All Scores

Abby Wambach wants more women in charge of women’s sports

Abby Wambach has committed herself to growing the women’s game after retiring from her illustrious career. (Stuart Franklin/Getty Images)

“If you can see it, you can be it” has become a rallying cry for NWSL expansion club Angel City FC and Abby Wambach, one of the team’s founding investors.

The soccer icon is turning that mantra into action with her latest project. Wambach, who sits on Gatorade’s Women’s Advisory Board, is teaming up with the company to launch a new campaign dedicated to equal opportunities in sport. Gatorade’s “Fuel Tomorrow” initiative will include funding for community programs, access to sports facilities and resources and training for coaches on equity and inclusion.

With “Fuel Tomorrow,” Wambach says Gatorade put “their money where their mouths are,” telling Just Women’s Sports, “They didn’t just try to check a box with the Advisory Board; they’re also putting their resources, their real hard-earned money towards creating a better future and a better tomorrow for those who don’t have as many opportunities.”

Gatorade’s new program involves a $10 million initial investment in national organizations such as Athlete Ally, Good Sports, Honest Game Foundation, Laureus USA and the Women’s Sports Foundation, as part of its push for equity in sports.

“When they approached me last year about being a part of the Advisory Board, before they could finish the sentence I said yes because I do think stories and experience, not just from mine but from a whole diverse group of people, is really important to be able to drive the true kind of change that can be lasting and systemic changing,” Wambach says of Gatorade, which also signed on last year as a founding partner of Angel City.

While the former United States women’s national team star believes in the campaign’s mission deeply, citing the statistics and science behind the benefits of sport, specifically for women, she also knows it is simply good business to invest in sports.

Individually, Wambach says having a corporation recognize her as a leader is validating, especially when their vision aligns with her hopes and dreams for the growth of the game.

“You spend your whole life working for something, and in some ways, when the corporate world turns to you and says, ‘I see you,’ it’s like, ‘Oh, maybe this has all been worth it. Maybe we are going to see some real change,'” she says. “And Gatorade is kind of proof.”

As a part of the collaboration, 10 percent of Gatorade’s sponsorship funds will go toward developing conduits for female coaches, a point of pride for Wambach.

“The truth is women’s sports is an institution that has been built inside of a man’s world,” she says. “It’s been built by men for men, so you think, ‘How can women’s sports survive in this environment? This structure was built for men.’ But it needs to have more female leaders at the helm. I don’t think that there are better candidates to be in leadership positions than women inside of women-led teams.”

ACFC and Gatorade’s investment in the women’s coaching pipeline is especially relevant now, as the NWSL continues to reel from a season of unprecedented coaching turnover. Many of the coaches who were fired or resigned were men accused of emotional, sexual or psychological abuse.

Most recently, the NWSL and U.S. Soccer have come under fire for their handling of the Rory Dames case. The former Red Stars head coach held onto his position despite numerous complaints from players, as chronicled in two separate Washington Post reports.

One of those players was Christen Press, the USWNT star striker who brought allegations of Dames’ abuse to U.S. Soccer while she was playing for the Red Stars. Press filed an official complaint to the federation in 2018. Carlos Cordeiro, who was U.S. Soccer president at the time, said in a recent letter that he was “not aware of either Christen’s allegations of abusive coaching or any investigation into her allegations by the Federation.” Cordeiro is currently running against Cindy Parlow Cone in the U.S. soccer presidential race to try to take back the position.

Wambach says that type of shuffling of responsibility is precisely what needs to change in women’s soccer.

“The way that progress and change happens is enough people, some brave ones, come forward, and they tell their stories,” she says. “And what we need to do as a community around these women is to support them, to give them some kind of help in their healing, and one way we can really truly help those that have been traumatized … is to believe them.

“When somebody brings accusations forward, there needs to be due diligence to figure out where it went wrong. And I don’t care if an e-mail never got to Carlos Cordeiro’s desk, he was still the president when Christen Press made these claims, and so he bears that responsibility. It is his fault that he didn’t create an environment inside of his system, inside of his world, that those around him didn’t tell him.”

