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Exclusive: Kelley O’Hara announces retirement at end of 2024 NWSL season

uswnt player kelley o'hara poses with an american flag at the world cup
USWNT defender Kelley O'Hara will close out her decorated career at the end of the 2024 NWSL season. (Jose Breton/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

After an illustrious career for both club and country, Gotham FC and U.S. Women’s National Team defender Kelley O’Hara announced today via Kelley on the Street that she will be retiring from professional soccer at the end of this year, making the 2024 NWSL season her last.

"I have always said I would play under two conditions: that I still love playing soccer, and if my body would let me do it the way I wanted to," O’Hara told Just Women’s Sports in the lead-up to her retirement announcement. "I realized a while back that I was always going to love it, so it was the physical piece that was going to be the deciding factor."

The 35-year-old will retire as a two-time World Cup champion, an Olympic gold medalist, and at least a two-time NWSL champion, depending on where Gotham finishes this season. Her legacy as a player is hard to fully encapsulate, and will forever run through some of the biggest snapshots in USWNT and NWSL history. 

In 2012, O’Hara played every minute of the USWNT’s Olympic gold medal run, after having recently converted into a defender. Her soaring goal off the bench in the 2015 World Cup semifinal is the stuff of legend. And her return from lingering injury to play in every knockout match of the national team’s 2019 World Cup win cemented a storybook international career. 

It was O’Hara who scored the overtime goal in 2021 to earn the Washington Spirit their first-ever NWSL championship, and O’Hara who returned to help see Gotham earn a title in 2023 after years spent in the trenches with the club’s previous iteration, Sky Blue. Her 15-year career spanned two professional women’s soccer leagues in the U.S. (she earned her first professional title in 2010 with WPS’s FC Gold Pride), as well as sweeping changes to the sport both on and off the pitch.

O'Hara celebrates after scoring the winning goal for the Washington Spirit at the 2021 NWSL Championship match in Louisville, Kentucky. (Jamie Rhodes/USA TODAY Sports)

On the field, O’Hara has always been known for a motor that never quits, making the right flank her domain in attacking possession and defensive transition. In recent years, she’s also been celebrated for a competitive fire that raises the level of her teammates, whether she’s in the starting XI or supporting from the bench.

But injuries take a toll, a reality not always seen by the fans watching from home. "I've never taken anything for granted, and I feel like I've never coasted either," O’Hara said of her late-career success in the NWSL despite battling injuries. "I've always been like, 'I gotta put my best foot forward every single day I step on this field' — which is honestly probably half the reason why I'm having to retire now as opposed to getting a couple more years out of it. I've just grinded hard."

Recently, O’Hara has been sidelined at Gotham with ankle and knee injuries, and the situation motivated her to really prioritize listening to her body. "To get injured and come back, and get injured and come back, and just keep doing it, it really takes a toll on you.

"People don't see the doubt that's associated with injury,” she continued. "As athletes we feel a certain way, we perform a certain way, our body feels a certain way, we're very in tune with our bodies. And there's always so much doubt surrounding injury. It’s like, 'Can I feel the way I felt before?' The reality is sometimes you don't."

O’Hara didn’t arrive at the decision to move on from her playing career lightly. But once she began seriously considering making 2024 her final year during the last NWSL offseason, it felt right. "Once I was like, 'Alright, you know what, this will be my last year,' I have had a lot of peace with it," she said. "Truly the only thing I felt was gratitude for everything that my career has been, all the things I've been able to do and the people I've been able to do it with."

She said she’ll miss daily interactions with her teammates and all the amazing memories they’ve created, though she feels lucky to have formed relationships that go beyond sharing a locker room. "You're basically getting to hang out and just shoot the shit with your best friends every day," she reflected. "Which is so unheard of, and I just feel very lucky to do it for so long."

O'Hara poses with USWNT teammates Alex Morgan and Tobin Heath after winning the 2015 Women's World Cup in Vancouver, Canada. (Mike Hewitt - FIFA/FIFA via Getty Images)

The Stanford graduate also mentioned that the NWSL’s suspension of regular season play in 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic made her realize how much playing allowed her the space to simply be creative every day. The tactical elements of soccer provided O’Hara an outlet for problem solving and made use of her naturally competitive edge.

She’s now gearing up to channel her on-field intensity into her post-playing career full time, which is a new chapter she’s excited to begin. "I don't know if the world's ready for it, like the fact that I'm not going to be putting all of my energy into football all the time," she said with a laugh. 

O’Hara said she would like to stay connected to the game in some fashion, whether it be as an owner, coach, or member of a front office. She’s also interested in the growing media space surrounding women’s sports, having provided on-camera analysis for broadcasters like CBS Sports in addition to starting a production company with her fiancée.

