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Christen Press is lending her voice to change in women’s soccer

Christen Press and Tobin Heath speak at their Re-Inc Women’s World Cup Watch Party in Los Angeles on July 21. (Jon Kopaloff/Getty Images for RE-INC)

Christen Press still has so much that she wants to do. The two-time World Cup champion with the U.S. women’s national team is on the road to recovery from an ACL injury that has sidelined her for over a year, but while working her way back to the pitch, she’s been anything but idle.

On Wednesday morning, the Angel City forward announced a new partnership with Degree as part of the company’s Change the Field program, which is “working to create safe and inclusive environments for girls of color on and off the field with the ‘Girls Can’ module series,” per a release. It’s a cause close to Press’ heart, she says, as a woman of color in a sport where girls of color are two times more likely to drop out of soccer than girls who are white and live in the suburbs.

“I grew up in an incredible place of privilege,” Press tells Just Women’s Sports, noting that her parents had the ability to fully support her soccer ambitions. “But I feel like I deeply understand the impact of racism and how that impacted myself and my family and being welcomed into spaces, including my own community that was predominantly white.”

Press played youth soccer in Orange County, which she describes as that kind of predominantly white environment that can be isolating for a girl of color playing the sport she loves.

“One thing that my parents taught me at a really young age, through their own action, was how to use that privilege to create change,” she says.

Press says her parents sponsored inner-city girls to join her club teams throughout her career, resulting in rosters that were more diverse and inclusive than the norm.

She now wants to help pass that experience onto the next generation, including the lesson that with privilege comes responsibility. Press notes that the common pay-to-play structure of elite youth soccer in the U.S. is prohibitive to a wide swath of talent, denying girls of color what she considers to be a vital outlet.

“I think when it comes to opportunity, it always boils down to me (as) hope,” she says. “And when you really have an environment, a structure and a society that is limiting to people based on their identity, based on their socioeconomic status, what you get taken is the hope. This idea that you can get out, that you can create change, that you are valuable, that gets taken by the infrastructure.”

That’s where the visibility of international athletes who reflect diversity and inclusion can be so important, as well as breaking down the socioeconomic barriers that exist between girls and their ability to participate in soccer at a high level. And it should surprise no one who is familiar with Press’ ambitions that she’s thinking even bigger.

“The second thing is reimagining the business of sport,” she says. “I think it’s essential that we look at putting women and people of color in leadership positions — that’s owning teams, that’s sitting on boards, that’s owning media divisions, being true decision-makers in women’s sports. And that’s how you’re going to see change.”

Press is leading the charge herself, recently taking the time away from active playing status to dive into women’s sports media through RE-INC, the company she founded alongside Tobin Heath, Megan Rapinoe and Meghan Klingenberg. She and Heath are both recovering from knee surgeries that have kept them off the field for the USWNT and their NWSL club teams for an extended period of time.

During the World Cup, they have been hosting “The RE-CAP Show” on YouTube, providing crucial insights both from a USWNT perspective and from years spent playing club soccer across the globe.

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Press and Heath accepted the Arthur Ashe Courage award with their USWNT teammates at the 2023 ESPYs. (David Livingston/FilmMagic)

Press and Heath have welcomed guests from the NWSL and USWNT systems, as well as friends like Sweden’s Kosovare Asllani, The Netherlands’ Vivianne Miedema, and England’s Leah Williamson to offer a refreshing look inside international women’s soccer. Press describes the show as a labor of love, and credits her and Heath’s total creative control as the driving force behind her comfort level in front of the camera.

“I don’t think there has been any time where I felt like I had to be a certain way,” she says. “There’s like an ease in front of the camera that I would not have if I wasn’t, you know, producing the show.”

RE-INC would like to pivot the success of “The RE-CAP Show” into a media division of the larger company, with the hope of providing more voices with that same creative space where they can tell their own stories and not shy away from difficult conversations.

“There’s a missing element that we all collectively can fill through beautiful storytelling, and through honesty, and through authenticity,” says Press.

The USWNT’s disappointing World Cup campaign — their Round of 16 loss marked the earliest exit in team history — quickly transitioned into the loudest voices in the media space getting to dictate the conversation surrounding the team. Press and Heath sought to provide a compelling counter-narrative that came from earned experience.

“There’s just something that happens when you get filtered through someone else’s lens,” Press says. “Like a big broadcast agenda, (or) a partnership that doesn’t align with what you truly are.”

That gap also doesn’t always give real insight into what players are experiencing, and Press knows well that it does not fool the USWNT’s avid soccer fanbase.

“I swear anytime I hear something that is in the fan rumor mill, it’s always true, like the fans know what’s going on,” she says with a laugh. “And there is this, like, intimacy between our audience and us. And that has just been the way that it is because we’re accessible.”

“The RE-CAP Show” is about amplifying those connection points, as Press puts it.

“I think that through our show, we’re able to just put words to our why’s,” she continues. “Why we’re doing the things we’re doing, why it matters, and I think that’s just important for people to hear because it’s already felt, it’s already real. Like the community has been there and they’ve been asking for this, and they’ve been fighting for change alongside us.”

