Abby Wambach learned a lot during her career with the U.S. women’s national team, including one important lesson from Mia Hamm.

The careers of the two USWNT greats overlapped briefly, as Wambach first joined the squad in 2003 and Hamm retired in 2004. In that time, Hamm taught Wambach to pay attention to her weaknesses as a player as much as her strengths, Wambach told Lynn Williams and Sam Mewis on the latest episode of their “Snacks” podcast.

“One of the things that I learned early on in my national team career was from Mia,” Wambach said. “She focused a lot on talking about all of our strengths and all of our weaknesses, like not hiding or shying away from them.”

While Hamm and Wambach could connect based on their strengths, Wambach’s weaknesses were places in which Hamm’s strengths could show up, and vice versa.

“I think that’s one of the most fascinating things. It should be a case study around our team, that it takes a certain kind of psychology to go into an environment day after day, where you’re both required to be a great teammate and also required to be the very best in the world individually,” Wambach continued. “And you’re supposed to believe that about yourself. … Like in order to enter, you have to believe that you are one of the best in the world at what you do.

“Holding both of those things at the same time is where the difference is between players who make rosters and players who don’t. … Because it’s not for everybody. It’s really difficult to be able to say, ‘I’m going out there to be my best, I’m gonna go out there to be my best so that every single player else out here is also being required to be at their best.’ And because of that we’re able to respect each other in a way that’s both competitive and open and loving.”

Abby Wambach doesn’t want to hear any questions about the mentality of hte U.S. women’s national team.

Speaking on the latest episode of the “Snacks” podcast, the USWNT great offered a counterpoint to vocal critics of the current squad.

“Even though this last World Cup didn’t turn out like we wanted it to, I still think that we’re talking about a couple of penalty kicks missed and then the U.S. team shows up differently in latter-round games,” Wambach said.

The USWNT exited the tournament after a penalty shootout loss to Sweden in the Round of 16. And while Wambach didn’t put too much stock in the defeat, she does think it is important for the team to remember and recognize its history.

“I know that the Players Association does a good job of it, but I do think that there is so much value in remembering where the team came from in order for them to chart their new path,” she said. “I think that is the most important element that so many of my teams that I played on, we didn’t really get right all the time, that we were just like, ‘We’re doing it our way.’ And it’s like, you do need to bring in all the elements to what creates such a special environment.”

Still, she doesn’t want to hear of anyone questioning the team’s mentality, she told “Snacks” co-hosts and USWNT players Lynn Williams and Sam Mewis. Former USWNT star forward Carli Lloyd infamously questioned the team’s mentality before, during and after the 2023 World Cup.

Lloyd even went so far as to say that nobody on the current squad has a winning mentality, with the possible exception of Lindsey Horan. Lloyd and Wambach won the 2015 World Cup together with the USWNT, and Lloyd also played on the 2019 World Cup team.

“The champion mentality that we’ve had throughout the years, since the inception of this team, that dog mentality, you’ve got none of that,” Lloyd told CBS Sports in October. “The character, the respect — technically, tactically, you could be great and have a coach that comes in, but if you don’t have all those other things, there’s no winning.”

To Wambach, perspective is key.

“So, we can talk about all of the things and the coaches and the players and the … don’t get me started on the mentality piece because I will blow up on somebody,” Wambach said. “But what I do know is we’re talking about a penalty kick and that, I mean, we didn’t win every world championship we ever played in. Like, that is true.”

Preview the 2023 NWSL Championship by tuning into the Just Women’s Sports Super Show Presented by State Farm, featuring surprise guest appearances by NWSL stars. Watch here.

Abby Wambach sees “untapped potential” in Lynn Williams.

On the latest episode of Just Women’s Sports‘ Snacks podcast, the all-time leading scorer for the U.S. women’s national team gave Williams had high praise and some friendly advice for Williams. Wambach called Williams, who plays forward for Gotham FC and the USWNT, “better soccer player than I ever was.”

Williams, who co-hosts “Snacks” with USWNT teammate Sam Mewis, has recently come into her own for the national team after spending years as one of the best players in the NWSL. She made her World Cup debut this summer.

“Lynn, watching you play and seeing how you’ve come on strong, personally speaking, I think that you have so much untapped potential, and the person that’s holding you back is you, like where you are in your head,” Wambach said, noting that she wants to see Williams let loose on the field.

