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Alex Morgan piles on criticism of Saudi World Cup sponsorship

(Brad Smith/ISI Photos/Getty Images)

U.S. women’s national team star Alex Morgan made her thoughts clear on Wednesday about FIFA’s potential partnership with Visit Saudi, the tourism advisory for the kingdom of Saudi Arabia, for the 2023 World Cup.

“I think it’s bizarre that FIFA has looked to have a Visit Saudi sponsorship for the women’s World Cup when I myself, Alex Morgan, would not even be supported and accepted in that country,” she said in media availability prior to the SheBelieves Cup against Brazil, Japan and Canada next week.

FIFA has reportedly explored partnering with Saudi Arabia without input from 2023 host nations Australia and New Zealand, sparking outrage from human rights groups and federations alike.

“It would be quite the irony for Saudi’s tourism body to sponsor the largest celebration of women’s sport in the world when you consider that, as a woman in Saudi Arabia, you can’t even have a job without the permission of your male guardian,” Amnesty International Australia campaigner Nikita White told Reuters.

New Zealand Football also told Reuters: “If these reports prove correct, we are shocked and disappointed to hear this as New Zealand Football haven’t been consulted by FIFA at all on this matter.”

Morgan suggested other ways for Saudi Arabia to show a real commitment to the women’s game.

“I think that what Saudi Arabia can do is put efforts into their women’s team that was just formed only a couple of years ago, and doesn’t even have a current ranking within the FIFA ranking system because of the such few games that they’ve played,” she said.

“So that would be my advice to them, and I really hope that FIFA does the right thing. I mean, pretty much everyone has spoken out against that, because morally it just doesn’t make sense.”

Taylor Kornieck, Morgan’s USWNT and San Diego Wave teammate, concurred.

“We obviously can’t control who FIFA partners with, but at the end of the day, U.S. Soccer, we believe in partnering with people who align with our values best.”

Morgan also expressed her support for USWNT teammate Becky Sauerbrunn’s op-ed, published Sunday in the defender’s hometown newspaper, the Springfield (Mo.) News-Leader. In it, Sauerbrunn argued that “transgender women and girls are “not a threat to women’s sports.”

“I did read what Becky said, and you know she is a true leader, not only within our team, but in standing up for trans kids and being an ally and advocate for a lot of groups who are targeted,” Morgan said, noting that the team has SheBelieves games coming up in Texas and Florida, two states that have passed bills barring transgender children from competing on teams that align with their gender identity.

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Catarina Macario and the USWNT wore "Protect Trans Kids" wristbands during the 2022 SheBelieves Cup in Texas. (Brad Smith/ISI Photos/Getty Images)

“That’s something that the team definitely needs to look at,” Morgan continued. “I think just even talking about it is good. And the inclusion of trans kids in sports is the inclusion of kids in sports. Everyone should have the ability to play sport.

“The fact that it’s been taken into politics so big is really sad. And I think it’s at the cost of trans kids’ lives, so it’s really sad.”

Morgan didn’t mention whether the team has a singular message planned for their SheBelieves games in Florida and Texas, but it wouldn’t be the first time they’ve spoken out about anti-trans laws. During last year’s SheBelieves Cup, members of the team wrote “Protect Trans Kids” on athletic tape worn around their wrists for their game against Iceland in Texas.

“Looking at these games in Florida and Texas, respectively, we’re going to need to continue to step it up and have internal discussions as well with the team,” Morgan said. “Because we’re not ones to shy away from hard conversation or taking a stand for what’s right.”

NWSL x Liga MX Femenil Summer Cup Kicks Off Interleague Tournament

Washington Spirit defender Jenna Butler races for the ball against Guadalajara's Alicia Cervantes in their first NWSL x Liga MX Femenil Summer Cup
The Washington Spirit beat Guadalajara 2-1 to launch their Summer Cup campaign. (Caean Couto/USA TODAY Sports)

The NWSL x Liga MX Femenil Summer Cup's first match weekend is officially in the books, with most games failing to incite any cross-league fire.

