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A USWNT fan’s guide to the 2023 World Cup quarterfinals

Sam Kerr returned to the field for Australia in the Round of 16 and now looks to make history in the quarterfinals. (Franck Fife/AFP via Getty Images)

For fans of the U.S. women’s national team, the World Cup quarterfinals might feel like a landmine of missed opportunities. After the reigning champions suffered the earliest World Cup exit in team history, fans back in the States are now in the unfamiliar position of finding a new squad to support with three rounds still to be played.

The good news for USWNT fans is that there are a number of other teams ready to make history that are worthy of a now neutral fan’s attention. After a group stage that saw underdogs rise up and favorites fall, it feels like anything is possible on the path to the 2023 World Cup title.

Here’s a quick guide for USWNT fans looking to get caught up before the quarterfinal round begins.

Australia

For fans of: Hometown heroes, attacking football, good vibes

Australia is trying to advance past the World Cup quarterfinals for the first time in team history, and for lack of a more descriptive term, the vibes are strong. They looked confident against Denmark in the Round of 16, progressively finding their feet without star striker Sam Kerr. The game was Kerr’s first appearance at the World Cup after sustaining a calf injury in training, and she’ll continue to build fitness the longer the tournament progresses. Australia’s defense in transition is still a major question mark, but who doesn’t love a team that only moves in one direction: forward.

France

For fans of: Redemption, clarity of purpose, towering headers

France wasn’t perfect going into the knockout rounds, but they got the performance they needed against Brazil in the group stage to move onto the Round of 16, where they defeated Morocco 4-0. Under new head coach Herve Renard, France has appeared less caught up by decision-making in transition, moving the ball with purpose and providing service to Kadidiatou Diani, who has four goals and three assists so far in the tournament. France failed to advance past the quarterfinals at home four years ago, and they have the chance to wipe that memory away in 2023.

Colombia

For fans of: The underdog, singular generational talent, a larger movement

Colombia’s success has quickly become one of the most fun storylines of the tournament, following an impressive group-stage performance and a clinical win over Jamaica in the Round of 16. They’ve played in front of raucous crowds and awoken the sleeping giant in South American soccer. They also have a superstar of both the present and future in 18-year-old Linda Caicedo, who terrorizes defenders by scoring goals herself and creating space for her teammates. They face European champion England next, with a chance at pulling off an upset for the ages.

England

For fans of: The favorites, tactical flexibility, a good plan coming together

Everything was going well for England after three wins in the group stage, but a bad decision resulting in a red card for star playmaker Lauren James in the Round of 16 leaves the team even more shorthanded. The good news for the Lionesses is they’ve already made necessary tactical shifts, and there’s no reason to believe head coach Sarina Wiegman can’t make similar adjustments against Colombia. England is now the consensus favorite to win it all, with the mentality to match, but their roster has cracks they’ll need to fill.

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Chloe Kelly scored the game-winning penalty kick for England in the Round of 16. (Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)

Spain

For fans of: A new style of winner, club investment leading to international success

Spain has been almost stereotypical in their approach to the World Cup thus far. Outside of one tough loss to Japan, they’ve looked ready to overpower their opponents with ease. They are willing to pass endlessly to find the right entry point through a defense, and they’ll keep shooting until they find the right moment to slip the ball into the back of the net. Aitana Bonmati has been particularly excellent for a Spanish side ready to prove that their style of soccer can win the program its first major championship.

Netherlands

For fans of: Individual quality, riding the wave, big game experience

Fans might be surprised at the Netherlands’ resilience as they’ve dealt with roster transition and injury to star forward Vivianne Miedema, but perhaps their ability to progress this far shouldn’t come as such a shock. They have a number of quality players with big-game experience both at the club and international level, and they survived the Round of 16 thanks to a fair amount of problem-solving. In two big games against the U.S. and South Africa, the Dutch haven’t been able to control entire matches, but they capitalize on their chances when they arrive and can ride the wave of momentum to positive results.

