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Five USWNT prospects who could be ready for 2024 Olympics

Mia Fishel recently signed with Chelsea after a breakout rookie season in Liga MX Femenil last year. (Alfredo Lopez/Jam Media/Getty Images)

As the U.S. women’s national team heads home early from the 2023 World Cup, they’ll soon start preparing for the next big international tournament: the 2024 Paris Olympics.

The Games are a little less than a year away, which could be cause for panic after the USWNT suffered its earliest World Cup exit in history. With the potential for a new coaching hire and a new-look roster as veterans step away from the team, there could be many shake-ups on the horizon.

The U.S. will hope to welcome back several stars from injury, including forwards Mallory Swanson and Catarina Macario. But other injured players are question marks, as are some of the younger prospects who were left off the squad this time but could make their case in the next year. Here are five of them.

Jaedyn Shaw, Forward

Jaedyn Shaw had a case for making the USWNT’s 2023 World Cup roster. Coach Vlatko Andonovski included 18-year-old Alyssa Thompson on his final 23-player roster, and Shaw has similar promise and even more professional experience. The 18-year-old has made 22 appearances for the San Diego Wave and recorded seven goals, including four so far this season.

While no longer one of the youngest signings in the NWSL, she recently signed an extension with the Wave that will keep her with the NWSL club through 2026. She also won U.S. Soccer’s Young Player of the Year award in 2022, after a successful U-20 World Cup campaign.

“Obviously the national team recognition is going to keep coming if she keeps performing,” San Diego head coach Casey Stoney told Just Women’s Sports in June. “And we need to make sure that we look after her on and off the field, because she’s still an 18-year-old and she’s still young, and we need to make sure that she’s ready for everything that comes her way.”

By the time the 2024 Olympics roll around, Shaw will have three seasons of professional experience under her belt. While it might be difficult for Shaw to step in at forward given the USWNT’s depth at the position, she’s worthy of consideration and should earn her first senior international call-up sometime in the next year.

Mia Fishel, Forward

After being selected in the 2022 NWSL Draft, Fishel opted to forgo the NWSL in favor of playing for Tigres UANL in Liga MX Femenil. There, the 22-year-old went on an absolute tear, becoming the first foreign-born player to win the league’s Golden Boot with 17 goals while helping Tigres to the league title as a rookie. But it wasn’t enough to earn her a USWNT roster call-up.

Conversations grew more positive over time, with Andonovski noting that NWSL forwards were “performing as good and even better than Mia,” and later saying they were “having good conversations with” her and the USWNT was “happy for her success down there.”

“At the same time, she understands the competition that is on the national team and the players she is competing against,” Andonovski said last November. “She’s patiently waiting for her opportunity. I wouldn’t be surprised if we see her in a future camp.”

Yet, as of August 2023, Fishel has yet to feature for the USWNT.

“Mia is a very good young player, we are very familiar with her qualities,” Andonovski said in January. “But as of right now, after looking at everything, we decided the forwards that we have in camp are going to give us the best chance to be successful.”

In the meantime, Fishel continued to produce in Mexico, scoring 38 goals through 48 appearances. She’ll soon get more experience against top competition after signing with European powerhouse Chelsea last week. Her transfer fee ranks among the highest in the world, meaning Chelsea manager Emma Hayes is putting a lot of stock into Fishel becoming one of the best players in the world at her position.

As Fishel joins Chelsea, expect her USWNT prospects to change heading into Olympic roster selection.

Jaelin Howell (Maria Lysaker/USA TODAY Sports)

Jaelin Howell, Midfield

At 23 years old, Howell has one goal in five international appearances, scoring against Uzbekistan last year. She began 2023 with a USWNT call-up before seemingly falling off Andonovski’s radar.

When it comes to the role of defensive midfielder, Howell is elite. The 2022 No. 2 draft pick ranks in the 90th percentile or better in tackles, interceptions, clearances and aerials won in the NWSL. Her pass completion is 80.2 percent this season for Racing Louisville, and she’s creating 1.76 shot attempts per 90, which is good for seventh in the NWSL. She’s also first in the NWSL in tackles and tackles won, and she ranked first blocks in 2022.

Why Howell hasn’t gotten a deeper look for the USWNT is a mystery, though that could change heading into 2024 — especially given how some of her Racing Louisville teammates performed at this year’s World Cup.

Sam Coffey, Midfield

Sam Coffey was one of a few players who drew the short straw for the USWNT’s World Cup roster. One of the team’s biggest snubs alongside forward Ashley Hatch, Coffey had been having a great start to the NWSL season at the No. 6 position. But her style of play didn’t always fit with Andonovski’s tactical decisions, and with Andi Sullivan out-playing her in camp and the return of Julie Ertz, there wasn’t room for the 24-year-old.

Coffey continues to develop her game as a holding midfielder, a position of need for the U.S. in the absence of Ertz, who announced her retirement after the Round of 16 loss.

