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‘There are no barriers’: Angel City, Mexico team up for historic game

María Sánchez stars as a forward for the Mexican national team and the Houston Dash of the NWSL. (Manuel Guadarrama/Getty Images)

This Labor Day, Angel City Football Club (ACFC) and the Mexican women’s national team (MWNT) will make history when they face off in the first annual Angelina Cup at Banc of California Stadium. The Sept. 5 event is believed to be the first-ever promoted match hosted by a women’s professional soccer team in its home stadium against a national team.

While women’s national teams have previously played friendlies in the U.S. against pro or semi-pro clubs, these matches are usually scrimmages and often occur behind closed doors. By contrast, this match is open to the public and will be broadcast on the TelevisaUnivision family of networks throughout the U.S. and Mexico.

ACFC president Julie Uhrman described the Angelina Cup as an innovative way to spread awareness for women’s soccer and its players and drive not only pay equity but also viewership, sponsorship and coverage equity. The plan is to use this event, which will evolve each year, as a springboard for the continued growth of women’s soccer worldwide.

“We view ourselves as a global brand,” Uhrman told Just Women’s Sports. “We view Angel City as part of the global world of soccer. We want to play with and against the best athletes in the world, and we want to bring these individual communities together to celebrate women, these athletes and this sport.”

When Soccer United Marketing first reached out with the partnership idea, it was a “yes from the word ‘go,’” Uhrman said. ACFC’s leadership team recognized this kind of event had never been done before and envisioned its massive potential to amplify women’s soccer.

“It’s that opportunity when you don’t let the distinction of a national team and professional team prevent two incredible communities and brands from coming together to create what is going to be an incredible match on the pitch,” Uhrman said.

Federación Mexicana de Futból (FMF) sporting director Gerardo Torrado told JWS that, similarly, his organization “didn’t think twice” when presented with the opportunity for partnership.

“We’ve seen it with the men’s team, how Mexican people around the world receive their national team,” Torrado said. “It’s a great opportunity to continue developing the women’s team — not just the players, but also the awareness, fan base and excitement around them.”

The partnership is a natural fit with Los Angeles’ rich Mexican culture and large Mexican population given the city’s geographic proximity to its southern neighbor. The Los Angeles and Mexican communities share a passion for soccer and field talented and exciting women’s teams.

The official logo of the Angelina Cup. (Courtesy of Angel City FC)

The event also presents enticing opportunities for the development of the MWNT, which ranked 26th in June’s FIFA World Rankings.

The match will give potential new fans in the U.S. a chance to see the MWNT play and club owners, scouting directors and coaches in the U.S. the ability to scout top Mexican talent. Conversely, it creates an opportunity for players in the U.S. to experience Mexican soccer and perhaps begin to explore the idea of playing in Mexico’s professional league, Liga MX Femenil.

Six years after the league kicked off in December 2016, Torrada described the current state of the women’s game in Mexico as “growing strong.” He said that the impressive performance of C.F. Pachuca, América and Chivas Guadalajara in the most recent tournament bodes well for a league that has traditionally been dominated by northern powerhouses Monterrey and Tigres.

Mia Fishel, the No. 5 draft pick of the Orlando Pride in December’s NWSL Draft, sent shockwaves through the league when she opted to sign with Tigres in January instead of joining the Pride. Likewise, the NWSL has welcomed high-profile players from Liga MX Femenil. Notably, star Mexican forward María Sánchez signed a two-year deal with the Houston Dash this past offseason after leading Tigres to the league final with five goals in three playoff games.

“This will show young girls in Mexico what level they can reach in the future and that they can work hard to make their dreams come true,” Torrado said. “They are going to have chances to play in important environments, and having young girls know that, will help us a lot.”

Torrado added that there are Mexican girls in the U.S. who wish to play for Mexico, and the event will give them a chance to be close to the MWNT.

Beyond Mexico and the U.S., the Angelina Cup, which features its own logo, cup and branding, will celebrate the interconnectedness of the women’s international soccer community.

“There are no barriers,” Uhrman said. “We are going to highlight the absolute best athletes.”