As urgently as Wambach advocates for an overhaul of the systemic issues within American soccer, the 41-year-old is as fired up as ever about the progress players are making on the field.

USWNT head coach Vlatko Andonovski has welcomed an influx of new talent this year, calling in young stars like Trinity Rodman, Catarina Macario and Ashley Hatch to first training camp of 2022.

Wambach, the all-time leading goal scorer in USWNT history, knows her way around the national team better than most. Still, she says the USWNT head coaching position is “truly a job that I would never want,” especially when it comes to navigating the delicate balance of naming veterans and young players to tournament rosters.

With the SheBelieves Cup set to kick off on Thursday, the narrative around the USWNT seems to be the passing of the torch to the next generation. To that, Wambach says not so fast.

“The Megan Rapinoes and the Becky Sauerbrunns to me, there is no question that they maintain their status on the national team, that they are still consistent players getting called in because the things that they can teach some of those younger players, to me, outweighs even sometimes their performance on the field,” she says. “And of course, they still have to perform, but you still have to weigh in that veteran experience, the conversations, the teaching that happens from a veteran’s perspective.”

Wambach credits the evolution of the domestic game for the USWNT’s loaded talent pool. The leagues Wambach came up in, before the NWSL was formed in 2013, were much different in size and scope.

“In the NWSL, the players are better, the teams are better, its way more competitive, it’s way more professional. And so, to me, it feels like it’s going to be even harder and harder year over year for the coaching staff to make that decision,” Wambach says of the USWNT roster.

The NWSL’s progression is something Wambach welcomes emphatically as an owner of Angel City, set to make its debut this season.

“We have so many amazing teams in and around the Los Angeles area, and we want Angel City to be a top-tier team. We want Angel City to bring home championships,” Wambach says. “For me, watching the Rams win [the Super Bowl] the other day was just fuel. It gives all those players an idea of how the city is going to show up for them.”

As tends to happen in women’s sports, the discussion of progress all circled back to investment, with Wambach highlighting the significance of Gatorade’s backing of ACFC.

“It’s a big deal. This league, like all leagues, are funded from sponsors and from sponsorships and partnerships like the one Gatorade has with ACFC,” Wambach says.

“Bring all the sponsors.”

Clare Brennan is an associate editor at Just Women’s Sports.

Sofia Huerta signs contract extension with Seattle through 2027

(Daniel Bartel-USA TODAY Sports)

Former Oregon soccer players detail instances of verbal abuse from former USWNT assistant

(Chris Pietsch/The Register-Guard via Imagn Content Services)

Members of the Oregon women’s soccer team are saying they received harsh treatment and even verbal abuse from head coach and former USWNT assistant Graeme Abel. 

During the 2023 season, the team had zero wins, and upon its conclusion a total of 12 of the team’s 29 players departed the team. Former players told The Oregonian that Abel would verbally attack them, threaten to kick them off the team and at times would even throw objects.

"When I’d make a mistake at practice, it felt like he made it a job to embarrass you to the point where you just wanted to walk off the field,” one player said. “He’d stop the practice – and I know it’s college soccer, it’s very competitive — but he’d stop practice and just keep going nonstop on this one thing."

In total, the Oregonian spoke with 14 former players – including 12 who agreed to be interviewed in depth. All said that they experienced verbal abuse. Six of the players were among those who transferred following the season. 

One instance of Abel’s tirades included him throwing a water bottle that narrowly missed players’ heads. 

“He kicked all of our staff out of the locker room, kicked a trash can, threw a white board, sat on the trash can and started screaming,” one player recounted. “He wanted us to tell him what we thought went wrong in the game. Me and another player spoke up, and he said, ‘You’re just (expletive) wrong.’ And that if we didn’t want to be in this program, we could all quit, and he’d sign our release paperwork tomorrow.”

While Abel was not made available for an interview, he did say in a statement that “at no point have I used threatening statements or financial repercussions as a part of coaching.”

Instances of emotional distress stemming from Abel’s alleged harsh treatment date back to 2021 – his first full year leading the team following an abbreviated 2020 campaign.