“Her time will come, I have no doubt,” USWNT star forward Sophia Smith said following the roster announcement. “I fully believe that she will be the holding midfielder on the national team for a very long time.”

Phallon Tullis-Joyce (Nathan Ray Seebeck/USA TODAY Sports)

Phallon Tullis-Joyce, Goalkeeper

Even after her heroics in the USWNT’s Round of 16 game, USWNT goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher’s time with the team will come to an end at some point. The 35-year-old will have a shot at the 2024 Olympic roster, and maybe even the 2027 World Cup, but the U.S. will need to start developing their next No. 1 keeper

While both Casey Murphy and Aubrey Kingsbury are worthy options, Phallon Tullis-Joyce continues to play her way into consideration for a USWNT look.

Tullis-Joyce has been one of the NWSL’s best goalkeepers over the last two seasons, ranking first in the league with 0.86 goals against per 90 minutes last season and currently sixth at 1.20 through 15 games this season. Her save percentage is lower this year than it was in 2022, but is still above 70 percent. As the USWNT builds out its goalkeeper depth chart for 2024, the 26-year-old has made a strong case for inclusion.

2023 MVP Breanna Stewart Drops 31 Points in Liberty’s Huge Win Over Fever

breanna stewart and jonquel jones of the new york liberty celebrate win over indiana fever
Stewie and the Liberty dominated the court throughout Thursday's Fever home opener. (Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images)

The New York Liberty dominated Indiana on Thursday night, winning by a whopping 36 points in the Fever's home opener. 

A sold-out crowd of 17,274 was in attendance to watch as star rookie Caitlin Clark finished the 102-66 defeat with nine points, seven rebounds, and six assists. It’s the first time since January 2021 — her freshman season at Iowa — that Clark's been held to single-digit scoring. 

"The physicality is definitely up there... I'm easily pushed off screens," she told reporters after the loss. "The game seems a little fast for me right now. The more I play and the more comfortable I get, it's going to slow down a little bit. It will be easier for me to make reads, see things develop."

The Fever were outscored by a combined margin of 57 points in their first two games — the largest two-game point deficit in WNBA season-opening history, according to @ESPNStatsInfo.

"We've got to get to a level of toughness," Fever coach Christie Sides in her own postgame remarks. "When things are going south on us, we're not stopping the bleeding."

"I have great perspective on everything that happens," Clark added. "It was the same in my college career. There were some moments that were absolutely amazing. And there were some moments I was not happy with how I played and how my team performed. That's just life, that's just basketball."

Liberty guard Sabrina Ionescu, who herself experienced a rocky rookie season following a much-hyped college career, offered up some insight on the matter.

"In this league, there are tough defenses all centered around not letting you get the ball, trapping, not letting you score," Ionescu said. "There were many factors that played into what was a tough first season for me in the league, but it helps you be able to figure it out. You have to have those experiences."

But it was reigning league MVP Breanna Stewart that truly stole the show, racking up 31 points, 10 rebounds, four assists, three steals, and two blocks on the night.

"In general, I just wanted to come out more aggressive coming off of last game," Stewart said after putting up the 24th 30-point game in her career.

Stewart she also commended the fans inside Indianapolis's packed Gainbridge Fieldhouse, noting that she hopes that level of support to continue across the WNBA.

"This is how you want every game to be and when it's a sell-out crowd, it gives you a similar playoff atmosphere feel," she said. "People want to be a part of this and the thing now is to continue to sustain it, continue to take the momentum that we have and turn it into something more."

WNBA Commissioner Admits to ‘Faulty’ Charter Rollout

WNBA commissioner Cathy Engelbert at 2024 wnba draft
Cathy Engelbert at the 2024 WNBA Draft in New York. (Cora Veltman/Sportico via Getty Images)

WNBA commissioner Cathy Engelbert admitted to a "faulty rollout" of the new charter travel initiative on Thursday, the Chicago Sun-Times reported.

Ahead of Tuesday's season opener, it was announced that the only teams flying private this week would be Indiana and Minnesota. The announcement came mere days after the league made a new charter flight program for all WNBA teams public. At the time, they said it would be implemented "as soon as we have the planes."

But as two teams out of 12 chartered to their first games of the season, others like the Atlanta Dream and Chicago Sky were forced to fly commercial.

A town hall meeting between Engelbert and the players was held in response to the confusion. Everything from the league's new media rights deal to private travel was covered in the meeting, with players submitting their questions ahead of time. Sky center Elizabeth Williams told Sun-Times reporter Annie Costabile afterwards that cross-country flights were prioritized.

"Flights that are across the country like [the Lynx] going to Seattle, crossing multiple time zones, or flights that usually require a connection, those were the priorities," Williams said. "That’s why New York didn’t go to DC with a charter, but Minny goes to Seattle."

What’s unclear under that metric is that the Atlanta Dream played the Los Angeles Sparks on Wednesday, which could technically be classified as a cross-country flight. 

On Tuesday, rookie forward Angel Reese shared a photo on her Instagram story lamenting the league's use of commercial flights.