Community is everything for ACFC. At its founding, Uhrman said the first questions the club’s owners and leaders asked were: “Who is our community, and what can we do with and for our community that elevates the sport of women’s soccer and creates connections and an opportunity for them to come together?” The annual event is the latest example of ACFC deploying the power of collective action to make an impact on its local community and the global women’s soccer community. In May, ACFC struck up a historic partnership with Tigres Femenil that will see the clubs play each other in home-and-home friendlies over the next two years.

ACFC plans to engage the local community in activations leading up to the Angelina Cup, just as it did with its Pride initiatives last month and beyond. The idea is for supporters to have fun while doing good, a model that has proven extremely successful for ACFC during its inaugural NWSL season.

Torrado expects this first-of-its-kind event will open doors for other women’s national teams “to play really competitive matches against important professional teams.”

Uhrman, too, sees the Cup as just the beginning for transnational and cross-cultural collaboration in women’s soccer.

“(ACFC and the MWNT) do have the benefit of geography,” she said, “but I could argue that there are teams in Europe and Latin America and in other places where there is commonality, and sport brings people together.”

Joshua Fischman is a contributing writer at Just Women’s Sports covering Angel City FC and the Los Angeles Sparks. He has covered basketball for Vantage Sports and Hoops Rumors and served as co-host of “On the NBA Beat” podcast. Joshua received his master’s in Sports Media from Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism. Follow him on Twitter @JJTheJuggernaut.

Cameron Brink likes Caitlin Clark for 2024 WNBA Rookie of the Year

Cameron Brink poses with Caitlin Clark at 2024 wnba draft in new york
Cameron Brink poses with fellow draftee — and possible WNBA ROY —Caitlin Clark. (Photo by Emily Johnson/NBAE via Getty Images)

Cameron Brink already has her rookie of the year pick for the upcoming WNBA season, and it’s Indiana-bound star Caitlin Clark

In the latest edition of Kelley on the Street, host Kelley O'Hara caught up with Brink in New York hours before the Stanford phenom went No. 2 overall to the Los Angeles Sparks at the 2024 WNBA Draft. When O’Hara asked who would win the WNBA's rookie of the year, she answered without pause.

"Caitlin Clark," she said, while a fan commented that she thought Brink would take home the award. Brink later added that the extra foul granted to WNBA players will be "good for me."

"I hope it’s me," Charisma Osborne, who was later drafted by the Phoenix Mercury, said when asked her ROY prediction. "But, I don’t know — we’ll see."

Watch more of Kelley on the Street:

Dash winger Maria Sanchez confirms trade request a day shy of NWSL deadline

María Sanchez of Houston Dash during a NWSL game
In December, Sanchez signed a new three-year contract with the club worth $1.5 million including bonuses and an option year. (Photo by Marcus Ingram/Getty Images)

Maria Sanchez issued a statement on Thursday, confirming recent reports that she has requested a trade from the Houston Dash. 

In it, she revealed that the club has been aware of the request "since late March."

"This has all taken a toll and isn’t an easy thing to talk about, but I want to confirm that I’ve requested an immediate trade," she wrote. "My expectations and reasons have been clear. I trust that my current club’s management will honor my decision in a timely manner and proceed with accepting a trade."

"I’m eager to refocus and dive back into what I love most: playing football," she concluded.

Reports of Sanchez's trade request first surfaced on ESPN last week, and were later confirmed by multiple sources. 

In December of last year, Sanchez signed a three-year contract with the Dash valued at $1.5 million including bonuses and an option year. It was the largest contract in NWSL history at the time — a figure that would be eclipsed by multiple contracts in the following months. 

Sanchez spent the offseason as a restricted free agent, meaning that Houston could match any other team's offer to retain her rights. Should the Dash trade Sanchez, her current contract terms would remain intact, limiting potential buyers to teams able to afford to take on an inking of that size.

The Dash has yet to address the trade, instead reiterating to ESPN that Sanchez is "under contract, a choice she made in free agency at the end of 2023." 

