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Casey Stoney commits to San Diego with multi-year contract extension

(Meg Oliphant/Getty Images)

Casey Stoney is staying in San Diego, signing a multi-year contract extension with the San Diego Wave through 2027 with a mutual option year in 2028.

“When we brought Casey on board, we were confident that her exceptional leadership qualities, coupled with her extensive experience as both a player and coach at the highest levels, would make her the perfect fit for San Diego, and she has more than exceeded our high expectations,” Wave President Jill Ellis said in a team statement.

“Her commitment and passion for winning, developing our young players, and her loyalty to this club and city speaks volumes to who she is as a coach and as a person.”

The extension clearly signals Stoney’s intention to stay in the NWSL for the foreseeable future despite being in the mix for other positions in recent years. Most notably in 2024, her name had been brought up as a candidate to replace incoming USWNT manager Emma Hayes at Chelsea FC in the WSL, where Stoney most recently managed Manchester United.

She was subsequently reported as having withdrawn her name from consideration for the Chelsea job by the Sunday Times.

Now, Stoney feels she can make a statement with definitive terms that will bring stability and focus to the Wave as they kick off NWSL preseason.

“It stops the rumors, which is really important when we’re trying to recruit players,” Stoney tells Just Women’s Sports. “It enables me to be settled, obviously my family here as well, which shows the club’s commitment to me and I’m fully committed to the club.”

A settled life in San Diego has been hard-earned for the 41-year-old; it took 22 months for Stoney’s family to make the permanent move to California from England, a difficult separation that she has little desire to revisit. “I think people need to sometimes just consider all aspects,” she says.

“I’ve got three young children and a partner that are massively supportive. But to move them continents across the world to then potentially be linked with rumors going somewhere else, it’s difficult for my partner as well. But we always have very open and honest conversations, there was never any doubt about me being committed here.”

Possibilities of a coach going elsewhere can also affect a club’s ability to recruit talent, and Stoney says she wasn’t afraid to answer obvious questions by prospective signings. “I’ll always be honest with the players, like I’m naturally going to get linked to certain jobs, because I’ve either played for the club or managed the club,” she says. Stoney played for Chelsea from 2007-11, and temporarily served as player-manager in 2009 following the resignation of Steve Jones.

“When jobs open up, obviously being a female coach and being in the game you naturally get linked. My job is to stay focused on how I develop this team, develop these players and stay committed to what I believe in, which is what we’re building here.”

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The Wave have allowed a league-low 43 goals across 2022 and 2023 under Stoney's leadership (Jamie Sabau-USA TODAY Sports)

Stoney has already overseen unprecedented success for an NWSL expansion side, winning the league Shield with San Diego in the club’s second year of existence. She boasts a 21-10-13 record, and has comfortably made the NWSL playoffs in both years at the helm of the team.

She also joins Seattle Reign head coach Laura Harvey in emphasizing her desire to keep building in the NWSL despite outside interest, as clubs in the league work to remain competitive in attracting and retaining top coaching talent. That loyalty could possibly pay off for everyone, with the NWSL poised to take a tactical leap forward in 2024.

“This is the most competitive league in the world. You come here, you’re going to have a fierce competition every single week,” Stoney says. “There’s no big score-lines, it’s competitive, it’s fast, it’s athletic. What we’re trying to do is add more tactical nuance to the game, and I think with the coaches that are in the game now, I think it’s the strongest it’s been.”

She notes top coaching talent like Barcelona’s Jonatan Giráldez taking over at the Washington Spirit as an inflection point for managerial investment, as well as recent international players like Esther joining the NWSL and equating it to “Champions League football, every single week” as a testament to the league’s selling points.

“I’m fascinated to see how [Giráldez] can gel the players that he’s got into the style of play that he likes to play,” she says, noting that the NWSL’s challenges (like cross-country travel) can be unique. “It’s a very different beast here, and I’m just really interested — I know he’ll get time and hopefully patience, because he’s gonna need a few windows, I think, to build his team out with the way he wants to play.”