“Like, I see you in your head out there, and I want to go onto the field or come into the locker room and just be like, ‘Go for it. Just go,’” Wambach continued. “You are such an incredible athlete. You are a better soccer player than I ever was. I was not very good at soccer. I was good at scoring goals. You’re a better soccer player, you’re more mindful.

“The way that you play, I just don’t want you to ever hold yourself back. I want you to surrender to the possibility that you could be the greatest soccer player on the planet.”

Hearing Wambach say that gave Williams “chills,” she said. The 30-year-old forward admitted that she does get into her own head at times, though she plays her best when she’s “not even thinking that much.”

“If you surrender to the possibility, regardless of if that ever happens or not, but if you could just surrender to that possibility, the world is your oyster,” Wambach said. “You go and then you create what you create. I believe in you and I believe in this team.”

Williams and Gotham FC will face OL Reign in the NWSL Championship match at 8 p.m. ET Saturday. The next USWNT camp is set for early December.

Two-time World Cup champion Megan Rapinoe ends her career in the top 10 in U.S. women’s national team history in goals.

Alex Morgan and Christen Press also rank in the top 10. See where they sit on the all-time leaderboard.

(Brad Smith/ISI Photos/Getty Images)

10. Megan Rapinoe — 63

A member of the USWNT since 2006, Rapinoe has made an impact on and off the field. She became the only player to score an Olimpico in two Olympic Games when she added one in the USWNT’s bronze-medal win in Tokyo in 2021.

(Brad Smith/ISI Photos/Getty Images)

9. Christen Press — 64

While Press missed the 2023 World Cup due to a knee injury, her body of work speaks for itself. Her first two career goals came during a 2013 friendly against Scotland, and her 64th came in a 4-1 win over New Zealand during the Tokyo Olympics.

(Meg Oliphant/Getty Images)

8. Cindy Parlow Cone — 75

Now the president of U.S. Soccer, Parlow Cone spent 11 years with the USWNT, spanning three Olympics and two World Cups. She scored her first two goals in her first appearance during a friendly against Russia in 1996. She also recorded seven career hat tricks for the USWNT, just one behind Mia Hamm for the most in team history.

(Al Bello/Allsport)

7. Tiffeny Milbrett — 100

After joining the USWNT in 1991, Milbrett scored her first international goal in 1992 against Norway. She went on to lead the team to Olympic gold in 1996, scoring the game-winning goal against China. Her 100th and final goal came in a 2005 friendly against Ukraine in her hometown of Portland, Ore.

(David Madison/Getty Images)

6. Michelle Akers — 107

A member of the USWNT from 1985 to 2000, Akers scored the first goal in the team’s history in its second-ever international game against Denmark.

She also led all scorers in the inaugural FIFA Women’s World Cup in 1991 with 10 goals, including five in one game. Akers led the USWNT to their first World Cup that year, scoring both goals in a 2-1 defeat of Norway in the championship match.

Rico Brouwer/Soccrates/Getty Images

5. Alex Morgan — 121

One of two 2023 World Cup players on this list, Morgan has been a member of the USWNT since 2010. Morgan’s goal in the 123rd minute of the 2012 Olympic semifinals, which delivered her team a victory over Canada, still holds the record for the latest goal ever scored by a USWNT player.

(Guang Niu/Getty Images)

4. Kristine Lilly — 130

A member of the USWNT for 23 years, Lilly is the most-capped player in the history of the sport. She has 12 goals across five World Cups and three Olympics.

(Jason Miller/Getty Images)

3. Carli Lloyd — 134

With a five-goal performance to begin her farewell tour in 2021, Lloyd tied the USWNT’s single-game scoring record. The star forward also had a hat trick in the 2015 World Cup final — scoring all three goals in the span of 16 minutes.

(David Madison/Getty Images)

2. Mia Hamm — 158

Hamm held the record for most international goals scored until Wambach surpassed her in 2013. She remains third on the all-time list behind Wambach and Canada’s Christine Sinclair (190).

A member of the USWNT’s inaugural World Cup and Olympic teams, Hamm played an astounding 17 years for the senior national team. Her 158th and final goal came during a 2004 friendly against Australia.

(Scott Heavey/Getty Images)

1. Abby Wambach — 184

Wambach tops the list after an illustrious 14-year career with the USWNT. A tour de force on the big stage, Wambach scored 14 times in World Cup tournaments and 24 times in the Olympics. Her final goal came during a 2015 friendly against Costa Rica.

Tennis star Ons Jabeur is joining the North Carolina Courage as a minority owner, the club announced Friday.

