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NWSL Championship to air in primetime on CBS for first time ever

The Washington Spirit host Angel City FC at Audi Field during the 2022 NWSL regular season. (Geoff Burke/USA TODAY Sports)

One of the first things Jessica Berman told CBS and Ally Financial when she stepped into the role of NWSL commissioner in April was that having the league championship on primetime was a priority moving forward.

So, they made it happen.

For the first time in the league’s 10-year history, the 2022 Ally Financial NWSL Championship will air on primetime, with CBS broadcasting the game at 8 p.m. ET on Oct. 29 from Audi Field in Washington, D.C. The stadium features a grass field and holds 20,000 fans.

“What I’ve heard from our players is that in order for them to deliver on their value proposition and to maximize their potential, they need first-class facilities and they need to feel like they’re being treated like the first-class athletes that they are, and for them, being on primetime is really important,” Berman told Just Women’s Sports.

Last season, players criticized the league and CBS for originally scheduling the championship game for 9 a.m. local time on a turf field in Portland, Ore. The match was eventually moved to 12 p.m. local time in Louisville, K.Y.

This year’s final was originally scheduled to kick off at noon ET before it moved into the 8 p.m. slot, the league said in a press release Tuesday.

“We point to some of the record viewership that we’ve had already with our partnership with the NWSL,” said CBS’ head of programming Dan Weinberg. “We’re proud of that. We think this is the next step in that.”

CBS’ streaming service, Paramount+, will offer exclusive pre-match coverage at 7 p.m. ET and will also serve as an alternative viewing platform for the match. International viewers will be able to watch the game live on Twitch.

For Berman, the first benefit to being on primetime is showcasing the NWSL to a broader audience. Most games during the regular season are only available to viewers with a Paramount+ subscription, making it harder for the league to attract new or casual fans. The championship’s primetime national television slot will give people who may have never seen an NWSL game the opportunity to watch the league’s best compete.

Last year’s championship game drew an average of 525,000 viewers on CBS, marking a 216 percent increase from the ratings of the 2019 NWSL Championship.

“You’re gonna get anyone that likes sports to get interested, and the more people that we can get to put eyes on NWSL and to see the caliber of play and just to see how exciting this game is just gives us a much better chance to have a really strong long-term trajectory in terms of audience growth and expansion of what we all want to see this league be,” said Andrea Brimmer, Ally’s chief marketing offer and public relations officer.

“I think we’re all going to get behind it big time and make a big push so that we get a lot of eyeballs and a lot of people there.”

The historic move will mark the end of Berman’s first year as NWSL commissioner. Having stepped into the position in the midst of a league-wide abuse scandal, Berman emphasizes the importance of being surrounded by partners like CBS and Ally, who share the league’s values and are willing to take new approaches to help it grow.

“We need people to be courageous and bold,” said Berman, who views the championship game milestone as scratching the surface of what she hopes to accomplish with the NWSL.

“We have a lot of catching up to do, like we should be bigger than we already are,” she added. “We need our partners to be like-minded in the way they show up on behalf of the league … [I’m] so excited to have CBS and Ally be the ones who are fireside, making this happen.”

In addition to the championship game, CBS aired a regular-season match in June and is scheduled to broadcast one more on Sept. 10 between the Washington Spirit and San Diego Wave.

The NWSL quarterfinals will air on CBS Sports Network and Paramount+ during the weekend of Oct. 15, and the semifinals will be broadcast on CBS Sports Network the weekend of Oct. 22. All matches will also stream internationally on Twitch.

On Aug. 31, tickets will go on sale for the championship game at Audi Field, home of the defending NWSL champion Washington Spirit.

“We’re always excited to crown champions on CBS. It’s what we do,” Weinberg said. “We’re super excited to do it with the NWSL again this year. Doing it in primetime, I think, ramps things up even more from a visibility standpoint, from an exposure standpoint. Really thrilled that the piece came into place. We think it’s good for everybody, frankly.”

Jessa Braun is a contributing writer at Just Women’s Sports covering the NWSL and USWNT. Follow her on Twitter @jessabraun.

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."

Selena Harris ‘Dismissed’ from UCLA Gymnastics, Declares for Transfer Portal

ncaa gymnast selena harris at the beam for ucla
All-American gymnast Selena Harris has been officially dismissed by UCLA gymnastics. (Keith Birmingham/MediaNews Group/Pasadena Star-News via Getty Images)

Star gymnast Selena Harris has been dismissed from the UCLA gymnastics team and has entered the transfer portal, the school confirmed Wednesday.

Harris, the 2024 Pac-12 Gymnast of the Year and a 12-time All-American, has two years of eligibility remaining. During her time at UCLA, she was one of the top all-around gymnasts on the team. 

UCLA did not provide details about her dismissal. 

Harris has also not spoken about it, but did repost a Tweet on Wednesday confirming her entrance into the transfer portal. She has also removed any mention of UCLA gymnastics from all her social media bios.

When reached for comment by the Daily Bruin, she shared a message thanking UCLA fans for their support.

"Just wanna thank bruin nation fans for being the best supporters!" Harris wrote via Instagram.

A former No. 1 recruit, Harris was the Pac-12 Freshman of the Year in 2023 and earned four perfect scores during the 2024 season, while also winning the Pac-12 all-around title at the conference championships in March. She finished the regular season tied for first in the country on vault. 

She competed as an individual at the NCAA championships, finishing tied for third place on balance beam after UCLA failed to advance.

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