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USWNT’s Mallory Swanson focuses on rehab away from the World Cup

Mallory Swanson is missing from the USWNT’s World Cup roster after tearing her patella tendon in April. (Brad Smith/ISI Photos/Getty Images)

U.S. women’s national team and Chicago Red Stars forward Mallory Swanson hasn’t had much time to think about anything other than her rehab these days. The 25-year-old phenom has been hard at work on her journey back to the field after suffering a torn patella tendon in an April friendly that kept her off the USWNT 2023 World Cup roster.

Swanson’s injury was one of the cruelest twists of fate, as one of the USWNT’s most in-form strikers saw her whole year change in an instant. Just last week, Swanson posted her first rehab update to Instagram. The video showed her getting touches on the ball with a member of the Red Stars training staff.

“First touches in three months,” read the caption, suggesting the forward’s recovery has remained on a linear timeline, something not all of her injured USWNT teammates have been granted.

Speaking with Just Women’s Sports on Wednesday, Swanson said she has been focused on not getting too ahead of herself in her recovery, instead taking everything one day at a time.

“It’s been good, recovery has been good,” she said. “I think that being able to kind of take a break and recover and rehab, and also still be a part of something that’s bigger than that rehab process, like being here, that has been really, really good for me.”

“Here” is a gallery in New York City’s Meatpacking District, at a four-day exhibit set up by Women’s World Cup sponsor Frito-Lay and Women’s Sports Foundation to celebrate the game and its culture.

Despite having the opportunity to play abruptly taken away from her, Swanson has stayed connected to the tournament by continuing her work with committed brands. In addition to juggling her rehab, she’s stayed involved with Cracker Jill (an offshoot of Cracker Jack) to interact with young athletes in women’s sports.

“Being able to connect with them because I was once in their shoes, and now I’m here (is) cool, in like a full-circle moment,” Swanson said.

Those brand relationships can sometimes be awkward for an athlete who is managing the emotions of not being able to be on the field themselves. But for Swanson, the opportunities are a welcome connection to the larger movement of the World Cup.

“I think sometimes when we’re so involved on the field, obviously we’re busy and everything, so it’s been nice to kind of take the time away to do that off the field,” she said.

Outside of helping grow the game in a new way, Swanson is living a life parallel to her teammates in New Zealand. She hasn’t watched much of the action so far, catching just the second half of the USWNT’s 3-0 win over Vietnam on Saturday (she has a good excuse, having spent the weekend at her best friend’s wedding).

She also hasn’t connected much with her teammates across the globe, instead giving them the space they need to be at their best.

“I know firsthand how (important it is) to focus on the games and that’s what you have to do,” Swanson said. The person she kept in closest contact with prior to the tournament was newly-named co-captain Lindsey Horan, but Swanson said she has since let her teammate focus on the task at hand.

“I’m excited just to see some of my best friends go out on the world stage, and just continue to show how great they are and continue to inspire so many people,” she added.

Swanson said she kept in close contact with Lindsey Horan before the World Cup. (Brad Smith/ISI Photos/Getty Images)

Swanson is rooting for the U.S. to bring back their third straight World Cup trophy. And in typical fashion for an elite athlete, Swanson is focused on returning to her sport’s biggest stage with the same intensity that she approaches games.

“I don’t have downtime. It is all rehab, just focusing on that,” she said of her day-to-day schedule.

“I’ve learned that it’s just a process, and yeah, I think that you can just enjoy it. As much as it might not be fun, I think that there’s still so much positive that you can get out of it.”

Swanson is excited both to get back on the field and to see how the biggest Women’s World Cup in the history of the sport takes hold in the U.S. For her personally, the journey isn’t over yet, and she’s learned to let go of what she can’t control.

“I think if there’s one thing that I have learned, it’s that any plan that you have can get flipped upside down real quick,” Swanson said. “I have no idea what the rest of the year holds. I’m just taking everything as it comes.”

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

Alyssa Naeher’s goalkeeper jersey sells out in less than three hours

uwnt goalie alyssa naeher wears jersey on the field with club team chicago red stars
USWNT star keeper Alyssa Naeher's new replica NWSL jersey was an instant success. (Daniel Bartel-USA TODAY Sports)

For the first time in the NWSL's 12-year history, fans can now buy their own goalkeeper jerseys. And while replica goalkeeper jerseys representing all 14 NWSL teams hit the market on Wednesday, some didn't stick around for long. 

Fans across women's soccer have long vocalized their discontent over the position's lack of availability on social media, often comparing the shortcoming to the widespread availability of men’s goalkeeper jerseys. And as the NWSL has grown, so has demand — and not just from those in the stands. 

"To have goalkeeper kits available for fans in the women’s game as they have been for so long in the men’s game is not only a long-awaited move in the right direction, it’s just good business," said Washington Spirit goalie Aubrey Kingsbury in an team press release. "I can’t wait to see fans representing me, Barnie [Barnhart], and Lyza in the stands at Audi!"

Business does, in fact, appear to be booming. Alyssa Naeher’s Chicago Red Stars kit sold out less than three hours after the league's announcement. Jerseys for other keepers like DiDi Haračić, Abby Smith, Michelle Betos, Katelyn Rowland, and Bella Bixby aren’t currently available via the Official NWSL Shop, though blank goalkeeper jerseys can be customized through some individual team sites. Jerseys start at $110 each.

"This should be the benchmark," said Spirit Chief Operations Officer Theresa McDonnell. "The expectation is that all players’ jerseys are available to fans. Keepers are inspiring leaders and mentors with their own unique fan base who want to represent them... I can’t wait to see them all over the city."

