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FIFA ‘looking into’ ticketing issues as World Cup demand soars

(Harold Cunningham/FIFA via Getty Images)

FIFA’s handling of the fan experience for the 2023 World Cup came under fire this week, as fans struggled with a complicated ticketing rollout following the final draw on Oct. 22. In a statement to Australian news outlet ABC on Tuesday, FIFA said there has been an “unprecedented” demand for tickets.

As the tournament expands in size and scope, there is warranted concern that world football’s governing body isn’t taking the task at hand seriously enough.

“I would say that the ticketing — absolutely something that we’re looking into. There’s been a huge amount of requests, specifically after the draw,” Arijana Demirovic, FIFA Director of Women’s Football Development, told Just Women’s Sports in a small media roundtable on Friday.

A FIFA media officer also said that the organization is optimistic about the targeted sale of 1.5 million tickets for the tournament. The 2019 World Cup surpassed one million tickets sold four days in, selling out 14 of 52 matches. With an expanded field of 32 teams playing 62 matches in 2023, a projection of 1.5 million tickets sold sounds almost conservative despite whatever challenges a tournament in the expansive region of Australia and New Zealand might present for traveling fans.

With demand, however, comes complications. Tickets for a number of the Matildas’ high-profile group-stage games disappeared before fans could even sign up for a presale. A FIFA spokesperson stands by the work the organization has done behind the scenes to be ready for ticketing demand.

The general sales stage began on Nov. 1 and will run all the way to March 2023, but tiered ticketing is complicated, especially when sponsors are involved. Visa has been a FIFA partner since 2007, and their cardholders received access to pre-draw tickets as early as Oct 6. The rest of the population followed on Oct. 12.

After the Oct. 22 draw, which showed fans the participating nations’ paths through the tournament, Visa users again got early access. From Oct. 25-31, Visa cardholders could buy tickets before general sales began in November. Both the Visa pre-sale and the general sale ticket releases were done by time zone, meaning the middle of the night for some fans.

FIFA's Director of Women's Football, Arijana Demirovic, addressed the media Friday. (Christopher Lee - FIFA/FIFA via Getty Images)

“Some of the communications that have been going in certain time zones were maybe not correct for some of the fans, or some of the fans felt that they missed out because maybe it was in the middle of the night for specific matches that they were targeting,” Demirovic said. “There are still tickets available, and there will be different sales stages for the tickets. And I’m hopeful that many more fans will be able to get those tickets.”

Those fans will now have to wait until the “final sales phase,” which begins in April 2023.

“It is my understanding that there will be other opportunities to purchase tickets specifically for those matches that have been extremely popular among the domestic fans in Australia,” Demirovic said. “Because they’re having some big matches in their group stage, and there’s quite a hype around those matches.”

While the international demand for World Cup tickets grows with every iteration of the event, failure in domestic ticketing opportunities undermines FIFA’s stated desire to grow the game in Australia and New Zealand.

“One of the appealing reasons why Australia and New Zealand was selected was obviously because of that development based around [Oceania Football Confederation] and in Asia generally,“ a FIFA spokesperson said.

Demirovic specifically noted the fan interest for tournament debutantes like Morocco and Zambia, as well as promotional events like a trophy tour to drum up excitement for the event.

“I have to say that we will be able to see more and more information in the coming weeks, but already from the initial ticket sales, we’re seeing quite a lot of nationalities registering for tickets as well,” she said. “A big Australian and Kiwi contingent, so to say, but quite a lot of different nationalities.”

Ultimately, Demirovic sees the overwhelming demand as a positive: If some fans miss out, then the Women’s World Cup has cultivated a valuable ticket.

“The reality is there is a capacity at the stadium that we will reach at one point,” she said, “and hopefully those fans are then just glued on their screens and are finding different opportunities to also follow the game rather than to get discouraged, in case they cannot join some of the matches.”

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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