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Kansas City Current president embraces challenge of new role

(Courtesy of the Kansas City Current)

Allison Howard was announced Wednesday as the first president of the NWSL’s Kansas City Current.

A partnerships specialist with nearly two decades of experience in sports business, Howard joins the Current after 10 years with the NBA’s Los Angeles Lakers. While the jump from basketball to soccer might be scary for some, Howard is ready to meet the challenge head on.

Just Women’s Sports sat down with Howard to discuss her new role and her plans for the Current.

You’ve been in L.A. for 22 years, and 10 of those years have been with the Lakers. What made you decide to join Kansas City?

So I think that really it’s the ownership group, right? It’s Angie [Long], Chris [Long] and Brittany [Mahomes], and not only the vision that they have for the future, and what to do for women’s sports in particular, but also the commitment that they’ve already shown that they’re going to take them there.

The way that I look at this is I really want to design the playbook for how to build a team, or, you know, if somebody has to rebuild a team, how to do it. And that’s by putting the players first. It’s by always listening to the fans, being in the community, and surrounding yourself with really great partners who are like-minded with the mission.

That’s been my lesson of coming from the Lakers. The Lakers always put the players first. So that’s a very easy transition to come over here, and definitely something that I stand behind.

You’re switching sports, from basketball to soccer. How are you feeling about the change?

There is definitely going to be a learning curve for me. However, I did play soccer in high school. I love this sport. And obviously, you can’t ignore this sport, anywhere. I mean, not only no matter where you are in the United States, but no matter where you are globally, and it’s such a friendly, easy game to play.

So I look forward to getting to my first game with the Current next Monday. I will be back in the market and looking forward to seeing what our players do.

Expanding upon that jump, do you see any particular opportunities or challenges in moving from a men’s league to a women’s league?

Just nothing that’s insurmountable, I’ll say that. Listen, I think, you know, the Lakers are a very established brand. And they have been strong for over 40 years. So there is definitely taking a lot of the blueprint of what Dr. Buss did there and bringing it here, because the reality is, he did a lot of things right. He was really instrumental in developing the league.

And that’s where I see Angie, Chris and Brittany. I really think the nice thing about them is they’re not just thinking about the Current, they are thinking so much bigger, right?

There’s definitely going to be a learning curve. I’m going to use muscles I have not used before, or maybe that I haven’t used in a really long time. But that’s exciting, right? And I think as long as you’re surrounded by really good people who are willing to dig in and get a little dirty for what the mission is, then I have I have confidence that we’re gonna get there.

Definitely. And it’s always fun to learn something new, even though you know you’ve been a veteran of the industry…

For sure. I mean, I definitely think that it keeps you young. And it keeps you curious. And it keeps you growing. And those are all things that are important, no matter where you are in your life.

You talked about it a bit, but you’re going from one of the most storied franchises in sports to a relatively new one. How do you think your experience is going to help you as you walk into this new role?

I learned so many lessons while being at the Lakers. And the vast majority of those are how you do business on, really, almost every level. And it’s really how you engage with the fans, and how you treat your season ticket members, and how you treat your corporate partners. It’s a very servant attitude. And that’s something that I definitely want to bring here. Because it’s authentic, and it’s genuine. And I think when you approach things from that route, everybody feels it, and they’re gonna want to not even get behind us, but walk alongside of us.

What do you hope to accomplish in Kansas City and with the Current?

My number one goal is to make sure that the players are talking to all the other players around the league and saying, ‘This is it. This is where you want to come, this is where you want to play, this is the best place in the league.’ And we’re getting there, we’re building that, literally building it.

Second, I want the fans to say, ‘This is the absolute best sporting experience that I can have.’ And I want the community to feel like they always have a supporter in us, and they can always reach us.

Lastly, selfishly because I come from a partnership background, I definitely want to be the top revenue provider in the league. Whenever it comes to corporate partners, such as corporate partnerships, ticketing, revenue, merchandise, you name it, I want to be at the top. But I want the partners to know that they can always reach us and we are always going to be flexible with them. And we are always going to design bespoke partnerships that are going to really meet what their needs are. This isn’t going to be a, choose Option A, B or C.

What are you most excited about in joining the Current, stepping into the role of president and moving to Kansas City?

