working around knocks that limited her minutes. Leroux — whose 2022 was ended by injury — recently posted an update saying that she had been cleared to resume working with a ball, which is both a positive step and an indicator that she may not be 100% for the early days of the season.

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