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Lynn Williams deserves a chance to start for USWNT

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Six months ago, USWNT fans were arguing whether Lynn Williams deserved a spot on the team’s Olympic roster. The best-case scenario for Williams (at the time) was simply making the final 18, while at worst she’d be an alternate. Even her most ardent supporters weren’t sure whether she’d actually get much playing time in Tokyo.

But after a standout game against Paraguay on Thursday in which she scored and had two assists, as well as a tournament-saving performance against Netherlands in Tokyo — to say nothing of Williams’ years of NWSL production — it’s clear the terms of the conversation have shifted.

It’s no longer a question of whether she deserves to make the team. Williams is here to stay. The new question is whether she should start for the USWNT. And the answer is that Williams clearly deserves a chance.

Williams was one of the last players cut from the 2019 World Cup team, but was brought back into the USWNT fold once Vlatko Andonovski took over as coach.

At the time, the scouting consensus on Williams was that she had above-average defensive abilities (for a forward) and was probably the fastest player on the pitch, but needed to work on consistently finishing in front of goal.

“I think that Vlatko sees my defensive side as key to the success of this team right now,” Williams told Just Women’s Sports back in April, “and my willingness to work back as a forward.”

Williams was initially named an alternate for Tokyo, with Andonovski calling it a “good next step” for the forward:

Hopefully she’ll be on the full roster in the near future or in the World Cup, 2023. We know the quality that she has.”

Williams ended up making the full Olympic roster after FIFA modified the rules to include alternates. After hardly seeing the field in the group stage, Williams was chosen to start against Netherlands in a must-win quarterfinal match.

The USWNT went down 1-0 early in the match, before Williams took over. She first assisted Sam Mewis to tie the game at one before scoring herself — with a beautiful finish in the box — to give the team the lead.

In the biggest game of her career, Williams proved she was more than a defensive specialist and put to bed the narrative that she can’t make plays in front of goal.

The performance wasn’t a surprise to anyone who has watched Williams’ club career. With 56 goals in the NWSL, she’s second on the league’s all-time scoring list, just 11 behind Sam Kerr. Even this year, she ranks sixth in the league, which might not seem impressive, until you take into account the time missed while in Tokyo. No. 1 and 2 scorers Bethany Balcer and Sydney Leroux have each scored eight goals in 18 games. In seven fewer games, Williams has scored six.

Can Williams, 28, consistently score on the international stage? Williams had the third-most points on the USWNT in 2020 after Lindsey Horan and Christen Press. In 2021, she ranks sixth in goals and assists, despite having only eight starts. If her playing time matched the other big-name forwards on the team, it’s hard to imagine she wouldn’t keep pace.

Context is important here: Carli Lloyd is retiring in October. Megan Rapinoe could soon follow. Christen Press and Alex Morgan will both be 34 at the next World Cup. Tobin Heath will be 35.

Lloyd has proven that players can still be productive well into their 30s, but it’s clear that Andonovski will need fresh legs in Australia. And with World Cup qualifiers just around the corner, now is the time to give younger players their chance.

On a team with so much talent, versatility is crucial — and that’s exactly what Williams has. She scores goals but is also good defensively, a game-changing quality often overlooked in the attacking third. Andonovski has repeatedly praised her ability to press other teams in sparking the USWNT’s counter-attack. In Tokyo, Williams proved the stage wasn’t too big for her. And yes, at the 2023 World Cup, she will still probably be the fastest player on the pitch.

Williams has made the most of her limited opportunities, and her trajectory is still pointing up. Heading into preparations for the 2023 World Cup, it would be smart to give the young veteran a more significant role on the team. Big things happen when she’s on the pitch; she just needs playing time to prove it.

Jessa Braun is an editorial intern for Just Women’s Sports and the Head of North American Content for Women’s Sports Alliance. You can find her on Twitter @jessabraun.

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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