I really feel like every step of my career has been to get me to this point. And I just have so many ideas of how I think a culture should be created and how people should be treated. And I’m really excited to put those plans into action.

The Women’s Cup Finalizes 2024 Tournament With Chile’s Colo Colo

Patricia Padium (L) of Brazils Audax/Corinthians, vies for the ball with Claudia Soto of Chile's Colo Colo during the Women Copa Libertadores final match
The addition of the Chilean side rounds out the Cup's four-team field. (FAVIO FALCON/AFP via Getty Images)

The Women’s Cup field has been finalized, with Chilean club Colo Colo joining the four-team field. 

Colo Colo will join Racing Louisville of the NWSL along with Italy's Juventus and Brazil's Palmeiras at Lynn Family Stadium in Louisville from August 9th through 13th. 

The tournament will have a $100,000 prize pool.

"We are honored to have Colo-Colo as the first Chilean Team to play in The Women’s Cup," said J.P. Reynal, CEO of The Women’s Cup, in yesterday's press release. "Women’s soccer has seen exponential growth in South America and having two of the best teams in the region participating in this year’s tournament is proof they can compete with the top teams from Europe and the United States."

"We are pleased to be considered in this important championship for women’s soccer and very proud that Colo-Colo is one of the most important exponents of this discipline in Chile," echoed Enzo Caszely, president of women’s football at Colo-Colo. "As a club, we have been pioneers in its professionalization at a national level, and this instance is proof of it."

Juventus and Colo-Colo will square off on Friday, August 9th at 5 PM ET followed by Racing Louisville and Palmeiras at 8 PM ET. Tickets can be purchased now via both The Women's Cup's and Racing Lousiville's websites.

This is Racing Louisville's third time featuring in the competition. The team won The Women's Cup's first iteration in 2021, beating German side FC Bayern in penalty kicks at Lynn Family Stadium. The Seattle Reign claimed The Women's Cup in 2022.

The Kansas City Current will also host a Women’s Cup tournament from August 14th through the 17th. The winners of each 2024 tournament will then face each other in the Global Series Finals, scheduled for February 2025.

PWHL Draft Spurs Controversy for League Champs Minnesota

pwhl draft first pick Sarah Fillier
PWHL New York kicked off the 2024 PWHL Draft by selecting Princeton's Sarah Fillier No. 1 overall. (PWHL)

The 2024 PWHL Draft took place on Tuesday, with Princeton and Canadian national team forward Sarah Fillier going first overall to PWHL New York. 

New York also added two defenders and a goaltender, as well as three forwards to make seven solid additions to next season's roster. 

But it was first-ever PWHL champions Minnesota that created the most buzz, with the draft happening just three days after they announced the abrupt departure of general manager Natalie Darwitz following a league review. 

With the 10th overall pick, PWHL Minnesota took Team USA forward Britta Curl. Fans immediately took to the internet to voice their concerns, citing Curl's social media activity. In the past, Curl had "liked" posts on X that targeted the LGBTQIA+ community, particularly transgender individuals. Her activity also showed support for Kyle Rittenhouse, the 17-year-old Wisconsin man who fatally shot three unarmed people, two fatally, during a 2020 Black Lives Matter protest.

When asked about the pick — and whether or not he had consulted with any members of the LGBTQIA+ community prior to making the pick — PWHL Minnesota coach Ken Klee opted to defend Curl.

"Did I speak to anyone from the community? I talk with players, with coaches. That’s tough to answer for me," Klee said. "I spoke with a lot of different people. I mean, at the end of the day, I was told she’s a great teammate, a great person. She’s obviously a great player."

The team also had PWHL Minnesota assistant coach Mira Jalosuo, who is married to a woman, announce the pick.

"We have people in that community and obviously Mira making that selection for us, I think that speaks volumes for us," Klee added. "We were just trying to pick the best players available. I wouldn’t want anything to take away from any of those players' experience. It’s unfortunate a little bit at the beginning, but again, it’s okay. People are entitled to their opinion."

Washington Mystics Snap 12-Game Losing Streak

Brittney Sykes #20 of the Washington Mystics shoots the ball during the game against the Atlanta Dream during the 2024 WNBA Commissioner's Cup game on June 11, 2024
Washington guard Brittney Sykes returned from injury Tuesday night to post a game-high 18 points. (Rich von Biberstein/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

The Washington Mystics snapped a team-record 12-game losing streak on Tuesday, taking home their first win of the season over the Atlanta Dream. 

