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With new founding partner BMO, Angel City eyes bigger goals

Angel City FC will play in the newly named BMO Stadium beginning in March. (Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

On Thursday, BMO announced a huge investment into the soccer community in the Los Angeles area. They will be the new naming sponsor of BMO Stadium, the home of LAFC and Angel City FC, which had been known as the Banc of California Stadium since its opening in 2018.

While the announcement nationwide will likely be focused on MLS naming rights, BMO was committed to providing equitable investment in the premier L.A. club on the women’s side. As such, they have also joined Angel City as a new Founding Partner.

“BMO came to us,” Angel City president and co-owner Julie Uhrman tells Just Women’s Sports. “It was pretty incredible to receive their call because they talked about having a commitment to equity in sports. Here’s a real opportunity to have equity and support the local men’s and women’s team, and they’re doing just that.”

In preliminary sponsorship conversations, the sides quickly found that their values aligned, Uhrman says. BMO and ACFC will donate 10 percent of the sponsorship dollars back into the community through the Angel City Sponsorship Model. In this case, those funds will go to Girls Play Los Angeles, supporting over 400 high school-aged girls and non-binary youth across L.A. with no-cost access to soccer. They will also be launching a collaborative content series that highlights equity discussions in the community.

While Angel City has found early success with fan buy-in and a wealth of brand partnerships, they are still bound by the inherent difficulties of being an expansion team in one of the largest cities in the U.S.

“Any independent club has challenges, because when you don’t control your own destiny, you are by default at the mercy of those that do,” Uhrman says. “We have challenges when it comes time to scheduling or when it comes to branding the stadium. And we have challenges when we have partners that differ from the partners of the stadium owner.”

Angel City spent a significant amount of time and money making the ACFC experience feel unique to women’s soccer in 2022, and the response from the club’s fanbase has been equal in measure. As Uhrman says, “As we go into 2023, our investment [in game day] is actually going down because at the end of the day, it’s the community that makes it feel like an Angel City game.”

Outside of game day, Uhrman describes BMO’s founding partnership as more than a 12-day-a-year commitment as the team looks to expand its resources from its inaugural year. Facilities have been at the forefront of the NWSL conversation in recent months. A number of top free agents have specifically cited the Kansas City Current’s ownership of exclusive training facilities and an upcoming women’s soccer-specific stadium as a draw for talent.

As a brand-new team in a tight real estate market like L.A., Angel City is constantly working toward progressing their facility standards. Uhrman acknowledges they aren’t yet where they would like to be.

“We’ve been really vocal with our Angel City players that we have high expectations, that we want to set the bar from a practice and training facility perspective,” she says, emphasizing that constant communication is important with projects that take time.

“We recognize this is a value to players when they choose a team to play for, so us not having [our own facilities] does set us back, but we hope they understand what we’re trying to achieve and that we’re working on it every single, day and in the meantime creating the best environment we can,” she says.

While Angel City are tenants at their current training facility, they have made sure the team has a dedicated field of its own. They have also made progress with resources like a weight room and staff meeting areas, Uhrman says.

The club is still working on securing a dedicated space for the future, which Uhrman says “is looking really good” and is a process they began as far back as 2020, though the learning curve of their inaugural year was a steep one.

“2022 was rocky,” Uhrman says. “But we believed we got better, and by the end of the season it was significantly better. And it I think also brought us closer with our players because they felt listened to and they felt heard and they saw the work that we were doing to get there.”

Ultimately, as NWSL clubs forge a new path in a complicated sports landscape, having the resources to independently pursue the best available path without being tied to the fortunes of an MLS side will be paramount. BMO’s commitment is a big step toward that end goal for Angel City.

“When you’re treated like a professional athlete, when you’re given the resources and tools of a professional athlete, when you’re not talking about equity between men and women because you actually are getting the best that’s available,” Uhrman says, “you see the results in the performance.”

Claire Watkins is a Staff Writer at Just Women’s Sports. Follow her on Twitter @ScoutRipley.

Nelly Korda Continues Unprecedented LPGA Run

LPGA golfer Nelly Korda poses with Mizuho Americas Open trophy
Nelly Korda took home the title at the Mizuho Americas Open on Sunday. (Sarah Stier/Getty Images)

Nelly Korda continued her unprecedented LPGA run on Sunday, winning her sixth tournament in the last seven starts. 

The 25-year-old Florida native took home the title at the Mizuho Americas Open, becoming the first LPGA player to record six wins in a single season since 2013 — and that’s with three majors and a little over half the season left to play.

"Oh, my gosh, six," Korda said after the win. "I can't even really gather myself right now with that, the head-to-head that Hannah and I had pretty much all day. Wasn't my best stuff out there today, but fought really hard on the back nine."

Korda is just the fourth player on tour to win six times before June 1st, joining LPGA Hall of Famers Babe Zaharias (1951), Louise Suggs (1953), and Lorena Ochoa (2008).

Should her victory run continue, Korda could break the current record for single-season wins, currently set at 13 by Mickey Wright in 1963.

Korda ended Sunday's tournament one shot ahead of Hannah Green, finishing the 18th with a par putt to win it all.