In doing so, Jabeur joins a long list of athletes who have invested in NWSL clubs, including Naomi Osaka, Patrick Mahomes, Serena Williams and Sue Bird.

These stars are putting their money into a booming league. The 2022 NWSL final drew 915,000 viewers, a 71% increase from the 2021 final. And franchise valuations have skyrocketed: The Washington Spirit sold for $35 million in February; Gotham FC were valued at $40 million in August; and the Portland Thorns were valued at $60 million ahead of their upcoming sale.

Just Women’s Sports highlights some of the NWSL’s top athlete investors during the 2023 season.

Angel City FC

The Los Angeles-based club features a long roster of investors, including NFL quarterback Matthew Stafford, his wife Kelly and their daughters.

“We fell in love with attending an Angel City game last season and wanted our daughters to experience something so important and powerful first-hand,” Matthew and Kelly Stafford said in a news release.

The list of investors includes many former U.S. women’s national team players, including Mia Hamm, Julie Foudy, Abby Wambach, Shannon Boxx, Rachel Buehler, Lauren Cheney Holiday, Lorrie Fair Allen, Ronnie Fair Sullins, Joy Fawcett, Shannon MacMillan, Angela Hucles Mangano and Saskia Webber.

Retired tennis players Serena Williams, Billie Jean King and Ilana Kloss, two-time WNBA champion Candace Parker, former USMNT player Cobi Jones, former NHL defender P.K. Subban, U.S. Olympic skier Lindsey Vonn, U.S. Olympic gymnast Shawn Johnson East and former NFL long snapper Andrew East also are investors.

Chicago Red Stars

Chicago Cubs co-owner Laura Ricketts and her investor group have reached an agreement to buy the Red Stars.

The group includes Angela Barnes, chief legal officer of IDEO; Debra Cafaro, chairman and CEO of Ventas and a partner in the Pittsburgh Penguins ownership group; Jessica Droste Yagan, CEO of Impact Engine; Jennifer Pritzker, president and CEO of TAWANI Enterprises; and Sidney Dillard, a partner at Chicago’s Loop Capital.

Houston Dash

NBA star James Harden joined the ownership group for the Dash and their MLS counterpart, the Houston Dynamo, in July 2019. While the 2018 NBA MVP and 10-time All-Star plays for the Philadelphia 76ers in the 2022-23 season, he played for the Houston Rockets from 2012-21.

Gotham FC

The New York City-area team pulled in several big-name investors in 2022, among them former USWNT and Gotham forward Carli Lloyd, four-time WNBA champion Sue Bird, two-time NBA champion Kevin Durant and two-time Super Bowl champion Eli Manning.

Kansas City Current

Patrick Mahomes will join his wife Brittany and Current co-owners Angie and Chris Long as an investor in the club, which enters 2023 looking to build on its 2022 NWSL championship appearance.

“I am excited to join another championship-caliber club as it continues to make history,” the 2018 NFL MVP and 2020 Super Bowl MVP said in a statement.

North Carolina Courage

Naomi Osaka invested in the Courage in 2021. The 25-year-old tennis star is a four-time major singles champion and topped Forbes’ list of the highest-paid female athletes in the world with $51.1 million in earnings in 2022. Fellow tennis star Ons Jabeur joined Osaka as an investor in the Courage in August 2023.

“Soccer and female empowerment are my main passions outside of tennis,” Jabeur said. “When Naomi took an equity stake in the Courage, I asked her if she would give me a starting position as a striker, but she said no… so I did the next best thing and become an owner. The Courage are the perfect club for me in terms of shared values and ambitions, both on and off the field.”

OL Reign

Former NBA point guard Tony Parker, who played for the San Antonio Spurs from 2001-18 and for the Charlotte Hornets from 2018-19, holds a minority stake in the Seattle-based club.

Washington Spirit

Former USWNT goalkeeper Briana Scurry and U.S. Olympic gymnast Dominique Dawes joined the Spirit as minority investors in 2021.

In the days since the U.S. Women’s National Team narrowly advanced to the Round of 16, some former USWNT stars have criticized the team’s performance. Former captain Carli Lloyd, now a Fox Sports analyst, has been among the harshest critics.

Abby Wambach, the six-time U.S. Soccer Athlete of the Year has offered a different approach: hope.

“There are two different ways you can consume sport. You can be hypercritical, or you can be hyper-hopeful,” Wambach said in an interview with AllforXI. “I happen to lean into the hopeful side of things. I have no advice, I just want the players to know that we believe in them.”

