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Where the USWNT could find their next head coach

Vlatko Andonovski’s USWNT tenure included disappointing finishes at the Tokyo Olympics and 2023 World Cup. (Bob Drebin/ISI Photos/Getty Images)

U.S. women’s national team head coach Vlatko Andonovski’s time with the USWNT might be nearing its end, as his four-year contract concluding at the end of the calendar year coincides with a disappointing Round of 16 exit from the 2023 World Cup.

Andonovski’s tenure has come under review as the U.S. prepares to regroup for the 2024 Olympics. Part of the conversation will include a necessary investigation into the circumstances in which he was hired. Andonovski was a standout coach in the NWSL before taking the U.S. job, succeeding Jill Ellis, who had experience in the NCAA and as an assistant coach within the USWNT system.

One of the greatest criticisms of Andonovski during his tenure has been that he ran the U.S. too much like one of his club teams, a trap that others could just as easily fall into when faced with player development and the high expectations of a winning culture. Despite the USWNT head coaching position being one of the premier jobs in the world of women’s soccer, it is also one of the most difficult.

Those tasked with finding a steady hand for the future will have to weigh the balance of knowledgeable leadership and the opportunity for a fresh start.

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OL Reign coach Laura Harvey came close to getting the USWNT job in 2019. (Michael Thomas Shroyer/USA TODAY Sports)

The NWSL

In light of Andonovski’s middling record at major tournaments with the USWNT, attention has turned to the league that produced him. At the time of his hiring, Andonovski seemed like a natural fit for the national team. He had seen many members of the upcoming player pool up close every day in the NWSL, and he had a track record of success when it came to roster growth and advancing in the knockout stages of league playoffs.

But following disappointing results at the international level, picking his successor from the same coaching pool might not make the most sense. OL Reign head coach Laura Harvey came close to getting the job in 2019 and is a popular choice to replace Andonovski. Mark Parsons and Casey Stoney are also well-respected in the NWSL, while few other candidates have the experience or successful track record to stand out.

Harvey, Parsons and Stoney aren’t quite home runs, however, for some of the same reasons Andonovski is no longer likely to retain his job. Harvey is beloved by her players and has had consistent regular season success at the NWSL level. But her squads are pulled from top talent she can compile as a manager rather than developed from a young age, and she has never had a particularly strong record in knockout matches. Her teams also play in a similarly pragmatic and suffocating style that Andonovski tried with the U.S., without much success.

Parsons, head coach of the Washington Spirit, already tried his hand as an international coach, in a run with the Netherlands that ended after a lackluster Euros campaign. He seemed to fall victim to similar issues as Andonovski, confusing players with overly complex messaging and leaving them without clear roles in his system. Stoney is progressing toward a strong coaching resume, but her time with the San Diego Wave has not been definitive, as the team has sputtered slightly in their second year.

Ultimately, what makes a good club coach does not necessarily mean that person is right for a national team position. There’s no one who understands that lesson better than Andonovski himself.

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After leading to Canada to an Olympic gold medal, Bev Priestman has dealt with federation dysfunction. (Alex Grimm - FIFA/FIFA via Getty Images)

Other national teams

As with the end of any World Cup cycle, there will be other international coaches looking for new jobs. U.S. Soccer could decide that the best fit for the four-time World Champions is someone with experience at the highest international level. A number of possible candidates, however, might present more of a lateral move than a step forward.

Pia Sundhage is reported to be on the outs in Brazil, but the U.S. already moved on from her management once, and she never led Sweden or Brazil to a major tournament win in the years since leaving the USWNT. Other national team coaches have either had mercurial tenures or have yet to experience a full cycle with their squads.

So, does the USWNT try to poach a top name? Maybe. Sarina Wiegman has no outside reason to step away from her wildly successful tenure with the England national team, and Germany’s Martina Voss-Tecklenburg would not be a good personality fit for the American group (Germany also crashed out of the World Cup early). Herve Renard has just begun his work as the coach of France, and his commitment to the women’s game remains unclear.

Coaches who might be more attainable are Canada’s Bev Priestman, Jamaica’s Lorne Donaldson or even Australia’s Tony Gustavsson. Priestman is very committed to her current group, but dysfunction under Canada Soccer might prompt a change. Donaldson hasn’t committed to his future with Jamaica beyond Olympic qualifying, and he has Colorado club connections to several USWNT rising stars, including Sophia Smith and Mallory Swanson. Gustavsson has experience as a U.S. assistant coach, and has shown his ability to lead as Australia has progressed through their home World Cup.

U.S. Soccer will have to balance the need for a fresh perspective on the team’s player pool and knowledge of talent rising through the ever-diversifying pipelines in the women’s game. Looking outside the insular NWSL or college system might be the best way to guarantee a bold change from the Andonovski era.

Outside the box

It’s possible, if unlikely, that U.S. Soccer will break the mold in other ways when pursuing a new manager. Top college coaches have long been considered for the job in the past, though the further away the professional game moves from the college system, the less relevant their experience becomes.

There’s also a desire to see former players take the reins, but the coaching pipeline is only just now opening up the requisite training and experience for new coaching demographics to emerge. Club coaches from overseas might provide the requisite new perspectives U.S. Soccer is looking for, but they could also fall prey to Andonovski’s issues with international management while also lacking familiarity with the USWNT player pool.

There is a tactic that would open up the pool considerably: Hiring a coach who, up until this point, has primarily coached on the men’s side. As the women’s coaching pipeline continues to grow, the USWNT might need to find someone who can produce results immediately. France’s appointment of Renard is a good example of the free-flowing exchange between sides, and that might be exactly what the U.S. needs.

Claire Watkins is a Staff Writer at Just Women’s Sports. Follow her on Twitter @ScoutRipley.

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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