NWSL clubs emerged victorious in the few interleague clashes, as Louisville defeated Rayadas 3-1, Angel City beat Club America 2-1, Washington defeated Guadalajara 2-1, and Portland thumped Club Tijuana 5-0.

Courage goalkeeper Marisa Bova misses a penalty kick in North Carolina's Saturday Summer Cup loss to the Orlando Pride.
North Carolina's Saturday group stage loss to Orlando came down to penalty kicks. (Nicholas Faulkner/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

NWSL offense struggles without Olympians

With so many players out due to the previous international break and upcoming Olympics, NWSL Summer Cup lineups struggled to bring the same attacking firepower that propels regular season action.

Gotham earned points against Chicago in a penalty shootout win following a 0-0 draw, while regular-season league-leaders Orlando fell in penalties to North Carolina after a 1-1 finish.

San Diego and Kansas City fared better at the offensive end, defeating Houston and Bay FC, respectively, with a 3-1 scoreline, while Seattle beat Utah 2-1.

In the only all-Liga MX Femenil match of the weekend, Tigres took down Pachuca 4-2.

Thorns forward Ana Dias takes a shot against Tijuana defender Monica Alvarado during Portland's 5-0  Summer Cup victory on Sunday.
In one of four cross-league Summer Cup games last weekend, Portland routed Club Tijuana 5-0. (Soobum Im/USA TODAY Sports)

NWSL and Liga MX teams square off next weekend

Next weekend's schedule might provide more intrigue, upping the number of cross-league games as each league strives for dominance.

Starting Friday, Tigres will take on Houston, Tijuana will face Seattle, Monterrey will battle Orlando, Kansas City will play Pachuca, San Diego will take on Club America, and Chicago will square off with Guadalajara in Cup play.

The Cup's three-weekend group stage will determine which teams advance to the August 6th semifinals, which take place before the NWSL season resumes on August 23rd. The subsequent Cup Final is slated for October 25th.

The Summer Cup will be competing for national attention as soon as the Olympics start, but the hope remains that the competition's unique format will spark some interest Stateside.

Where to watch the NWSL x Liga MX Summer Cup

All Summer Cup matches will air live across CBS Sports platforms including Paramount+, CBS Sports Golazo Network, and CBS Sports Network

Ogunbowale Leads Team WNBA to 2024 All-Star Game Victory

Arike Ogunbowale of Team WNBA celebrates with Caitlin Clark and Allisha Gray #15 of Team WNBA at the 2024 WNBA All-Star Game vs. Team USA
Arike Ogunbowale won her second WNBA All-Star MVP honors on Saturday after a 34-point second-half performance. (Alex Slitz/Getty Images)

Team WNBA defeated Team USA 117-109 at the 2024 All-Star Game for the second-straight Olympic cycle on Saturday, fueled by a record-setting 34 points from All-Star MVP Arike Ogunbowale — all scored in the second half.

Ogunbowale has now won All-Star MVP twice in her career, with both instances coming in games against the US Olympic team. The Dallas guard withdrew her name from Olympic consideration earlier this year.

Team WNBA's Caitlin Clark passes around Team USA's Napheesa Collier at the 2024 All-Star Game
Team WNBA's Caitlin Clark's 10 assists broke the WNBA All-Star Game's rookie record. (Alex Slitz/Getty Images)

WNBA All-Stars put up historic numbers

The impending Olympic Games added an extra layer of pressure to this year's All-Star Game, with Team USA needing to develop chemistry as quickly as possible while a few WNBA All-Stars left off the Olympic roster seized the opportunity to prove themselves.

Caitlin Clark broke the All-Star Game assist record for a rookie with 10 assists, while Angel Reese became the first rookie in WNBA All-Star Game history to record a double-double with 12 points and 11 rebounds.

Meanwhile, Allisha Gray added 16 points off the bench for Team WNBA, one day after becoming the first player to ever win both the Skills Competition and the 3-Point Contest in the same year. Kelsey Mitchell and Nneka Ogwumike also scored in the double digits for the winning side.

"I think it was the same four years prior," Clark said of the game's final score. "Team WNBA beat Team USA and they were perfectly fine at the Olympics.

