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NWSL MVP finalist Debinha signs with Kansas City Current

North Carolina Courage midfielder Debinha was among the NWSL MVP finalists in 2022. (Ray Acevedo/USA TODAY Sports)

One of the top free agents in the NWSL has a destination: Debinha is headed to Kansas City.

The NWSL MVP finalist spent her first six seasons in the league with the North Carolina Courage, and she entered the offseason as one of the most sought-after free agents. The Current have signed her to a multi-year deal through the 2024 season, with an option for a third year.

“As a professional athlete, I always want to get better and to be on a competitive team that fights for titles, with excellent professionals,” Debinha said in a statement. “I’m sure it will help me in that goal and Kansas City showed that last season.”

The Brazilian national team member also noted that Kansas City’s plans, which include a new stadium and training facilities, “left me really motivated.”

“All of this made me want to be part of it and made me think about being here today,” she continued. “I’m happy for this new journey that is just beginning.”

Debinha joined the NWSL in 2017 as a member of the Courage. She helped the team to three straight NWSL championship appearances, as well as two titles and three consecutive NWSL Shields.

In 2019, she was named NWSL Championship MVP after scoring the game’s opening goal.

The 31-year-old midfielder has been named Challenge Cup MVP twice, including in 2022, and owns the record for most goals all-time in the tournament with nine.

She finished the regular season last year with a career-high 12 goals through 18 matches. That total ranked third in the league behind Golden Boot winner Alex Morgan (15 goals) and NWSL MVP Sophia Smith (14 goals). Debinha also had four assists, which also put her among the best in the league.

“We are thrilled to welcome Debinha to Kansas City,” Current co-owners Angie and Chris Long said. “Debinha is one of the most talented, accomplished, and well-known players in the world. Her name is synonymous with excellence. We can’t wait for Kansas City to have the special opportunity to watch Debinha play and cheer her on.”

One of the biggest free agents of the offseason, Kansas City knows what it’s getting in Debinha.

“Obviously, she was sought after by I think just about everyone,” Current general manager Camille Levin Ashton told The Athletic. “There was a lot of competition for her. What makes this really special for us, and a big statement for us, is that she had all those options and chose to come here to Kansas City and be a part of what we’re building.

“We continue to build on the success that we had last year, obviously falling short, and she’s a winner. She wants to bring championships to Kansas City.”

But the signing is also huge for the league as a whole, as reports also had linked Debinha to Arsenal, as well as Barcelona, PSG and Manchester United, according to Rob Pratley and ATA Football.

As other players have made moves to clubs offering more money, it’s becoming increasingly clear that NWSL clubs will have to start forking over more cash in order to keep players.

“Our value of her, and what we honestly believe the global soccer community values her, as she is one of the best players in this league and in the world — we think that the salary we provided her reflects that,” Levin Ashton said.

One other NWSL club made a serious offer to Debinha, The Athletic’s Steph Yang reported: the Orlando Pride. The offer “would have made Debinha one of, if not the highest-paid player in the league,” Yang reported last week.

The same source that gave details of the Pride’s offer indicated that Debinha was more interested in Europe, including the boost that the Champions League could provide to her player profile. But, according to Levin Ashton, that potential move never came up in talks with Kansas City.

“I think everyone understands the value (of Champions League) and that players do want to play in Champions League,” Levin Ashton said. “At the end of the day, when we look at the NWSL as a whole, this league is the most competitive league in the world. It has been, and that hasn’t changed. Players that want to be the best and want to continue to get better and prove themselves, being in the NWSL, you have to prove yourself week after week, game after game.”

Debinha’s agent, Benito Pedace of SOW Sports, told The Athletic that the decision to remain in the NWSL came alongside what the midfielder views as new challenges alongside “great structure.”

“Not everyone entered the final stretch of decision-making,” Padace told The Athletic, “and she ended up choosing to stay in the league, knowing that she will have new challenges, will have a great structure for her to continue evolving and doing what she loves most, which is playing football at a high level in a league she knows and knows that every season the teams get more and more competitive.”

The Current will aim to make another run to the championship game in the 2023 season, though they’ve lost the element of surprise. A number of blockbuster signings have bolstered the team’s lineup, including Morgan Gautrat and Vanessa DiBernardo via free agency. They’ve also re-signed defenders Alex Loera, Hailie Mace and Kate Del Fava.

Midge Purce-Backed Docuseries ‘The Offseason’ to Drop This Summer

cast of the offseason nwsl reality series
'The Offseason' follows a group of NWSL stars as they prepare for preseason play. (The Offseason)

The Offseason, a reality series created by Gotham and USWNT star Midge Purce, has officially confirmed its streaming debut, Purce announced in Cannes on Tuesday.

The six-episode, half-hour docuseries will stream this summer on X, though a specific premiere date hasn't yet been set.

The Offseason was filmed in Miami, two weeks before the NWSL preseason. It's a crucial time for athletes, a period where they prepare to join their respective teams and compete for both starting and roster spots. Production designed all the facilities, bringing in top-tier trainers, masseuses, chefs, and gym equipment to create a high-level training environment, ensuring the players were in peak condition, per the show's release. Throughout filming, athletes lived together in one house — a reality TV conceit rife for entertainment.