For Stoney however, her goals going into the 2024 season are clear: keep developing players, and keep winning. “What the future holds? Who knows,” she says. “You’re only ever as good as your last season anyways. I’m gonna work hard to stay successful here, and make sure that I make it a success.”

“I’m very aware this is a job where you don’t have a lot of security, you have to work to keep it. So my challenge is staying in this job as long as possible, developing my players, and making sure that our team is successful and this club is successful.”

Alyssa Naeher’s goalkeeper jersey sells out in less than three hours

uwnt goalie alyssa naeher wears jersey on the field with club team chicago red stars
USWNT star keeper Alyssa Naeher's new replica NWSL jersey was an instant success. (Daniel Bartel-USA TODAY Sports)

For the first time in the NWSL's 12-year history, fans can now buy their own goalkeeper jerseys. And while replica goalkeeper jerseys representing all 14 NWSL teams hit the market on Wednesday, some didn't stick around for long. 

Fans across women's soccer have long vocalized their discontent over the position's lack of availability on social media, often comparing the shortcoming to the widespread availability of men’s goalkeeper jerseys. And as the NWSL has grown, so has demand — and not just from those in the stands. 

"To have goalkeeper kits available for fans in the women’s game as they have been for so long in the men’s game is not only a long-awaited move in the right direction, it’s just good business," said Washington Spirit goalie Aubrey Kingsbury in an team press release. "I can’t wait to see fans representing me, Barnie [Barnhart], and Lyza in the stands at Audi!"

Business does, in fact, appear to be booming. Alyssa Naeher’s Chicago Red Stars kit sold out less than three hours after the league's announcement. Jerseys for other keepers like DiDi Haračić, Abby Smith, Michelle Betos, Katelyn Rowland, and Bella Bixby aren’t currently available via the Official NWSL Shop, though blank goalkeeper jerseys can be customized through some individual team sites. Jerseys start at $110 each.

"This should be the benchmark," said Spirit Chief Operations Officer Theresa McDonnell. "The expectation is that all players’ jerseys are available to fans. Keepers are inspiring leaders and mentors with their own unique fan base who want to represent them... I can’t wait to see them all over the city."

Simone Biles talks Tokyo Olympics fallout in new interview

gymnast simone biles on a balance beam
Biles' candid interview shed light on the gymnast's internal struggle. (Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)

Decorated gymnast Simone Biles took to the popular Call Her Daddy podcast this week to open up about her experience at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, revealing she thought she was going to be "banned from America" for her performance.

After Biles botched her vault routine due to a bout of the "twisties," she withdrew from the team final as well as the all-around final in order to focus on her mental health. She later reentered the competition to win bronze in the individual balance beam final.

In her interview with podcast host Alex Cooper, Biles admitted to feeling like she let the entire country down by failing her vault attempt.

"As soon as I landed I was like 'Oh, America hates me. The world is going to hate me. I can only see what they’re saying on Twitter right now,'" she recalled thinking. "I was like, ‘Holy s---, what are they gonna say about me?'"

"I thought I was going to be banned from America," she continued. "That’s what they tell you: Don’t come back if not gold. Gold or bust. Don’t come back."

Widely regarded as the greatest gymnast of all time, Biles has hinted at a desire to join her third Olympic team in Paris, though her participation won't be confirmed until after the gymnastics trials in late June. She holds over 30 medals from the Olympic Games and World Artistic Gymnastics Championships combined, and if qualified, would be a sure favorite heading into this summer’s games.

Caitlin Clark reportedly nearing $20 million+ Nike deal

Caitlin Clark #22 of the Indiana Fever poses for a portrait at Gainbridge Fieldhouse during her introductory press conference
WNBA-bound Caitlin Clark is said to be closing in on a monumental NIke deal. (Photo by Matt Kryger/NBAE via Getty Images)

Caitlin Clark is reportedly close to cementing a hefty endorsement deal with Nike.