"Just praying that this is one of the last commercial flights the Sky has to fly," Reese posted. The team still has at least three commercial flights awaiting them in the near future.

"Obviously, I think all teams should be able to get chartered," Reese told the Sun-Times. "But I know moving forward... going in the right direction, being able to have some teams [chartering] is cool. Within the next weeks, everybody will be flying charter, which will be really good."

On Thursday, Lindsay Schnell of USAToday Sports confirmed that the league intends to have all teams on charter flights by May 21st.

Brazil Wins Bid for 2027 Women’s World Cup Host

fifa womens world cup trophy on display
The FIFA Women's World Cup trophy on display in Bangkok after Brazil was announced as the 2027 host country. (Thananuwat Srirasant - FIFA/FIFA via Getty Images)

Brazil has been named the host for the 2027 Women’s World Cup, with FIFA announced early Friday. 

The decision came after a vote at the 74th FIFA Congress in Bangkok, with Brazil earning 119 votes to the joint European bid’s 78. 

This will be Brazil’s first time hosting the Women’s World Cup, with the country having hosted the men’s World Cup twice before in 1950 and 2014. It will also be the first Women’s World Cup held in South America. The tournament will follow the same 32-team format as the 2023 WWC in Australia and New Zealand.

Brazil winning the bid was not entirely surprising after FIFA issued a report just last week, stating that the Brazilian bid had pulled ahead as host following technical inspection. After evaluation, Brazil was given a score of 4.0 out of 5, compared to the 3.7 awarded to the Germany, Belgium, and the Netherlands.

Brazil ranked higher in a number of key areas, including stadiums, accommodations, fan zones, and transport infrastructure. Though considered to be a frontrunner, the US and Mexico withdrew their joint bid prior to the technical inspection period, saying they would instead focus their efforts on 2031.

On Friday, Brazilian Football Confederation (CBF) president Ednaldo Rodrigues called it a "victory." 

"We knew we would be celebrating a victory for South American women's soccer and for women," he told reporters. "You can be sure, with no vanity, we will accomplish the best World Cup for women."

"We are working on a transformation, not only for the country but for the continent," added bid team operational manager Valesca Araujo.

Brazil intends to use 10 of the venues utilized at the 2014 men’s World Cup, including holding the final in Rio de Janeiro on July 25th. The CBF's proposal outlines that the 2027 tournament run from June 24th through the end of July. Last summer’s World Cup began at the end of July and concluded on August 19th.

Another notable element of Brazil's newly unveiled plan to grow of the women’s game is that "all [men’s] clubs wishing to take part in high-level national and continental competitions must now provide a structure for a women’s team." While the definition of "structure" was not specifically identified, the country has set targets with CONMEBOL to help increase the number of women’s club teams in the country.

In last week's inspection findings, FIFA noted that selecting Brazil as the next WWC host could "have a tremendous impact on women's football in the region."

Chelsea Eyes Weekend Finale With WSL Title in Sight

chelsea players celebrate win against tottenham in the wsl
Chelsea beat Tottenham on Wednesday, moving to the top of the table in an effort to win departing coach Emma Hayes some silverware. (John Walton/PA Images via Getty Images)

Chelsea did what they needed to do on Wednesday in order to make Saturday's slate of season-ending WSL fixtures interesting: Beat Tottenham.

The Blues are now number one in the league, with an edge over Manchester City on goal differential thanks to an eight-goal outing against Bristol City last week. 

Yesterday's result tees up a league finale for the books as Chelsea looks to send coach Emma Hayes off with another trophy to add to her cabinet. The Blues will play FA Cup winner Manchester City at Old Trafford on Saturday, while City is away at Aston Villa.

"We will be leaving nothing on the pitch, we will be giving everything and no matter what the result is," Chelsea midfielder Erin Cuthbert said after Wednesday's win. "At least we can look each other in the eye and say we gave everything."

It makes for a thrilling end to Chelsea's Emma Hayes era, as the decorated WSL coach will take over the USWNT in June. And it comes after Hayes all but conceded the title race early this month after Chelsea fell to Liverpool 4-3.

"I think the title is done," Hayes said at the time. "Of course, mathematically, it's not, but I think the title is done. Our job between now and the end of the season is to keep pushing until the end, but I think it will be very difficult.

"We will never give up. But the title is far from us; it's not in our hands. I think City are deserving, their consistency has put them in that position. Of course, we will go to the end, but I don't think the title will be going to us this year."

Be it mind games or Hayes truly thinking her team was that far off, her words lit something in Chelsea. Their following two performances showed the team’s determination to have a shot at some silverware.

As for Saturday's schedule, Hayes believes her team is facing the "tougher of the two games."

"It's a fitting finale for me, being my final game," she told BBC Sport. "As I said to the players if someone gives you a second chance in life, make sure you don't need a third one. We're in the position we want to be in, and we'll give it everything on Saturday no matter what."

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