Wambach played in four World Cups in her international career, helping the USWNT to a championship in the 2015 tournament before retiring. The program won the crown again in 2019, but it has stumbled early this year: Coach Vlatko Andonovski’s team beat Vietnam, 3-0, in its opening contest, but then played Netherlands to a 1-1 draw and Portugal to a 0-0 draw.

Wambach cautioned fans against giving too much weight to commentators’ takes.

“The commentators can have their opinions, but can we just be smart about this,” she explained. “They’re going to say these are their opinions, through and through, but, they are getting paid to say things, and a sure way to continue to get paid to say things is to say the things that gets the most likes, clicks, and engagement. Don’t fall into the media trap of criticism over hope. Hope is the way.”

On Sunday, when the USWNT plays Sweden in the Round of 16, Wambach will be watching, and hoping, for a victory.

“These players are putting more pressure and have higher expectations than anybody else,” Wambach said. “I don’t care how many people in the world there are with their expectations and criticisms, these players have the highest expectations of themselves.”

The Women’s World Cup is almost here, and Just Women’s Sports is taking a look at the tournament’s all-time leading goal scorers.

Though Alex Morgan doesn’t crack the top 10 on this list, it’s worth noting that the U.S. women’s national team forward and Michelle Akers hold the record for the most goals scored in a single World Cup match. Morgan scored five goals against Thailand at the 2019 World Cup, 28 years after Akers did so in 1991 (she also set the record for most goals scored in a tournament that year with 10).

Morgan and Megan Rapinoe each have a chance to make it onto the elite list with just one more goal at this year’s World Cup.

5. Ann-Kristin Aarønes (Norway), Carli Lloyd (USA), Heidi Mohr (Germany), Christine Sinclair (Canada) – 10

Four players have scored 10 goals in their World Cup careers, including the USWNT’s Carli Lloyd and all-time international leading goal scorer Christine Sinclair. Sinclair is the only member of this group still competing, with Lloyd retiring after the Tokyo Olympics in 2021. Both Mohr and Aarønes notched impressive World Cup performances in their careers. Mohr had 10 goals in 12 matches, while Aarønes had 10 goals in 11 matches.

4. Cristiane (Brazil), Wen Sun (China), Bettina Wiegmann (Germany) – 11

Bettina Wiegmann appeared in four World Cups for Germany and was a part of the title-winning team in 2003. Cristiane represented Brazil at five World Cups from 2003-19 and always showed up on the world’s biggest stages. At the 2007 World Cup, she was voted third-best player of the tournament after scoring five goals, second only to teammate Marta.

Wen Sun earned the Golden Ball and Golden Boot at the 1999 World Cup after scoring seven goals in the tournament. In 2000, she was named FIFA Female Player of the Century alongside Akers.

3. Michelle Akers (USA) – 12

Akers stands alone with 12 goals scored in 13 World Cup matches. Akers originally set the record for most goals in a single match with five at the inaugural Women’s World Cup in 1991.

2. Birgit Prinz (Germany), Abby Wambach (USA) – 14

Birgit Prinz starred for Germany from 1994-2011, helping the team to two World Cup titles and earning the Silver Ball in 2007 as the second-best player at the tournament. She remains Germany’s top goal scorer, having scored 128 international goals in 214 appearances. Abby Wambach, the USWNT’s all-time leading goal scorer, set the record for the latest goal ever scored in a FIFA competition when she delivered the game-tying goal against Brazil in the 122nd minute of the quarterfinals of the 2011 World Cup.

1. Marta (Brazil) – 17

Topping the list of World Cup goal scorers is Brazilian legend Marta. She’s found the back of the net 17 times across 20 World Cup games through five tournaments. In comparison, it took Wambach 25 appearances to score 14 goals.

Marta, who has announced this will be her last World Cup, made her World Cup debut in 2003, netting three goals to help Brazil top their group. She’s the first player to score at five consecutive World Cups.

Sophia Smith has a U.S. women’s national team legend cheering her on as she heads to her first World Cup.

The present and future of the squad, Smith is just 22 years old. But you wouldn’t know it by the way she plays. And she will enter the tournament, which kicks off on July 20 in Australia and New Zealand, with high expectations.

The reigning NWSL MVP is the first woman born in the 2000s to earn a cap for the national team — and the first born after the USWNT’s historic 1999 World Cup win.

On Wednesday, the Portland Thorns posted a photo of a younger Smith posing with USWNT all-time leading scorer Abby Wambach alongside Smith’s official USWNT roster photo.