Japan

For fans of: Youthful exuberance, incisive passing, clinical finishing, NWSL stardom

Japan has looked like the most complete team in the World Cup through four games, as their multi-year development plan is coming to fruition at exactly the right time. They can both out-possess their opponent and make them pay on the counter-attack, with a cutting passing ability that can collapse a defense with ease. Hina Sugita and Jun Endo are two NWSL stars fans in the U.S. might know well, and they also have two of the best kits left at the World Cup.

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Hinata Miyazawa has a team-leading five goals for Japan at the World Cup. (Maja Hitij - FIFA/FIFA via Getty Images)

Sweden

For fans of: Old frenemies, finding a way to win

As U.S. fans will likely rue for a while, Sweden keeps finding ways to win even when the going gets tough. They had their moments of dominance in the group stage, but in difficult matches they’ve stepped up in the margins in order to survive and advance. Against Japan, they’ll rely on their ability to unlock defenses on set pieces and perhaps another staunch performance from goalkeeper Zećira Mušović. Lina Hurtig joked she might get a tattoo of the goal-line technology that declared Sweden the winner in the Round of 16. There’s a lot to like about Sweden’s never-say-die attitude.

Quarterfinal Schedule

Thursday, Aug. 10

Spain vs. Netherlands, 9 p.m. ET (FOX)

Friday, Aug. 11

Japan vs. Sweden, 3:30 a.m. ET (FOX)

Saturday, Aug. 12

Australia vs. France, 3 a.m. ET (FOX)
England vs. Colombia, 6:30 a.m. ET (FOX)

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

Cameron Brink likes Caitlin Clark for 2024 WNBA Rookie of the Year

Cameron Brink poses with Caitlin Clark at 2024 wnba draft in new york
Cameron Brink poses with fellow draftee — and possible WNBA ROY —Caitlin Clark. (Photo by Emily Johnson/NBAE via Getty Images)

Cameron Brink already has her rookie of the year pick for the upcoming WNBA season, and it’s Indiana-bound star Caitlin Clark

In the latest edition of Kelley on the Street, host Kelley O'Hara caught up with Brink in New York hours before the Stanford phenom went No. 2 overall to the Los Angeles Sparks at the 2024 WNBA Draft. When O’Hara asked who would win the WNBA's rookie of the year, she answered without pause.

"Caitlin Clark," she said, while a fan commented that she thought Brink would take home the award. Brink later added that the extra foul granted to WNBA players will be "good for me."

"I hope it’s me," Charisma Osborne, who was later drafted by the Phoenix Mercury, said when asked her ROY prediction. "But, I don’t know — we’ll see."

Watch more of Kelley on the Street:

Dash winger Maria Sanchez confirms trade request a day shy of NWSL deadline

María Sanchez of Houston Dash during a NWSL game
In December, Sanchez signed a new three-year contract with the club worth $1.5 million including bonuses and an option year. (Photo by Marcus Ingram/Getty Images)

Maria Sanchez issued a statement on Thursday, confirming recent reports that she has requested a trade from the Houston Dash. 

In it, she revealed that the club has been aware of the request "since late March."

"This has all taken a toll and isn’t an easy thing to talk about, but I want to confirm that I’ve requested an immediate trade," she wrote. "My expectations and reasons have been clear. I trust that my current club’s management will honor my decision in a timely manner and proceed with accepting a trade."

"I’m eager to refocus and dive back into what I love most: playing football," she concluded.

Reports of Sanchez's trade request first surfaced on ESPN last week, and were later confirmed by multiple sources. 

In December of last year, Sanchez signed a three-year contract with the Dash valued at $1.5 million including bonuses and an option year. It was the largest contract in NWSL history at the time — a figure that would be eclipsed by multiple contracts in the following months. 

Sanchez spent the offseason as a restricted free agent, meaning that Houston could match any other team's offer to retain her rights. Should the Dash trade Sanchez, her current contract terms would remain intact, limiting potential buyers to teams able to afford to take on an inking of that size.

The Dash has yet to address the trade, instead reiterating to ESPN that Sanchez is "under contract, a choice she made in free agency at the end of 2023." 