One former player contacted by The Oregonian detailed positive overall experiences, and described his style as “normal coaching.”

Others, like USWNT players Becky Sauerbrunn and Lindsey Horan, did not respond to requests for comment, although Sauerbrunn wrote in 2019 that she had a “great relationship” with Abel. 

Still, multiple players interviewed had similar stories, with one saying that girls would be “crying in the locker room” after practice because of what he would tell players. Attempts to speak with the administration about his behavior, players say, was “discouraging.”

“His office is like the scariest place,” one player said. “You’d have to sit there while he’d belittle you and say all these nasty things, and gaslight you into believing you’re not good enough. ... Our team fell apart because of the environment he created. We were just trying to get through the day. There was no way we could focus on soccer.”

Multiple players said they experienced suicidal ideation while playing at Oregon. In part of his statement, Abel wrote that “at no time do we put our student-athletes in any danger.”

Abel is currently in his fifth and final year of his contract at Oregon.

Gotham FC unveil Championship rings ahead of banner reveal

Gotham FC players celebrate Lynn Williams' goal in the first half of the 2023 NWSL Championship. (Ray Acevedo/USA TODAY Sports)

Gotham FC has unveiled their 2023 NWSL championship rings — and safe to say, they deliver.

The reveal has led to a little bit of trash talk ahead of the team’s matchup with Kansas City this weekend, as both teams have NFL owners. While the Current are co-owned by Patrick and Brittany Mahomes, former Giants quarterback Eli Manning is a co-owner of Gotham. 

On Wednesday, Manning took to Sportscenter to give Mahomes a bit of a hard time.

“He may have one more Super Bowl ring than me, but he does not have a NWSL championship ring like I do,” Manning joked.

“Come Sunday night at Red Bull Arena, April 14th, we’re dropping the banner on Kansas City. We got the ring ceremony, the players get their rings and their championship afterwards. This is it, I’ve got something to talk a little trash to him about because I can’t do it about football anymore, I gotta find something else.”

The appearance came after Manning posted to social media, inviting Mahomes to “come see [the championship ring] up close this Sunday.”

Mahomes responded in kind, writing that “we’ll see y’all Sunday!”

Gotham takes on current league-leaders Kansas City on Sunday at 6pm ET. The game is available on NWSL+.

Oregon State hit by transfer portal again as Raegan Beers departs

ALBANY, NEW YORK - MARCH 31: Raegan Beers #15 of the Oregon State Beavers shoots a free throw during the first half against the South Carolina Gamecocks in the Elite 8 round of the NCAA Women's Basketball Tournament at MVP Arena on March 31, 2024 in Albany, New York. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

Oregon State leading scorer and rebounder Raegan Beers announced on Thursday that she is entering the transfer portal. 

"Thank you for all of your endless love and support these past two years," she posted on social media. "I will never forget my time at OSU and I am thankful for the opportunity I had to meet and play with incredible people. My journey as a Beav was a special one and I am grateful for my teammates, coaches, fans, and friends who have changed my life throughout my time here."

A sophomore forward, Beers is a two-time All-Pac-12 selection who averaged 17.5 points per game last season while shooting 66.4 percent from the field. She also added 10.3 rebounds en route to earning third-team All-American honors from the AP. 

She’s the fourth Oregon State starter – and seventh player overall – to hit the portal this offseason. She joins Talia von Oelhoggen and Timea Gardiner in the transfer portal, as well as starting freshman Donovyn Hunter. 

Beers and Gardiner were both top-10 recruits in ESPN rankings coming out of high school. 

With the dissolution of the Pac-12, the program will join the WCC next season and no longer be a part of the Power 5.

Conference realignment is hitting the team hard, with coach Scott Rueck saying during the tournament that he knew it could seriously affect his team moving forward. 

"That's reality," Rueck said. "I can't control that, other than just keep doing what I'm doing. I think the opportunity within that for a leader provides a discipline that you'd better be on your A-game all the time. You'd better take care of people, and you'd better provide a great experience. That's the approach going forward and what happens, happens. We'll find a way."

Start your morning off right with Just Women’s Sports’ free, 5x-a-week newsletter.