“Did we make it? Yes we did,” the Thorns wrote in the caption.

Smith and her family no longer recall the exact circumstances behind the childhood photo, they told Just Women’s Sports reporter Eden Laase. They think it may have been at a Colorado Rapids game where members of the USWNT made an appearance. But what matters is that Smith saw Wambach and insisted on waiting in line for a photo, no matter how long it took.

“She was going to stay there until she met her,” her mother Mollie Smith said.

The photo has circulated on social media several times in the last few years. Smith posted it after her first appearance for the USWNT in 2020, acknowledging Wambach as “a big reason this moment happened for me.”

“You inspired me to follow my dreams,” Smith told Wambach at the time.

Three years later, those dreams have led Smith to the World Cup. And as one of the team’s leading scorers, they could one day see her join Wambach among the USWNT’s all-time leaders.

Wambach responded to the Thorns’ tweet Thursday, encouraging Smith: “Go on and bring that World Cup home!!!”

Before Wambach retired in 2015, she played in four World Cups with the USWNT. She secured her first title in her final tournament in 2015.

When Alex Morgan first joined the U.S. women’s national team as a 20-year-old in 2009, some of the older players on the team felt “threatened” by her talent, USWNT great Abby Wambach said.

The U.S. squad had won a gold medal at the Beijing Olympics a year earlier, so Morgan was stepping into an established group already laden with stars.

“It’s hard to break into that team, let alone gain the respect of some of those older players,” Wambach said on her wife Glennon Doyle’s “We Can Do Hard Things” podcast. Morgan joined Wambach and Doyle in conversation on the most recent episode.

Some players critiqued Morgan’s play, which Wambach took as a sign of insecurity because “of course when you feel threatened, you find any little problem.” Wambach, though, leaned in the other direction, constantly encouraging the young striker to trust her instincts, as Mia Hamm had done for her.

“How was she so selfless and so uplifting of me and other people?” Morgan asked. “Because being threatened is kind of something that, you can’t help it.”

When Morgan received that first call-up, she recalls feeling intimidated by everyone, but “especially Abby,” she told Wambach and Doyle.

“And she was actually the nicest person,” Morgan said. “She was so welcoming. And she was someone that I felt like I could gain confidence from.”

She still remembers feeling “floored” by the praise she received from the player who would become a friend and mentor. Wambach played with Morgan on the USWNT until 2015, when she retired as the team’s all-time leading goal scorer.

At 33 years old, Morgan now finds herself in the position of seasoned veteran for the national team, and she tried to do for younger players what Wambach did for her. She mentioned 24-year-old Mallory Pugh in particular as the next in the line of succession.

“It’s kind of interesting, just the levels of the next generation carrying the torch almost and carrying the team,” Morgan said. “And I feel like she’s one player that has already made a huge impact but will have a huge career on the national team.”

“If you can see it, you can be it” has become a rallying cry for NWSL expansion club Angel City FC and Abby Wambach, one of the team’s founding investors.

The soccer icon is turning that mantra into action with her latest project. Wambach, who sits on Gatorade’s Women’s Advisory Board, is teaming up with the company to launch a new campaign dedicated to equal opportunities in sport. Gatorade’s “Fuel Tomorrow” initiative will include funding for community programs, access to sports facilities and resources and training for coaches on equity and inclusion.

With “Fuel Tomorrow,” Wambach says Gatorade put “their money where their mouths are,” telling Just Women’s Sports, “They didn’t just try to check a box with the Advisory Board; they’re also putting their resources, their real hard-earned money towards creating a better future and a better tomorrow for those who don’t have as many opportunities.”

Gatorade’s new program involves a $10 million initial investment in national organizations such as Athlete Ally, Good Sports, Honest Game Foundation, Laureus USA and the Women’s Sports Foundation, as part of its push for equity in sports.

“When they approached me last year about being a part of the Advisory Board, before they could finish the sentence I said yes because I do think stories and experience, not just from mine but from a whole diverse group of people, is really important to be able to drive the true kind of change that can be lasting and systemic changing,” Wambach says of Gatorade, which also signed on last year as a founding partner of Angel City.

While the former United States women’s national team star believes in the campaign’s mission deeply, citing the statistics and science behind the benefits of sport, specifically for women, she also knows it is simply good business to invest in sports.

Individually, Wambach says having a corporation recognize her as a leader is validating, especially when their vision aligns with her hopes and dreams for the growth of the game.