While she’s been participating in this year’s World Cup as a media voice rather than a participant, Press is still locked in on the bigger picture. She has hundreds of takeaways from what she’s seen on the international stage this year: Support at the federation level is inconsistent, but gains at the club level worldwide have ushered in a new level of global parity, and the next generation appears ready to pick up the reins.

“We’ve seen some super young talent be fantastic in this tournament,” she says. “We’ve seen a lot of first goals, first qualifications, first wins, and that’s so exciting. It’s been surprising. We saw world powers fall out far before any of us would have ever predicted, and yet in the semifinal you’ve got a lot of familiar faces and top-six teams and a host country.”

Whatever she does next, Press hopes that the legacy of her generation of players will not carry the same burdens, whether for equal pay or basic levels of professionalism and safety.

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Press has not played since tearing her ACL last summer and having a fourth knee surgery in July. (Brad Smith/ISI Photos/Getty Images)

One of the topics Press has spoken freely about on “The RE-CAP Show” is the feeling of expendability she and her contemporaries struggled with in the NWSL and USWNT, with very little power to control their careers in toxic environments. Press played a key role in the eventual investigation into Rory Dames’ behavior while he was coach of the Chicago Red Stars, filing a formal complaint with U.S. Soccer in 2018. Dames was eventually pushed to resign in 2021 amid allegations of emotional and verbal abuse, and was officially banned from the NWSL in the wake of formal investigation findings in early 2023.

If Press has her way, the experiences she’s had as a player will never even cross the mind of the next generation of stars, like 18-year-old Alyssa Thompson, the youngest player on the USWNT’s World Cup roster.

“I hope that the next generation of player is unburdened,” she says. “I hope that the fight that we have had, that we are having is lesser, that it’s lighter, that it’s possible for a player to just be a professional player and they don’t have to be ‘and’ something else. They don’t have to, ‘and fight to get paid,’ ‘and be’ all these other things that were required of us.

“I think if that’s true for Alyssa Thompson, and she gets to grow up and be a pro and get paid and never have to worry about that, that would be a sign of huge success.”

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

USWNT to face Costa Rica in final Olympic send-off

uswnt sophia smith and tierna davidson celebrate at shebeilves cup 2024
The USWNT will play their final pre-Olympic friendly against Costa Rica on July 16th. (Photo by Greg Bartram/ISI Photos/USSF/Getty Images for USSF)

U.S. Soccer announced Tuesday that the USWNT will play their last home game on July 16th in the lead-up to the 2024 Summer Olympic Games in Paris.

The 2024 Send-Off Match against Costa Rica will take place at Washington, DC’s Audi Field — home to both the Washington Spirit and DC United — at 7:30 p.m. ET on Tuesday, July 16th. The friendly rounds out a four-game Olympic run-up campaign under incoming head coach Emma Hayes’ side, with the last two set to feature the finalized 2024 U.S. Olympic Women’s Soccer Team roster.

Hayes will appear on the USWNT sideline for the first time this June, helming the team as they embark on a two-game series against Korea Republic hosted by Dick’s Sporting Goods Park in Commerce City, Colorado on June 1st followed by Allianz Stadium in St. Paul, Minnesota on June 4th. 

The team is then scheduled to meet a talented Mexico squad on July 13th at Gotham FC’s Red Bull Arena in Harrison, New Jersey, where the Olympic-bound lineup will attempt to rewrite February’s shocking 2-0 loss to El Tri Femenil in the group stages of this year’s Concacaf W Gold Cup. And while clear roster favorites have emerged from both of this year’s Gold Cup and SheBelives Cup rosters, a spate of recent and recurring injuries means making it to the Olympics is still largely anyone’s game.

Broadcast and streaming channels for the USWNT's final July 16th friendly at Audi Field include TNT, truTV, Universo, Max, and Peacock.

Caitlin Clark’s WNBA start to serve as 2024 Olympic tryout

Clark of the Indiana Fever poses for a photo with Lin Dunn and Christie Sides during her introductory press conference on April 17, 2024
The talented Fever rookie is still in the running for a ticket to this summer's Paris Olympics. (Photo by Ron Hoskins/NBAE via Getty Images)

The USA Basketball Women's National Team is still considering Caitlin Clark for a spot on the Paris Olympics squad, says selection committee chair Jennifer Rizzotti. 

On Monday, Rizzotti told the AP that the committee will be evaluating the college phenom’s Olympic prospects by keeping a close eye on her first few weeks of WNBA play with Indiana.

The move is somewhat unconventional. While Clark was invited to participate in the 14-player national team training camp held earlier this month — the last camp before Team USA’s roster drops — she was unable to attend due to it coinciding with Iowa’s trip to the NCAA Women’s Final Four.

Judging by the immense talent spread throughout the league in what might be their most hyped season to date, competition for a piece of the Olympic pie could be fiercer than ever before.

"You always want to introduce new players into the pool whether it's for now or the future," said Rizzotti. "We stick to our principles of talent, obviously, positional fit, loyalty and experience. It's got to be a combination of an entire body of work. It's still not going to be fair to some people."