Both the NWSL trade window and transfer window close tonight, April 19th, at 12 a.m. ET. The window will stay closed through the next 11 regular season games, reopening on August 1st, 2024.

Seattle Storm debut state-of-the-art $64 million practice facility

Jewell Loyd #24 of the Seattle Storm during warms up during practice on July 11, 2020 at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida
Jewell Loyd, seen here practicing at Florida's IMG Academy, and her team are in for a major upgrade this season. (Photo by Ned Dishman/NBAE via Getty Images)

The four-time league champion Seattle Storm unveiled their new practice facility on Thursday, with Storm co-owner Lisa Brummel dubbing Interbay's Seattle Storm Center for Basketball Performance the team’s "new home."

"It's just such a special space," Brummel told Fox 13 Seattle. "I think when the players get here, it's gonna be overwhelming."

The sprawling 50,000-square-foot, $64 million property is just the second designated practice facility to be designed and built expressly for a WNBA team, with the Storm further noting that 85% of all design and engineering team members involved in the project's construction were women and people of color. The finished product holds two professional indoor courts, two 3x3 outdoor courts, a state-of-the-art locker room, and players' lounge, plus designated areas for strength and conditioning, kitchen, dining, and nutrition, and recovery. 

"This facility reflects our commitment to providing our athletes an exceptional environment that supports their growth, health, and performance," said Storm co-owner Ginny Gilder in an official team release. "It’s built for women, by women, embodying our dedication to leading the way in professional women’s sports."

For their part, the team can't wait to make the faciilty their own.

"It's amazing," Storm guard Jewell Loyd told Fox 13. "Not having to drive everywhere around, knowing you have access anytime of the day to get into the gym, to workout." 

Head coach Noelle Quinn said she predicts the team is "never going to leave this building."

"Which is a good thing for me," she continued. "You talk about having an edge in performance. We want our athletes to not only perform on the court, but get whatever they need."

All of the Storm's staff and operations will now live under one roof, and the team also has plans to launch a youth basketball program operating out of the building.

Mystics relocate game to accommodate Caitlin Clark fans

Maya Caldwell, Erica Wheeler, and Lexie Hull of the Indiana Fever celebrate Caitlin Clark
Get ready — Caitlin Clark is coming to town. (Photo by Ron Hoskins/NBAE via Getty Images)

The Caitlin Clark effect is quickly making its mark on the big leagues, as WNBA host teams around the country rush to upgrade their Fever games to larger arenas in order to accommodate surging ticket sales.

With Clark mere weeks away from her Indiana Fever debut, both the Las Vegas Aces and Washington Mystics have officially relocated their scheduled home games with head coach Christie Sides' squad. On Thursday, the Mystics became the latest to adjust their plans, moving their June 7th matchup from Entertainment & Sports Arena in Southwest DC to the more centrally located — and much larger — Capital One Arena "due to unprecedented demand."

The Mystics home court's capacity taps out at 4,200, while Capital One Arena — home to the Wizards, Capitals, and Georgetown Hoya's Men's Basketball — can fit nearly five times that crowd at some 20,000 spectators.

"The move to Capital One Arena will allow for additional fans in the stands as well as premium hospitality options, including Suites and the all-new all-inclusive courtside Hennessy Lofts," the team announced via Thursday's press release.

The Aces were one of the first teams to switch venues, aiming to take on the Indiana Fever in front of as many as 20,000 fans inside T-Mobile Arena on July 2nd. That’s a sizable a boost from their home venue, which holds just 12,000.

For those still planning to face the Fever in their home arenas, ticket prices have skyrocketed. Previously scheduled construction has already forced the LA Sparks to relocate their first five games — including their May 24th clash with the Fever — to Long Beach State's Walter Pyramid. The temporary venue is quite the downsize, holding just 4,000 in comparison to Arena's near-19,000. As of Friday, the get-in price for that game started around $400.

Despite fans launching a petition urging relocation, the Chicago Sky say they're unable to move their June 23rd Fever meeting from Wintrust Arena's 10,000-seat facility to the 23,500-seat United Center due to a concert. Tickets for that game start around $325 as of Friday.

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