"I just feel like I have a lot of passions, and things that excite me," she says. "And I do want to stay as close as I can to the game, because I feel a responsibility — and I'm not sure in what capacity — to continue to grow it."

O'Hara speaking with fellow USWNT members and vets at the White House Equal Pay Day Summit in 2022. (JIM WATSON/AFP via Getty Images)

A sense of responsibility to grow the game has been a consistent refrain for the USWNT and NWSL players of O’Hara’s era, who ushered in a new age of equal pay for the national team and collectively bargained protections for those in the league. The landscape for new players looks different than it did 14 years ago, in large part due to this pivotal generation.

"I feel an immense sense of pride around that, because I don't know if any of us knew that was gonna happen," she said. "We kind of, as things unfolded, took the next step towards changing what women's football looks like in this country and around the world.

"I'm really grateful to have been part of this era with the players that I was [with], not backing down and pushing and knowing that was the right thing to do."

Whatever the future holds, O’Hara is going ahead full throttle. It’s a piece of advice she’d also give to the next generation of professionals looking to make their own impact.

"Whatever you do in life, do it because you love it, and the chips will fall in place," she said. "If you love something, you're willing to do what it takes. You're willing to make the sacrifices, you're willing to handle the roller coaster.

"To me, it's simple. Don't do it for any other reason but that, and I think you'll be alright."

Two-time Ballon d’Or winner Alexia Putellas Re-Signs with Barcelona on Two-Year Deal

Alexia Putellas on the field for barcelona
The two-time Ballon d’Or winner has been with Barcelona for 12 years. (Alex Caparros/Getty Images)

Alexia Putellas has re-signed with FC Barcelona on a new two-year deal that will run through 2026. The agreement includes an option for a one-year extension. 

The two-time Ballon d’Or winner has been with Barcelona for 12 years, and her previous contract was set to expire next month. However, she’s spent the better part of the last two seasons battling injuries, starting with an ACL tear that kept her out of the 2022 UEFA European Women's Football Championship and limited her participation in Spain’s FIFA Women's World Cup win last summer. 

Putellas returned in March from her latest injury setback, making 25 appearances across all competitions for Barcelona this season and scoring 10 goals. 

In total, the midfielder has made 400 appearances for Barcelona. Among her 20 major trophies with the club include eight Liga F titles and two UEFA Champions League titles — including helping the team to its first European trophy in 2021. 

She then won the Ballon d’Or in back-to-back seasons in 2021 and 2022. 

Putellas could add a third Champions League trophy next weekend, when Barcelona faces familiar foe Lyon, a team they’ve lost to in two previous Champions League finals. Should they secure the UWCL, they would win the quadruple for the first time, having already won Liga F, the Copa de la Reina, and the Spanish Supercopa. 

WNBA on Pace for Record-Breaking Season

onquel Jones #35 of the New York Liberty rebounds during the game against the Indiana Fever on May 18, 2024 at Barclays Center in Brooklyn
Indiana's game against New York on Saturday was the most-watched WNBA game to ever air on ABC. (Stephen Gosling/NBAE via Getty Images)

The WNBA continues its historic trajectory one week into the season, with attendance and viewership skyrocketing across the board. 

Indiana’s Saturday game against the New York Liberty was the most-watched WNBA game ever on ABC, drawing 1.71 million viewers. The Sparks vs. Aces matchup that followed became the third most-watched WNBA game broadcast on ABC with 1.34 million viewers.

On Monday, the tense finish between Indiana and Connecticut drew 1.56 million viewers to ESPN, the second most-watched WNBA game to ever air on cable.

Outside of the league’s viewership, both in-person attendance and merchandise sales have also been on a meteoric rise. On Saturday, the game between New York and Indiana shattered the single-game ticket revenue record in the WNBA, with the Liberty pulling in $2 million in sales. 

New York and Indiana played their home openers in front of more than 17,000 fans, with attendance up 14% year-over-year, according to the league. Meanwhile, the Las Vegas Aces, the Liberty, the Wings, the Dream, and others have already sold out of their 2024 season ticket allotments.

Since April’s WNBA Draft, revenue from the WNBA’s official online store is up 2,260%, already blowing past total sales for the entire 2023 season.

While the numbers may cool somewhat as teams settle into their seasons, the pop in demand has already overwhelmingly delivered for the WNBA in 2024.