“You spend your whole life working for something, and in some ways, when the corporate world turns to you and says, ‘I see you,’ it’s like, ‘Oh, maybe this has all been worth it. Maybe we are going to see some real change,'” she says. “And Gatorade is kind of proof.”

As a part of the collaboration, 10 percent of Gatorade’s sponsorship funds will go toward developing conduits for female coaches, a point of pride for Wambach.

“The truth is women’s sports is an institution that has been built inside of a man’s world,” she says. “It’s been built by men for men, so you think, ‘How can women’s sports survive in this environment? This structure was built for men.’ But it needs to have more female leaders at the helm. I don’t think that there are better candidates to be in leadership positions than women inside of women-led teams.”

ACFC and Gatorade’s investment in the women’s coaching pipeline is especially relevant now, as the NWSL continues to reel from a season of unprecedented coaching turnover. Many of the coaches who were fired or resigned were men accused of emotional, sexual or psychological abuse.

Most recently, the NWSL and U.S. Soccer have come under fire for their handling of the Rory Dames case. The former Red Stars head coach held onto his position despite numerous complaints from players, as chronicled in two separate Washington Post reports.

One of those players was Christen Press, the USWNT star striker who brought allegations of Dames’ abuse to U.S. Soccer while she was playing for the Red Stars. Press filed an official complaint to the federation in 2018. Carlos Cordeiro, who was U.S. Soccer president at the time, said in a recent letter that he was “not aware of either Christen’s allegations of abusive coaching or any investigation into her allegations by the Federation.” Cordeiro is currently running against Cindy Parlow Cone in the U.S. soccer presidential race to try to take back the position.

Wambach says that type of shuffling of responsibility is precisely what needs to change in women’s soccer.

“The way that progress and change happens is enough people, some brave ones, come forward, and they tell their stories,” she says. “And what we need to do as a community around these women is to support them, to give them some kind of help in their healing, and one way we can really truly help those that have been traumatized … is to believe them.

“When somebody brings accusations forward, there needs to be due diligence to figure out where it went wrong. And I don’t care if an e-mail never got to Carlos Cordeiro’s desk, he was still the president when Christen Press made these claims, and so he bears that responsibility. It is his fault that he didn’t create an environment inside of his system, inside of his world, that those around him didn’t tell him.”

As urgently as Wambach advocates for an overhaul of the systemic issues within American soccer, the 41-year-old is as fired up as ever about the progress players are making on the field.

USWNT head coach Vlatko Andonovski has welcomed an influx of new talent this year, calling in young stars like Trinity Rodman, Catarina Macario and Ashley Hatch to first training camp of 2022.

Wambach, the all-time leading goal scorer in USWNT history, knows her way around the national team better than most. Still, she says the USWNT head coaching position is “truly a job that I would never want,” especially when it comes to navigating the delicate balance of naming veterans and young players to tournament rosters.

With the SheBelieves Cup set to kick off on Thursday, the narrative around the USWNT seems to be the passing of the torch to the next generation. To that, Wambach says not so fast.

“The Megan Rapinoes and the Becky Sauerbrunns to me, there is no question that they maintain their status on the national team, that they are still consistent players getting called in because the things that they can teach some of those younger players, to me, outweighs even sometimes their performance on the field,” she says. “And of course, they still have to perform, but you still have to weigh in that veteran experience, the conversations, the teaching that happens from a veteran’s perspective.”

Wambach credits the evolution of the domestic game for the USWNT’s loaded talent pool. The leagues Wambach came up in, before the NWSL was formed in 2013, were much different in size and scope.

“In the NWSL, the players are better, the teams are better, its way more competitive, it’s way more professional. And so, to me, it feels like it’s going to be even harder and harder year over year for the coaching staff to make that decision,” Wambach says of the USWNT roster.

The NWSL’s progression is something Wambach welcomes emphatically as an owner of Angel City, set to make its debut this season.

“We have so many amazing teams in and around the Los Angeles area, and we want Angel City to be a top-tier team. We want Angel City to bring home championships,” Wambach says. “For me, watching the Rams win [the Super Bowl] the other day was just fuel. It gives all those players an idea of how the city is going to show up for them.”

As tends to happen in women’s sports, the discussion of progress all circled back to investment, with Wambach highlighting the significance of Gatorade’s backing of ACFC.

“It’s a big deal. This league, like all leagues, are funded from sponsors and from sponsorships and partnerships like the one Gatorade has with ACFC,” Wambach says.

“Bring all the sponsors.”

Clare Brennan is an associate editor at Just Women’s Sports.