"If anything, it shows how good this league is, how much talent there is."

Team USA's Breanna Stewart drives to the rim over Team WNBA's Angel Reese during Saturday's 2024 WNBA All-Star Game.
Breanna Stewart's 31 points and 10 rebounds led Team USA at Saturday's WNBA All-Star Game. (Alex Slitz/Getty Images)

Team USA looks to improve in tight Olympic turnaround

For the US, losing the All-Star Game isn't the end of the world — they won gold in 2021 after the same result — but they definitely have room for improvement before their Olympic group stage tips off on July 29th.

Breanna Stewart led Team USA with 31 points and 10 rebounds, while fellow Olympic veterans A'ja Wilson contributed 22 points and Diana Taurasi notched 14.

The Paris-bound squad also notably worked players recently out with injury back into the fold: Chelsea Gray played only 11 minutes on Saturday, and Napheesa Collier tallied just three minutes on the court.

What's next for Team USA?

The US will play Germany in a final exhibition game in London on Tuesday before traveling to France on a quest to earn their eighth-straight gold medal. The national team's final pre-Olympic matchup will air live on FS1 starting at 3 PM ET.

Phoenix Mercury Unveils $100 Million Practice Facility

phoenix mercury practice facility's diana taurasi courts
The 58,000-square-foot facility includes two indoor practice courts with built-in courtside technology. (Phoenix Mercury)

As part of the 2024 WNBA All-Star Weekend festivities, the Phoenix Mercury officially opened the doors to their new state-of-the-art practice facility on Thursday.

Along with a host of player-driven amenities, the 58,000-square-foot, $100 million property showcases two full-sized basketball courts named after veteran Mercury star Diana Taurasi, complete with a one-of-a-kind Taurasi-inspired logo.

Phoenix mercury players celebrating at the new team training center's diana taurasi courts during wnba all-star weekend
The Mercury hosted a grand opening for their new practice facility during WNBA All-Star Weekend. (Phoenix Mercury)

The Diana Taurasi courts pay tribute to the three-time WNBA champion, six-time Olympian, 11-time WNBA All-Star, and the WNBA’s all-time leading scorer.

"Phoenix is the best basketball city in the world and continues to elevate the standard in women’s professional sports," said Mercury owner Mat Ishbia in a team release. "This practice facility is about hard work, passion, and greatness, all attributes that Diana Taurasi exemplifies, and we are honored to name our basketball courts after the greatest women’s basketball player of all time."

phoenix mercury weight room
From training to recovery, each aspect of the Mercury's new facility is geared toward player conditioning. (Phoenix Mercury)

With 24-hour access for players and staff, the practice courts feature built-in technologies capable of providing real-time performance analytics. The facility also includes a strength and cardio training area, indoor and outdoor turf training areas, a functional movement area, and a team meeting room with theater-style seating.

Amenities specific to athlete recovery are also on hand, including a dedicated physician and testing room, recovery room, hydrotherapy room with hot and cold plunge pools, freestanding underwater treadmill, and two massage rooms. The locker room is home to vanity stations, a sauna, a steam room, and a wellness room.

phoenix mercury players lounge
In addition to recovery and training areas, the facility also showcases a stocked player lounge. (Phoenix Mercury)

An area for players to relax and refuel, the onsite player lounge and kitchen is stocked with private chef, snack bar, pantry, and smoothie bar.

"This practice facility sets the standard for what it means to invest in women’s sports," said Phoenix Mercury and Phoenix Suns CEO Josh Bartelstein. "From performance to recovery to team culture, we are providing our players with the space and amenities they need to be and feel their best."

phoenix mercury training facility
The new training center is a part the Player 15 Group's downtown Phoenix campus. (Phoenix Mercury)

The Mercury's practice facility is located inside the Player 15 Group's team member campus, headquarters to owner Mat Ishbia’s sports, entertainment, real estate, and investment company. the Player 15 Group's team member campus. Debuting this past April, the grounds also house business facilities for the Phoenix Mercury, Phoenix Suns, Valley Suns, and arena operations.