The series follows a number of NWSL stars, including Purce (NJ/NY Gotham FC), Maria Sanchez (Houston Dash), Lo’eau LaBonta (Kansas City Current), Michelle Alozie (Houston Dash), Taylor Smith (NJ/NY Gotham FC), Nikki Stanton (OL Reign), Ally Watt (Orlando Pride), Taryn Torres (NJ/NY Gotham FC), Paige Nielsen (Angel City FC), and Ify Onumonu (Utah Royals).

"We wanted to create a series that truly captures the essence of what it means to be a professional athlete," said Purce. "This series has always been about more than just sports — it's about the human experience behind the athlete, as well."

The show promises a behind-the-scenes look at professional women's sports, teasing major life decisions, on-field tensions, and players taking stock of the environments they'll be entering once their preseason trip is over. The series delves into the real-life challenges faced by the athletes, including club trades, contract negotiations, burnout, and the relentless pressure from outsiders commenting on the players' personal lives.

The Offseason's official trailer, released on Tuesday, shows snippets of Hubly contemplating retirement, Sanchez joining the group after signing a high-profile contract, and a healthy amount of banter about on-field achievements.

The spirit of the series is reflected in its producers: Box To Box Films is known for their sports content (Drive to Survive, Break Point, Full Swing), whereas 32 Flavors is the creative force behind Vanderpump Rules and The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills. The series was funded by Seven Seven Six, and executive produced by Purce.

Lilia Vu Wins Meijer LPGA Classic After Injury Return

lpga golfer Lilia Vu
Lilia Vu won in her first tournament in two months. (Jorge Lemus/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Lilia Vu won her fifth LPGA Tour event on Sunday, taking home the Meijer LPGA Classic title in her first tournament appearance since March. 

The World No. 2 had been sidelined with a back injury, but returned with a vengeance last weekend. She began the final day eight shots back of leader Grace Kim, before surviving a three-hole playoff against Kim and former champion Lexi Thompson to take the title. 

"I think this is the most meaningful win," Vu told reporters. "Because there was a time two months ago where I was just crying on the range not being sure if I would ever play a tournament again without pain."

This was Vu's first Meijer LPGA Classic win, and a birdie on the third playoff hole helped secure it. A two-time major champion, she's now two for three in LPGA Tour playoffs. 

She said on Sunday that being unable to defend her title at the Chevron Championship was the "breaking point" in her season.

"Not being able to compete there really killed me," she said. "I feel like I thought I was taking the steps in the right direction, but I’m glad that I was able to take a couple months off and reevaluate my body, let it recover, do what I needed to do to get back out here again.

"And we did the right thing and took two months off. I think it hurt me not to play competitive golf because I literally live for competitive golf, but we did the right thing and that’s why I’m here today."

Vu walked away with $450,000 in prize money from the $3 million overall purse.

Jabeur, Sabalenka Pull Out of Olympics Citing Health Concerns

tennis player Aryna Sabalenka
Aryna Sabalenka will not play in this year's Summer Olympics. (ALAIN JOCARD/AFP via Getty Images)

Ons Jabeur and Aryna Sabalenka joined a growing list of tennis stars opting out of the Olympics on Monday.

Sabalenka, the reigning Australian Open champion and World No. 3, told reporters in Berlin that she was looking after her health while citing WTA tournament participation requirements. The Belarusian had struggled with a stomach bug during the French Open, where she lost in the semifinals of a major for the first time since 2022. 

Similarly, Jabeur referenced the health risks that come with a change in playing surfaces. The World No. 10 has been battling knee injuries this season, and lost in the French Open quarterfinals to Coco Gauff

"Especially with all the struggles I was having last month, I feel like I need to take care of my health… It’s too much with the scheduling," Sabalenka told reporters. "It’s just too much. I made the decision to take care of my health."

Players will spend the next few weeks playing on grass in the lead-up to Wimbledon, while the Olympics will be played on clay at Roland-Garros. 

"After consulting with my medical team regarding attending the Olympics in Paris, we have decided that the quick change of surface and the body’s adaptation required would put my knee at risk and jeopardize the rest of my season," Jabeur tweeted on Monday. "Unfortunately, I will not be able to participate in the 2024 Paris Olympics. I have always loved representing my country in any competition, However, I must listen to my body and follow my medical team’s advice."

The two join Emma Raducanu in opting out of the Olympics. Raducanu — who has dealt with a number of injuries since her US Open win in 2021 — said the change in surface was "not worth the risk."

Jaedyn Shaw Breaks NWSL Record for Most Goals Scored as a Teenager

Jaedyn Shaw of the san diego wave
Jaedyn Shaw is now holds the record for most NWSL goals as a teenager. (Julia Kapros-USA TODAY Sports)

Jaedyn Shaw continues to make NWSL history, surpassing Trinity Rodman for the most NWSL goals by a teenager on Saturday. 

She did it in a game against Rodman's Washington Spirit in the 20th minute of the 1-1 draw. It brings her total to 13 league goals, after making her NWSL debut at 17 years old in July 2022. 

The goal is her third this season. Shaw currently leads Wave alongside Makenzy Doniak. 

Shaw has also been a member of the USWNT, alongside Rodman, netting seven goals over 14 national team appearances. If she gets called up to this summer’s Olympics under Emma Hayes, it will mark her first official tournament with the USWNT.

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