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Five takeaways from a whirlwind 2022 NWSL Expansion Draft

Kristie Mewis (Wilf Thorne/ISI Photos/Getty Images)

The 2022 NWSL Expansion Draft was filled with surprises, trades and roster shake-ups. Angel City and San Diego used seven of the nine available selections during Thursday night’s draft, with the Wave passing on two picks.

Much of the drama, however, happened outside of the draft, with a flurry of deals becoming official after the official selection process.

So, where does the league stand after Angel City and San Diego made their picks for the 2022 season? Here are five takeaways from the event.

1. NWSL (Expansion Draft) After Dark

In true NWSL fashion, much of Thursday’s action took place after the expansion draft.

San Diego made it official with Alex Morgan, announcing the terms of the team’s trade with the Orlando Pride for the U.S. women’s national team forward. The Pride received the rights to midfielder Angharad James and $275,000 in allocation money in exchange for the 32-year-old.

The Wave also announced a trade with Gotham FC for Kristie Mewis, whom the expansion club selected second overall in the draft, in exchange for $200,000 in allocation money. San Diego’s deal with the Portland Thorns for Christen Westphal and Amirah Ali was also made public, with the Thorns receiving $50,000 in allocation money for the two players.

Angel City also got involved in the post-draft movement, trading their No. 26 pick in the 2022 NWSL College Draft and $125,000 in allocation money to the Houston Dash in exchange for the Dash’s No. 6 pick.

The pre- and post-draft trades are a sign of progress in the NWSL, with clubs striking deals to keep their marquee players and protect their depth while also fulfilling players’ wishes. According to Jeff Kassouf of The Equalizer, the $275,000 Orlando received in the Morgan deal is the largest amount transferred in a single NWSL trade in league history.

2. The Kristie Mewis flip

After San Diego selected her second overall in the expansion draft, Mewis was traded to Gotham FC in exchange for $200,000 in allocation money. The USWNT midfielder joins an already stacked Gotham FC side, after star goalkeeper Ashlyn Harris and veteran defender Ali Krieger recently moved to the club in a trade. Mewis’ status for the NWSL season remains up in the air, however, with rumors indicating she could sign with Tottenham Hotspur.

The influx of new talent bolsters a team that includes MVP nominee Midge Purce, Defender of the Year Caprice Dydasco and stars Ifeoma Onumonu, Ali Long and Imani Dorsey. Gotham’s offseason moves signal a “win-now” mentality. If Gotham’s postseason posture is any indication, the club is definitely in the hunt for a championship in 2022.

3. San Diego’s trickery

San Diego passed twice during the expansion draft, forgoing their sixth pick and their eighth pick. The official reasoning for the non-picks has not been confirmed, but many speculate it’s due to a handshake deal the Wave made with the Portland Thorns ahead of the draft, which the Thorns intended to protect their core from selection. The series of trades announced afterward only strengthened that theory.

The passes, while perhaps a solid strategic move for San Diego, made the event less entertaining that it was originally chalked up to be. In fact, most of the excitement around the draft occurred in the weeks leading up to it, with clubs across the league striking blockbuster trades to secure immunity from Angel City and San Diego.

4. OL Reign has holes to fill

OL Reign lost two defensive players Thursday night, with Dani Weatherholt going to Angel City and Kristen McNabb to San Diego. Compounding their departures is the fact that the club will also be without internationals Sarah Bouhaddi, Dzsenifer Marozsan and Eugénie Le Sommer, who are returning to Lyon following their NWSL stint in 2021.

While OL Reign still managed to protect star players like Sofia Huerta, Tziarra King and Rose Lavelle, the team needs to find answers for considerable roster turnover heading into the 2022 season.

5. San Diego and Angel City’s rosters are shaping up

San Diego and Angel City each made some impressive signings leading up to the expansion draft, highlighting the draw of both markets.

With Morgan officially joining Abby Dahlkemper in San Diego, the expansion club has established a solid veteran foundation. The Wave have also prioritized defense heading into 2022, with expansion draft selections Kristen McNabb and Kaleigh Riehl joining Dahlkemper on the backline. Next up, the team has the first pick in Saturday’s college draft and is expected to select Florida State star midfielder Jaelin Howell. Not a bad starting point for a club set to make its debut.

On the other side, Angel City’s attack is shaping up to be one of the most exciting in the league spearheaded by Christen Press. The Los Angeles club added Jasmyne Spencer to the lineup with their fifth overall expansion pick and secured Simone Charley via a pre-draft trade with the Thorns. ACFC also padded its defense during the draft, bringing in midfielder Dani Weatherholt to strengthen the team’s backline, anchored by center back Sarah Gorden.

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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