Of course, Clark isn’t the first rookie the committee has made exceptions for. Coming off an exceptional college season that saw her averaging 19.4 points, 8.7 rebounds, and 4 assists per game for UConn, Breanna Stewart was tapped to represent the U.S. at the 2016 Olympics in Brazil less than two weeks after being drafted No. 1 overall by the Seattle Storm. Eight years prior, fellow No. 1 pick Candace Parker punched her ticket to the 2008 Games in Beijing just two weeks after making her first appearance for the L.A. Sparks.

In the lead-up to Paris’ Opening Ceremony on July 26th, USA Basketball Women’s National Team is scheduled to play a pair of exhibition games. They'll first go up against the WNBA's finest at the July 20th WNBA All-Star Game in Phoenix before facing Germany in London on July 23rd.

While an official roster announcement date hasn’t yet been issued, players won’t find out if they’ve made this year’s Olympic cut until at least June 1st.

WNBA teams make history with 2024 season ticket sell-outs

Arike Ogunbowale on the wnba court for the dallas wings
The Dallas Wings are now the third team to sell out their entire season ticket allotment in WNBA history. (Michael Gonzales/NBAE via Getty Images)

For the first time in history, three different WNBA teams have completely sold out of season ticket plans well before the league's May 14th kick-off.

Call it the Caitlin Clark effect, attribute it to this year’s tenacious rookie class, or look to the skyrocketing visibility of veteran players across the board. But no matter the cause, facts are facts: Tickets to the 2024 WNBA season are selling like never before. 

On Monday, the Dallas Wings became the third team to sell out of season ticket memberships in the league’s 27-year history. The announcement from Arlington came shortly after the Atlanta Dream issued their own season ticket sell-out statement, also on Monday, and almost seven weeks after the back-to-back WNBA Champion Las Vegas Aces made headlines by becoming the first-ever WNBA team to sell out their season ticket allotment.   

According to the Wings, season ticket memberships will fill nearly 40% of the 6,251 seats inside their home arena, College Park Center. The club also said that their overall ticket revenue has ballooned to the tune of 220% this year, spanning not just season tickets but also a 1,200% increase in single ticket sales. There’s currently a waitlist to become a Dallas season ticket holder, a status that comes with extra incentives like playoff presale access and discounts on additional single-game tickets. 

In Atlanta, season tickets aren't the only thing flying off the shelves. The Dream also announced that they broke their own record for single-game ticket sales during a recent limited presale campaign. Sunday was reportedly their most lucrative day, with five different games totally selling out Gateway Center Arena. Individual tickets for all upcoming matchups will hit the market this Thursday at 8 a.m., while a waitlist for season ticket memberships will open up next Tuesday at 10 a.m.

"Excitement around women's sports, particularly basketball, is at an all-time high and nowhere is that felt more than here in Atlanta," Dream president and COO Morgan Shaw Parker said in the team’s statement. "We’ve continued a record-setting growth trajectory over the past three years under new ownership — both on and off the court — and 2024 is shaping up to be our best season yet."

As of Tuesday, season ticket sales revenue for Caitlin Clark’s hotly anticipated Indiana Fever debut haven’t yet been announced by the club. But if these numbers are any indication — not to mention the explosive demand for Fever away games felt by teams around the country — it won’t be long before we see some scale-tipping figures coming out of Indianapolis.

Nelly Korda ties LPGA record with fifth-straight tournament win

Nelly Korda of the United States celebrates with the trophy after winning The Chevron Championship
Nelly Korda poses with her trophy after acing her fifth-straight tour title at The Chevron Championship on Sunday. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

25-year-old American pro golfer Nelly Korda secured her spot in LPGA history on Sunday, notching her fifth-straight title at this weekend's Chevron Championship in The Woodlands, Texas.

Ranked No. 1 in the world by Rolex Women’s World Golf Rankings, Korda joins Nancy Lopez (1978) and Annika Sörenstam (2005) as just the third LPGA player to rack up five consecutive tour wins. She is also the third No. 1-ranked player to capture The Chevron Championship victory since the rankings debuted in 2006, accompanied by Lorena Ochoa and Lydia Ko.

The Florida native shot three-under 69 in Sunday's final, besting Sweden's Maja Stark despite Stark's valiant come-from-behind attempt in the 18th. Korda finished with a four-day total of 13-under 275, celebrating her two-stroke win by cannonballing into Poppie's Pond, much to the crowd's delight. She left The Club at Carlton Woods with $1.2 million from an overall purse of $7.9 million.

It wasn't long ago that the two-time major champion's current winning streak seemed unimaginable. After maintaining her No. 1 position for 29 weeks, Korda underwent surgery to remove a blood clot from her left arm in 2022. She returned to the course not long after, but failed to win a single tournament in 2023 before seeing a surge in form during the first four months of 2024. As of today, she hasn't lost a tournament since January.

Korda will attempt a record sixth-straight win at next week's JM Eagle LA Championship at Wilshire Country Club in Los Angeles, where she'll vie for a cut of the $3.75 million purse.

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