The Athletic was the first to break the news Wednesday evening, commenting that the deal would be worth "eight figures" and include her own signature shoe. On Thursday afternoon, the publication tweeted that the deal would top $20 million, according to lead NBA Insider Shams Charania. Both Under Armour and Adidas are said to have also made sizable offers to the college phenom and expected future WNBA star.

The new agreement comes after Clark's previous Nike partnership ended with the conclusion of the college basketball season. She was one of five NCAA athletes to sign an NIL deal with the brand back in October, 2022. 

Considering Clark's overwhelming popularity and Nike's deep pockets, the signing's purported value doesn't exactly come as a shock. New York Liberty guard Sabrina Ionescu’s deal with the brand is reportedly worth $24 million, while NBA rookie and No. 1 overall pick Victor Wembanyama’s deal is rumored to weigh in at $100 million. And in 2003, LeBron James famously earned $90 million off his own Nike deal. 

Clark’s star power continues to skyrocket, with the NCAA championship averaging 18.9 million viewers and the 2024 WNBA Draft more than doubling its previous viewership record. Following the draft, Fanatics stated that Clark's Indiana Fever jersey — which sold out within an hour — was the top seller for any draft night pick in the company’s history, with droves of unlucky fans now being forced to wait until August to get their hands on some official No. 22 gear.

In Wednesday's Indiana Fever introductory press conference, the unfailingly cool, calm, and collected Clark said that turning pro hasn’t made a huge impact on how she’s conducting her deals.

"If I’m being completely honest, I feel like it doesn’t change a ton from how I lived my life over the course of the last year," she said. "Sponsorships stay the same. The people around me, agents and whatnot, have been able to help me and guide me through the course of the last year. I don’t know if I would be in this moment if it wasn’t for a lot of them."

Star slugger Jocelyn Alo joins Athletes Unlimited AUX league

softball star jocelyn alo rounds the bases at an oklahoma sooners game
Former Oklahoma star Jocelyn Alo has signed with Athletes Unlimited. (Photo by Brian Bahr/Getty Images)

Former Oklahoma slugger Jocelyn Alo has signed on with Athletes Unlimited and will compete in the AU Pro Softball AUX this June.

The NCAA record holder in career home runs (122), total bases (761), and slugging percentage (.987), Alo was originally drafted by the league in 2022 but opted instead to join the newly debuted Women’s Professional Fastpitch

Alo currently plays for independent pro softball team Oklahoma City Spark, with team owner Tina Floyd reportedly on board with her recent AUX signing. AUX games are scheduled for June 10-25, while the Spark's season will kick off June 19th. Alo will play for both. 

Among those joining Alo on the AUX roster are former James Madison ace pitcher Odicci Alexander and former Wichita State standout middle infielder Sydney McKinney.

According to Alo, the decision to play in the Athletes Unlimited league was fueled by her desire to propel women's sports forward as well as provide more exposure to a sport that's given her "so many opportunities."

"Not only to challenge myself more, but just for the growth of the game," Alo said, explaining her reasoning to The Oklahoman. "I genuinely believe that professional softball can be a career for girls."

Joining AUX is also one more step in her plan toward representing Team USA at the 2028 Los Angeles Olympics.

"I’m constantly thinking about how can I do these little things right in these four years to prepare me for the biggest stage of softball," she told The Oklahoman. "I definitely want to play in the Olympics, for sure."

Alo further expressed enthusiasm in the hope that the rise of other women’s sports, like women’s basketball and the NWSL, will push softball’s professional viability even higher.

"We’re seeing the NWSL (National Women’s Soccer League) get their stuff going, I see the WNBA starting to get hot," she continued. "I feel like the softball community is like, 'All right, it’s our turn and it’s our turn to just demand more.'"

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