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U.S. Soccer investigation into NWSL misconduct: What to know

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U.S. Soccer’s investigation into alleged abuse and misconduct in the NWSL will be finished by early October, the federation announced Monday.

The investigation is “nearing its conclusion,” per the statement from U.S. Soccer, and the federation will publish the full report “following the completion of the investigation.”

When did the investigation start?

On Oct. 1, 2021, both FIFA and U.S. Soccer opened investigations into the league, which had been rocked by a sexual harassment scandal.

Who is conducting the investigation?

U.S. Soccer tabbed former U.S. Attorney General Sally Yates to lead the investigation.

What is the investigation about?

Last fall, a bombshell report from The Athletic detailed sexual harassment and coercion allegations against then-North Carolina Courage coach Paul Riley by two former players.

In the wake of the report, Riley was fired and NWSL commissioner Lisa Baird stepped down. FIFA and U.S. Soccer announced investigations, and the NWSL and NWSLPA soon announced a joint investigation of their own.

The allegations against Riley stemmed back to his time with the Portland Thorns. The club fired him in 2015 after a sexual harassment complaint against him but did not make the reason for his departure public. Riley continued coaching in the NWSL with the Western New York Flash, which later became the North Carolina Courage.

Still, while Riley’s case has drawn sustained attention, the U.S. Soccer investigation is taking a wider lens into the allegations of abuse and the NWSL’s handling of them.

Riley was one of five NWSL coaches to be dismissed or step down last season: Farid Benstiti resigned from OL Reign; Richie Burke was fired by the Washington Spirit; Christy Holly was terminated “for cause” by Racing Louisville; Rory Dames resigned from the Chicago Red Stars.

And more coaches have been fired or suspended this season: Kris Ward of the Washington Spirit was fired in August; James Clarkson of the Houston Dash was suspended in April; Amanda Cromwell of the Orlando Pride was suspended in June.

“The scope of our investigation is broad,” Yates said in February. “We are investigating not only allegations of misconduct, but also the factors that may have contributed to, perpetuated, or concealed abuse. Our mandate is to find the truth and make recommendations to ensure that going forward, players are treated respectfully, wrongdoing is uncovered and addressed, and players are protected from harassment or retaliation.”