Angel Reese Adds USL Team Owner to Growing Résumé

chicago sky rookie angel reese speaking at an event
Star rookie Angel Reese is all in on the USL Super League. (JC Olivera/Variety via Getty Images)

Chicago Sky rookie Angel Reese continues to add to her résumé, becoming the newest member of the DC Power Football Club’s ownership group

The No. 7 pick in the WNBA draft joins an group that includes the MLS team DC United as well as other DC-area community members and business owners. One of the USL Super League’s inaugural clubs, DC Power FC is set to begin play in August. 

"I want to help grow women's sports and elevate female athletes across the board," Reese, who's from Maryland, said in a statement. "We're taking over, and I'm honored to be able to support Power FC and invest in women's soccer in the DMV (District, Maryland, Virginia) community."

The USL is a sanctioned Division I league, meaning that it is on par with the NWSL and MLS in the United States. The league's eight current clubs are Brooklyn FC, Carolina Ascent FC, Dallas Trinity FC, DC Power FC, Fort Lauderdale United FC, Lexington SC, Spokane Zephyr FC, and Tampa Bay Sun FC.

DC Power FC will also be playing their home games in a familiar location: Matches will be hosted at DC’s Audi Field in partnership with MLS side DC United. Audi Field also home to the NWSL’s Washington Spirit.

"Angel's decision to be a founding investor alongside us in Power FC is groundbreaking," Jason Levien, DC United's CEO and co-chair, said in a statement. "As a Maryland native, Angel is so passionate about being a catalyst for positive change in women's sports in the DMV as well as globally while inspiring the next generation of female athletes. We're looking forward to her partnership in the boardroom as an equity partner."

It's been speculated that the Super League ultimately intends to compete outright with the NWSL. But in its first year, the league will focus on featuring the depth of women's soccer talent in the US.

Former NWSL players like Taylor Aylmer (Spokane), Jordyn Listro (Tampa Bay), Erika Tymrak (Tampa Bay), and Domi Richardson (Tampa Bay) have already announced a return to professional soccer via the USL.

The league is aiming to provide counter-programming to summer women's sports in the States, with a season running from fall to spring like the European calendar.

In a social media post, Reese said that she’s "grateful & blessed" to be part of the new ownership group. It’s the latest move in what has been a whirlwind spring for Reese, which included getting drafted, attending the Met Gala, signing a new partnership with Good American, and debuting with the Chicago Sky, among other achievements.

"Looking forward to creating new opportunities for women in professional soccer," she tweeted. "I’ve always had to desire to invest in a local team as a Maryland native!"

Reese is the latest female athlete to buy into a women’s sports team, joining the likes of Naomi Osaka, who owns a stake in the North Carolina Courage, and Serena Williams, who's part-owner of Angel City FC. 

Other pro athletes involved in women's sports team ownership include Patrick Mahomes, who shares ownership responsibilities of the Kansas City Current with his wife Brittany. Kevin Durant and Eli Manning are part-owners of Gotham FC, while NFL superstar Tom Brady is part-owner of the WNBA’s Las Vegas Aces.

Nelly Korda Continues Unprecedented LPGA Run

LPGA golfer Nelly Korda poses with Mizuho Americas Open trophy
Nelly Korda took home the title at the Mizuho Americas Open on Sunday. (Sarah Stier/Getty Images)

Nelly Korda continued her unprecedented LPGA run on Sunday, winning her sixth tournament in the last seven starts. 

The 25-year-old Florida native took home the title at the Mizuho Americas Open, becoming the first LPGA player to record six wins in a single season since 2013 — and that’s with three majors and a little over half the season left to play.

"Oh, my gosh, six," Korda said after the win. "I can't even really gather myself right now with that, the head-to-head that Hannah and I had pretty much all day. Wasn't my best stuff out there today, but fought really hard on the back nine."

Korda is just the fourth player on tour to win six times before June 1st, joining LPGA Hall of Famers Babe Zaharias (1951), Louise Suggs (1953), and Lorena Ochoa (2008).

Should her victory run continue, Korda could break the current record for single-season wins, currently set at 13 by Mickey Wright in 1963.

Korda ended Sunday's tournament one shot ahead of Hannah Green, finishing the 18th with a par putt to win it all.

"I mean, to lose to Nelly kind of like is — it's sad, but then it's also Nelly Korda," Green said of her second-place finish. "You know, like she's obviously so dominant right now. To feel like second behind her is quite nice. Unfortunately the bogey on the last has a little bit of a sour taste."

Next up is the US Women’s Open, a tournament that Korda has yet to win in her career. 

"Obviously it's on the top of my priority list," she said. "I just know there is never any good when you put more pressure on yourself. Just going to stay in my bubble that week and take it a shot at a time."

Earlier this year, Korda became the fastest player to collect $2 million in prize money over a single season. This latest win earned her an additional $450,000, bringing her season total up to $2,943,708.

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