Simone Biles talks Tokyo Olympics fallout in new interview

gymnast simone biles on a balance beam
Biles' candid interview shed light on the gymnast's internal struggle. (Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)

Decorated gymnast Simone Biles took to the popular Call Her Daddy podcast this week to open up about her experience at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, revealing she thought she was going to be "banned from America" for her performance.

After Biles botched her vault routine due to a bout of the "twisties," she withdrew from the team final as well as the all-around final in order to focus on her mental health. She later reentered the competition to win bronze in the individual balance beam final.

In her interview with podcast host Alex Cooper, Biles admitted to feeling like she let the entire country down by failing her vault attempt.

"As soon as I landed I was like 'Oh, America hates me. The world is going to hate me. I can only see what they’re saying on Twitter right now,'" she recalled thinking. "I was like, ‘Holy s---, what are they gonna say about me?'"

"I thought I was going to be banned from America," she continued. "That’s what they tell you: Don’t come back if not gold. Gold or bust. Don’t come back."

Widely regarded as the greatest gymnast of all time, Biles has hinted at a desire to join her third Olympic team in Paris, though her participation won't be confirmed until after the gymnastics trials in late June. She holds over 30 medals from the Olympic Games and World Artistic Gymnastics Championships combined, and if qualified, would be a sure favorite heading into this summer’s games.

Caitlin Clark reportedly nearing $20 million+ Nike deal

Caitlin Clark #22 of the Indiana Fever poses for a portrait at Gainbridge Fieldhouse during her introductory press conference
WNBA-bound Caitlin Clark is said to be closing in on a monumental NIke deal. (Photo by Matt Kryger/NBAE via Getty Images)

Caitlin Clark is reportedly close to cementing a hefty endorsement deal with Nike.

The Athletic was the first to break the news Wednesday evening, commenting that the deal would be worth "eight figures" and include her own signature shoe. On Thursday afternoon, the publication tweeted that the deal would top $20 million, according to lead NBA Insider Shams Charania. Both Under Armour and Adidas are said to have also made sizable offers to the college phenom and expected future WNBA star.

The new agreement comes after Clark's previous Nike partnership ended with the conclusion of the college basketball season. She was one of five NCAA athletes to sign an NIL deal with the brand back in October, 2022. 

Considering Clark's overwhelming popularity and Nike's deep pockets, the signing's purported value doesn't exactly come as a shock. New York Liberty guard Sabrina Ionescu’s deal with the brand is reportedly worth $24 million, while NBA rookie and No. 1 overall pick Victor Wembanyama’s deal is rumored to weigh in at $100 million. And in 2003, LeBron James famously earned $90 million off his own Nike deal. 

Clark’s star power continues to skyrocket, with the NCAA championship averaging 18.9 million viewers and the 2024 WNBA Draft more than doubling its previous viewership record. Following the draft, Fanatics stated that Clark's Indiana Fever jersey — which sold out within an hour — was the top seller for any draft night pick in the company’s history, with droves of unlucky fans now being forced to wait until August to get their hands on some official No. 22 gear.

In Wednesday's Indiana Fever introductory press conference, the unfailingly cool, calm, and collected Clark said that turning pro hasn’t made a huge impact on how she’s conducting her deals.

"If I’m being completely honest, I feel like it doesn’t change a ton from how I lived my life over the course of the last year," she said. "Sponsorships stay the same. The people around me, agents and whatnot, have been able to help me and guide me through the course of the last year. I don’t know if I would be in this moment if it wasn’t for a lot of them."

Star slugger Jocelyn Alo joins Athletes Unlimited AUX league

softball star jocelyn alo rounds the bases at an oklahoma sooners game
Former Oklahoma star Jocelyn Alo has signed with Athletes Unlimited. (Photo by Brian Bahr/Getty Images)

Former Oklahoma slugger Jocelyn Alo has signed on with Athletes Unlimited and will compete in the AU Pro Softball AUX this June.

The NCAA record holder in career home runs (122), total bases (761), and slugging percentage (.987), Alo was originally drafted by the league in 2022 but opted instead to join the newly debuted Women’s Professional Fastpitch

Alo currently plays for independent pro softball team Oklahoma City Spark, with team owner Tina Floyd reportedly on board with her recent AUX signing. AUX games are scheduled for June 10-25, while the Spark's season will kick off June 19th. Alo will play for both. 

Among those joining Alo on the AUX roster are former James Madison ace pitcher Odicci Alexander and former Wichita State standout middle infielder Sydney McKinney.

According to Alo, the decision to play in the Athletes Unlimited league was fueled by her desire to propel women's sports forward as well as provide more exposure to a sport that's given her "so many opportunities."

"Not only to challenge myself more, but just for the growth of the game," Alo said, explaining her reasoning to The Oklahoman. "I genuinely believe that professional softball can be a career for girls."

Joining AUX is also one more step in her plan toward representing Team USA at the 2028 Los Angeles Olympics.

"I’m constantly thinking about how can I do these little things right in these four years to prepare me for the biggest stage of softball," she told The Oklahoman. "I definitely want to play in the Olympics, for sure."

Alo further expressed enthusiasm in the hope that the rise of other women’s sports, like women’s basketball and the NWSL, will push softball’s professional viability even higher.

"We’re seeing the NWSL (National Women’s Soccer League) get their stuff going, I see the WNBA starting to get hot," she continued. "I feel like the softball community is like, 'All right, it’s our turn and it’s our turn to just demand more.'"

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