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Way-too-early 2022 NWSL Power Rankings

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The 2021 NWSL season has officially come to a close, with the Washington Spirit winning their first-ever championship in an extra-time thriller. Now it’s time to look ahead to 2022.

With December’s expansion draft just around the corner, most of the league’s teams will undergo a considerable roster shakeup this offseason. Clubs are allowed to protect nine players, including just one U.S. allocated player, from San Diego and Angel City FC’s selection, making change inevitable.

How will the upcoming expansion draft impact the existing NWSL teams, and how will the Wave and ACFC fair? We’ll find out in December. For now, here’s how the league shakes out today.

2022 NWSL Way-too-early Power Rankings:

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1. Washington Spirit

It’s hard to bet against the Washington Spirit after their commanding 2021 Championship run. The Spirit finished the season on a 12-game unbeaten streak, excluding the club’s two forced forfeits due to COVID-19 protocol violations. Overcoming off-field turmoil, the team fielded a young team that was stacked across the board, including Rookie of the Year Trinity Rodman, Goalkeeper of the Year Aubrey Bledsoe, Golden Boot winner Ashley Hatch and USWNT stars Kelley O’Hara, Emily Sonnett and Andi Sullivan.

Even on their way to capturing the league title, the team looked to be still growing into itself, with young, talented players yet to hit their apex. With another year of development, Washington seems poised for a playoff repeat.

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2. Portland Thorns

The Portland Thorns were the heavy favorites heading into the 2021 season and lived up to the preseason hype, winning the 2021 Challenge Cup and NWSL Shield but falling short of the Championship.

Longtime coach Mark Parson’s departure could shake things up, but with veteran talents like Becky Sauerbrunn and Christine Sinclair, coupled with young stars in Simone Charley, Sophia Smith and Morgan Weaver, Portland could exact revenge in 2022, clinching the NWSL Championship they were expected to win in 2021. The big what-if? How soon Crystal Dunn can return from pregnancy.

Mike Lawrence/ ISI Photos

3. NJ/NY Gotham FC

Gotham FC had a landmark 2021, launching one of the most successful rebrands in NWSL history, playing in Red Bull Arena, booking a trip to the Challenge Cup final, and making a hard-fought playoff run. Though Carli Lloyd has retired, Gotham FC has plenty of talent ready to step up to the plate, including MVP candidate Margaret Purce.

The squad is also loaded defensively, with Caprice Dydasco winning Defender of the Year and Imani Dorsey recently receiving a call-up to the USWNT. With another year to gel as a team and develop their confidence, Gotham FC should be a force to be reckoned with in 2022.

Jeremy Reper/ISI Photos/Getty Images

4. OL Reign

OL Reign ended the season as one of the most exciting attacking teams in the league, boosted by an influx of international talent. The Tacoma club, however, is set to lose Eugiene Le Sommer, Dzsenifer Marozsan and Sarah Bouhaddi, who are all on loan from Lyon. The team does still have the 2021 MVP in Jessica Fishlock, star midfielder Rose Lavelle and Sofia Huerta, who is quickly becoming one of the league’s best outside backs. OL Reign also has a not-so-secret weapon in Coach of the Year Laura Harvey, who has experience leading teams to titles and getting the most out of her players.

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5. North Carolina Courage

The North Carolina Courage undoubtedly had a trying 2021, dealing, like the rest of the league, with the allegations of sexual coercion made against former coach Paul Riley. The team somehow found a way to make the playoffs despite the off-field drama and a sidelined Sam Mewis. If the team can regroup in the offseason and get their all-star midfielder back, the Courage may just be back in contention for the top of the table. With Lynn Williams and Jessica McDonald up top, it’s hard to count out North Carolina.

Bryan Byerly/ ISI Photos

6. Chicago Red Stars

The Chicago Red Stars pushed their way to the club’s third NWSL title match in 2021 against all odds, with a series of the team’s top players falling to injury. Julie Ertz, Alyssa Naeher and Casey Krueger were all mainstays on the injury list following the Tokyo Olympics, while Kealia Watt and Mallory Pugh picked up knocks throughout the playoffs. Pugh also missed Chicago’s semifinal match alongside teammate Kayla Sharples due to COVID-19 protocols.

Now, the Red Stars must deal with a bombshell report detailing former coach Rory Dames’s alleged misconduct over his tenure with the team. Depending on the new coach and what the club does to shift the overall culture, Chicago could either rise to the challenge of a culture overhaul or be forced to start over next year. No matter what, the talent will be there, as Ertz, Watt, Naeher and Kreuger should all be healthy — the only question is if the Red Stars will get to keep all of them during the expansion draft.

Bryan Byerly/ISI Photos/Getty Images

7. Houston Dash

The name of the game for Houston’s offseason will be defensive development. The Dash ranked fourth in goals scored for the 2021 season but conceded 32 goals — the only teams to allow more goals in their net were Racing Louisville, Kansas City and Orlando Pride, none of whom made the playoffs.

With USWNT center-back Abby Dahlkemper traded to San Diego, Houston will need to shore up their backline in order to make a playoff run in 2022.

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8. Orlando Pride

The Orlando Pride had a tough break in 2021, enduring a midseason coaching switch-up that resulted in a late-year stall after what looked to be a promising start to the NWSL schedule. The club is still on the search for a new head coach after Beck Burleigh’s stint as interim coach came to an end.

The team has undeniable talent in Marta, Alex Morgan, Ashlyn Harris and Sydney Leroux, but has yet to find a way to be productive in the final third, with the team ranking eighth in the league in goals and shots on goal this season, in front of only Racing Louisville and Kansas City.

DANIEL BARTEL/ISI Photos/Getty Images

9. Racing Louisville

Racing Louisville made its presence known in the NWSL early, winning the inaugural Women’s Cup in its first year as an expansion team. The club also played host to the NWSL Championship, showcasing its world-class facilities and the city’s burgeoning soccer fandom. On the pitch, Louisville finished strong, too, notching two draws and a win to end the year, indicating promise for the 2022 season. Now that Louisville knows what it has in star striker Ebony Salmon, the team certainly has the ability to build a compelling attack and climb the NWSL standings.


10. Kansas City Current

Kansas City can breathe a sigh of relief as it is the only team exempt from the NWSL expansion draft in an agreement solidified with the club’s introduction to the league. The Current finished last in the 2021 NWSL standings but showed flashes of promise during their debut season. Acquiring known talents in Adrianna Franch and Kristen Hamilton during the season, Kansas City has a solid core to build around without the stress of losing players to either San Diego or Los Angeles.

Brad Smith/ISI Photos/Getty Images

11. Angel City FC

Before ever making a pick in December’s NWSL expansion draft, Angel City FC heads into their first season with a key roster cornerstone — that being USWNT star Christen Press. The Los Angeles expansion team signed Press in August, acquiring one of the best forwards in the world in the process. The team also brought on Gotham FC’s former head coach Freya Coombe, who has a proven record at succeeding in NWSL. Depending on who the club takes in the draft, ACFC could be a contender in its inaugural season. For now, they’re sitting near the bottom of our list.

Brad Smith/ ISI Photos

12. San Diego Wave FC

San Diego also has a proven coach and a big-name star heading into the league’s expansion draft. The Wave inked a deal with Casey Stoney, luring Manchester United’s manager to the NWSL, while USWNT defender Abby Dahlkemper also signed with the team, becoming San Diego’s first player. Stoney’s experience in professional women’s soccer could be a real advantage in a year that’s scene historic turnover elsewhere across the NWSL. But as with ACFC, San Diego sits at the bottom of our rankings until we know more about their roster come December.

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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