Brittney Sykes returned from injury and made an immediate impact with game-high 18 points, four assists, and three rebounds. As a team, Washington shot over 50% from behind the arc.

"The feel is it's been coming," coach Eric Thibault said after the game. "I said the other night that we're turning into a good basketball team and we just haven't had the wins to show for it yet. We've been playing better basketball now for a while.

"We're obviously shooting well, but I think the quality of the shots we're getting is really good."

Still, the team’s slow start isn't exactly in the rearview mirror. With star forward Elena Delle Donne sitting this season out, the Mystics were always predicted to face an uphill climb in what has been described as a rebuilding year. 

But with a franchise-worst 0-12 record to kick off the 2024 season, the Mystics are likely on track for a lottery pick. However, Washington can point to positive performances from star draft pick Aaliyah Edwards and league newcomer Julie Vanloo.

Elsewhere in the WNBA, the Las Vegas Aces continued their skid with a surprising 100-86 upset courtesy of the Minnesota Lynx. The reigning WNBA champions were shorthanded this week, falling to 5-5 on the season despite MVP-level play from A'ja Wilson, who scored 28 points in Tuesday's loss.

Minnesota shot over 55% as a team, with Alanna Smith leading the team with 18 points. The game marked the Aces' first three-game losing streak since 2019.

"This is a long, long, long season," Wilson said in her postgame remarks. "I'm not going to press the panic button. I'm still going to bet on us. I know exactly what's in that locker room."

Aces stalwart Chelsea Gray has been out with injury since last year's WNBA Finals run. And while she told reporters on Tuesday that she's set to return before the Olympic break, the team can’t get her back soon enough as they continue to struggle with depth. 

"I don't want them thinking too much; then you get paralysis [by] analysis," coach Becky Hammon said. "We're just not being solid in our base. Just be solid defensively. We're not a very good team right now, that's just reality. But we know we can get better. I still have a lot of belief in this ball club."

USA Women’s Basketball Releases Olympic Roster, Explains Clark’s Omission

USA Women's Basketball's Diana Taurasi #12, Brittney Griner #15 and Sabrina Ionescu #6 at April's National Team Training Camp
All the players tapped for this year's Olympic roster have senior national team experience. (Mike Lawrie/Getty Images)

USA Women's Basketball announced its official Olympic roster on Tuesday, with officials noting that Caitlin Clark’s lack of national team experience played a key role in her omission.

Selection committee chair Jen Rizzotti said that the committee evaluated players according to a set of on-court criteria they were given.

"When you base your decision on criteria, there were other players that were harder to cut because they checked a lot more boxes," she told reporters on Tuesday. "Then sometimes it comes down to position, style of play for [coach Cheryl Reeve] and then sometimes a vote."

Three first-time Olympians made the squad: Alyssa Thomas, Sabrina Ionescu, and Kahleah Copper. Additionally, Jackie Young and Kelsey Plum will make the switch to the national 5-on-5 team after winning gold in the inaugural 3×3 competition at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. 

Age, Rizzotti said, was "never brought up" in player selection discussions. It’s the first time in Olympic history that a USA Women’s Basketball 5-on-5 team will travel to the Games without a single player under 26 years old.

Rizzotti commented that all the players tapped for this year's Olympic roster have senior national team experience, something that Clark does not have.

"She's certainly going to continue to get better and better," USA Basketball CEO Jim Tooley added. "Really hope that she's a big part of our future going forward."

Rizzotti said it would have been "irresponsible" to base roster decisions on anything outside of a basketball context. Marketing and popularity were not on the selection committee’s list of criteria. 

"It would be irresponsible for us to talk about her in a way other than how she would impact the play of the team," Rizzotti said. "Because it wasn't the purview of our committee to decide how many people would watch or how many people would root for the US. It was our purview to create the best team we could for Cheryl."

Clark expressed that she'll be using what some consider a snub as fuel for a run at the 2028 Olympic team. 

"I think it just gives you something to work for," Clark told media after practice Sunday. "It's a dream. Hopefully one day I can be there. I think it's just a little more motivation. You remember that. Hopefully when four years comes back around, I can be there."

Watch more: "Were Caitlin Clark and Arike Ogunbowale snubbed?" on Expert Adjacent

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