"I mean, to lose to Nelly kind of like is — it's sad, but then it's also Nelly Korda," Green said of her second-place finish. "You know, like she's obviously so dominant right now. To feel like second behind her is quite nice. Unfortunately the bogey on the last has a little bit of a sour taste."

Next up is the US Women’s Open, a tournament that Korda has yet to win in her career. 

"Obviously it's on the top of my priority list," she said. "I just know there is never any good when you put more pressure on yourself. Just going to stay in my bubble that week and take it a shot at a time."

Earlier this year, Korda became the fastest player to collect $2 million in prize money over a single season. This latest win earned her an additional $450,000, bringing her season total up to $2,943,708.

Caitlin Clark Signs Multi-Year Deal with Wilson, Gets Signature Basketball Collection

caitlin clark poses with wilson basketball
Clark is just the second athlete to get a signature basketball collection with Wilson. (Wilson Sporting Goods)

Caitlin Clark has signed a multi-year endorsement deal with Wilson Sporting Goods that will include a signature basketball collection, the brand announced early Tuesday. 

According to Boardroom, Clark is just the second athlete to develop a signature collection with Wilson, with the first being Michael Jordan in the 1980s. In addition to her basketball collection, she will also "test, advise and provide feedback on a range" of related products. 

Three Clark-branded white-and-gold Wilson basketballs have already dropped. Each ball features laser-cut engravings of some of the guard's most memorable moments at Iowa, where she became the all-time leading scorer in Division I college basketball history.

Three Wilson basketballs from Clark's collection have already dropped. (Wilson Sporting Goods).

"I think it is super special, and it's been fun for me," Clark told Boardroom. "I feel like I was just that young kid who had those basketballs that I would store in the garage. I'm just very lucky and fortunate to partner with Wilson to create something that everyone can enjoy. It connects with a lot of generations, and it'll be fun to see kids walking around holding them."

The No. 1 overall pick at the 2024 WNBA Draft, Clark has been building up a slate of major endorsements since turning pro. Current partnerships include Gatorade and Panini, and she’s also close to signing a signature shoe deal with Nike worth a reported $28 million.

New York Liberty off to First 4-0 Start in 17 Years

sabrina ionescu of the new york liberty on the court
Sabrina Ionescu led the undefeated Liberty to a 74-63 win over Seattle Monday night. (Evan Yu/NBAE via Getty Images)

The New York Liberty are 4-0 on the season for the first time since 2007. 

The 2023 WNBA title finalists notched a 74-63 win over Seattle on Monday night, with Sabrina Ionescu dropping 20 points alongside eight assists. After the game, Ionescu told reporters she thought the team was coming together a bit easier than they did last year.

"I think having a year together, we don't nearly have to communicate as much on the court anymore," she said. "Because we can just play off one another and read. And that's obviously been the growth of this team, is being able to play a season together last year."

The team’s defense has also contributed heavily to the season's winning start. Last night, the Liberty held Jewell Loyd to just 13 points and nine rebounds. Loyd let the Storm in scoring, with only two other players in double digits, while Nneka Ogwumike missed her second straight game with an ankle injury. 

Storm free agency acquisition Skylar Diggins-Smith had eight points, and is averaging 14.5 points and 5.8 assists per game this season. In her postgame remarks, Storm head coach Noelle Quinn called on others to give her grace in her return. 

"There needs to be respect about the fact that she's had two children and hasn’t played in 20 months," said Quinn. "She’s not going to come overnight and be who she was 20 months ago and we have to respect that and honor that. And I do.

"My grace as a coach is to know she’s working her butt off every day. You guys don’t see it. Every single day. Two children. Not one, two. Not many can do that."

Australia’s Sam Kerr Ruled Out for 2024 Paris Olympics With ACL Injury

sam kerr playing for the australian womens national team
A longtime Matildas mainstay, Kerr has made 128 appearances for Australia alongside 69 career goals. (Joe Prior/Visionhaus via Getty Images)

Australia has confirmed that captain and star striker Sam Kerr will miss the Paris Olympics due to an ACL injury suffered early this year. 

Kerr, who also stars for Chelsea, tore her ACL in January. While unlikely that she would recover in time for the Olympics, Football Australia (FA) hadn’t confirmed her status until Tuesday when the team revealed its squad for upcoming warm-up games. 

In a statement, the FA said that Kerr remained on the sidelines and will continue her rehab program at Chelsea. 

"Attacker Amy Sayer (ACL) and forward Sam Kerr (ACL) remain on the sidelines with long term injuries," the report read. "Kerr and Sayer will continue their rehabilitation programmes in their home club environments and subsequently will not be available for selection for the Paris 2024 Olympic Games."

Tuesdays 23-player squad is a "strong guide" to the final Olympic lineup, according to coach Tony Gustavsson, but others like injured midfielders Katrina Gorry and Aivi Luik could potentially figure into the conversation. 

"[They] most likely will be physically available to be part of an Olympic roster," Gustavsson said of Gorry and Luik. "This window will be a tough one for me and my staff in terms of evaluating players, where they are, and then the final selection process for Paris."

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