Skills Challenge, 3-Point Contest Open 2024 WNBA All-Star Weekend

Team WNBA on the court at 2024 WNBA All-Star Weekend
The WNBA All-Star Game court will be buzzing with action on Friday night. (Alex Slitz/Getty Images)

While the 2024 All-Star Game doesn't tip off until Saturday, this year's WNBA Skills Challenge and STARRY 3-Point Contest promise to light up Phoenix's Footprint Center on Friday.

The evening's programming will allow fans to watch as towering center Brittney Griner shows off her speed and mobility before putting 2024's most statistically excellent three-point shooters to the test.

In addition to the two annual events, the night will also showcase the first-ever WNBA All-Star 3×3 Exhibition, with the Olympic-bound 3×3 National Team taking on USA Basketball's 3×3 U23 National Team.

To make things even more interesting, Aflac has promised to supplement the Skills Competition and 3-Point Contest's prize pool with a $55,000 bonus for each winner.

Team USA's Brittney Griner poses in her Paris Olympics uniform.
Mercury center Brittney Griner will test her speed at the All-Star Skills Challenge. (Juan Ocampo/NBAE via Getty Images)

Skills Challenge highlights league's best

Perhaps the least straightforward event in Friday's series, the Skills Challenge — in which five players will compete in a timed obstacle course testing their dribbling, passing, speed, and shooting abilities —should come down to the wire. Each contestant will attempt to complete the course as quickly as possible, with the two fastest first-round players advancing to a head-to-head final.

Ten-time WNBA All-Star Griner (Phoenix) headlines the Skills Challenge roster, accompanied by Mercury teammate Sophie Cunningham as well as Allisha Gray (Atlanta), 2019 WNBA All-Star MVP Erica Wheeler (Indiana), and newly acquired Connecticut guard Marina Mabrey.

Mabrey will be competing in both the Skills Challenge and 3-Point Contest, taking the court for the first time since her requested trade from Chicago sent her the Sun.

Team WNBA's Jonquel Jones lines up a shot at Friday's All-Star practice.
Liberty ace Jonquel Jones leads Friday's stacked 3-Point Contest lineup. (Alex Slitz/Getty Images)

Top shooters put their skills on display

Despite Sabrina Ionescu and Caitlin Clark reportedly declining to participate, some of the WNBA's best shooters will be on display in tonight's STARRY 3-Point Contest. Shooters will tally up points from five set shooting locations around the arc plus two additional "Starry Range" deep shots worth three points each.

2021 WNBA MVP Jonquel Jones (New York) will enter a battle of the bigs with Washington's Stefanie Dolson, who sits second in the league in three-point field goal percentage this season with 48.5%.

But Jones and Dolson will face stiff competition from Kayla McBride (Minnesota), who leads the league in three-pointers made, as well as the aforementioned Gray and Mabrey.

Team USA 3x3 players Cierra Burdick, Hailey Van Lith, Rhyne Howard, and Dearica Hamby
Team USA's Cierra Burdick, Hailey Van Lith, Rhyne Howard, and Dearica Hamby will take on their U-23 counterparts in Friday's new 3×3 Exhibition. (Juan Ocampo/NBAE via Getty Images)

WNBA All-Star Weekend adds 3×3 Exhibition to the mix

Tonight’s debut 3×3 Exhibition will serve as a warmup for Team USA's Rhyne Howard (Atlanta), former WNBA player Cierra Burdick, college star Hailey Van Lith (TCU), and Dearica Hamby (Los Angeles), who came on to replace Sparks teammate Cameron Brink after her season-ending ACL tear.

The Olympians' U-23 opposition is also gearing up for a major event, with collegiate squad members Christina Dalce (Maryland), Morgan Maly (Creighton), Cotie McMahon (Ohio State), Lucy Olsen (Iowa), Mikaylah Williams (LSU), and Serah Williams (Wisconsin) set to play in the 2024 FIBA 3x3 Nations League tournament in Mexico City starting July 22nd.

Where to watch the WNBA Skills Challenge and 3-Point Contest

All three events will air on ESPN starting at 9 PM ET on Friday, July 19th.

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