Both the NWSL trade window and transfer window close tonight, April 19th, at 12 a.m. ET. The window will stay closed through the next 11 regular season games, reopening on August 1st, 2024.

Seattle Storm debut state-of-the-art $64 million practice facility

Jewell Loyd #24 of the Seattle Storm during warms up during practice on July 11, 2020 at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida
Jewell Loyd, seen here practicing at Florida's IMG Academy, and her team are in for a major upgrade this season. (Photo by Ned Dishman/NBAE via Getty Images)

The four-time league champion Seattle Storm unveiled their new practice facility on Thursday, with Storm co-owner Lisa Brummel dubbing Interbay's Seattle Storm Center for Basketball Performance the team’s "new home."

"It's just such a special space," Brummel told Fox 13 Seattle. "I think when the players get here, it's gonna be overwhelming."

The sprawling 50,000-square-foot, $64 million property is just the second designated practice facility to be designed and built expressly for a WNBA team, with the Storm further noting that 85% of all design and engineering team members involved in the project's construction were women and people of color. The finished product holds two professional indoor courts, two 3x3 outdoor courts, a state-of-the-art locker room, and players' lounge, plus designated areas for strength and conditioning, kitchen, dining, and nutrition, and recovery. 

"This facility reflects our commitment to providing our athletes an exceptional environment that supports their growth, health, and performance," said Storm co-owner Ginny Gilder in an official team release. "It’s built for women, by women, embodying our dedication to leading the way in professional women’s sports."

For their part, the team can't wait to make the faciilty their own.

"It's amazing," Storm guard Jewell Loyd told Fox 13. "Not having to drive everywhere around, knowing you have access anytime of the day to get into the gym, to workout." 

Head coach Noelle Quinn said she predicts the team is "never going to leave this building."

"Which is a good thing for me," she continued. "You talk about having an edge in performance. We want our athletes to not only perform on the court, but get whatever they need."

All of the Storm's staff and operations will now live under one roof, and the team also has plans to launch a youth basketball program operating out of the building.

Mystics relocate game to accommodate Caitlin Clark fans

Maya Caldwell, Erica Wheeler, and Lexie Hull of the Indiana Fever celebrate Caitlin Clark
Get ready — Caitlin Clark is coming to town. (Photo by Ron Hoskins/NBAE via Getty Images)

The Caitlin Clark effect is quickly making its mark on the big leagues, as WNBA host teams around the country rush to upgrade their Fever games to larger arenas in order to accommodate surging ticket sales.

With Clark mere weeks away from her Indiana Fever debut, both the Las Vegas Aces and Washington Mystics have officially relocated their scheduled home games with head coach Christie Sides' squad. On Thursday, the Mystics became the latest to adjust their plans, moving their June 7th matchup from Entertainment & Sports Arena in Southwest DC to the more centrally located — and much larger — Capital One Arena "due to unprecedented demand."

The Mystics home court's capacity taps out at 4,200, while Capital One Arena — home to the Wizards, Capitals, and Georgetown Hoya's Men's Basketball — can fit nearly five times that crowd at some 20,000 spectators.

"The move to Capital One Arena will allow for additional fans in the stands as well as premium hospitality options, including Suites and the all-new all-inclusive courtside Hennessy Lofts," the team announced via Thursday's press release.

The Aces were one of the first teams to switch venues, aiming to take on the Indiana Fever in front of as many as 20,000 fans inside T-Mobile Arena on July 2nd. That’s a sizable a boost from their home venue, which holds just 12,000.

For those still planning to face the Fever in their home arenas, ticket prices have skyrocketed. Previously scheduled construction has already forced the LA Sparks to relocate their first five games — including their May 24th clash with the Fever — to Long Beach State's Walter Pyramid. The temporary venue is quite the downsize, holding just 4,000 in comparison to Crypto.com Arena's near-19,000. As of Friday, the get-in price for that game started around $400.

Despite fans launching a Change.org petition urging relocation, the Chicago Sky say they're unable to move their June 23rd Fever meeting from Wintrust Arena's 10,000-seat facility to the 23,500-seat United Center due to a concert. Tickets for that game start around $325 as of Friday.

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