The Club -- The When Football Gets it Right Issue -- Year 6, No. 39, March 2022
Artwork by Lauren Milani

Women Kick Balls
If you haven’t been following women’s soccer, now would be a great time to tune in. There has been some incredible progress made both on and off the field in the game, and not just here in the U.S. but overseas too. And while there is still much to be accomplished what has transpired in the last three or four years has been nothing short of an explosion of advancements.

This year we are observing the 50th anniversary of Title IX, a law that literally opened the door for women’s participation in school sports. Much of what we are witnessing now might not even be happening if it weren't for the passing of this legislation.

Salary Settlement Reached. Last month the USWNT and the US Soccer Federation reached an agreement over the longstanding dispute over equal pay.  This was a significant win, ending a dispute that began with a handful of players back in 2016 and grew to include more than 20 form the women’s national team. Going forward, the agreement states, the USSF will provide an equal pay rate for the Women’s and Men’s National Teams in all friendlies, tournaments, including the World Cup.

National Women’s Soccer League. The league has benefited from expansion, a recent collective bargaining agreement, and this upcoming season will be celebrating a historic 10-year anniversary. Off the field, teams like Angel City FC and the North Carolina Courage are leading by example, with women minority owners. The talent on the field continues to impress, with not only players from the U.S. women’s national teams but collegiate and international stars. The 2022 season kicks off with the Challenge Cup on March 18.

Two New U.S. Leagues. The USL W League is making its debut this May with 30-plus teams, and the USL Super League is launching as a professional Division II women's league in 2023. These both present more of a pipeline for the best players in the country, as well as opportunities for career development off the field.

Women of the World. Women’s leagues around the world are also seeing an increase in investment and viewership, with extremely talented teams playing in England, Spain, Germany and Italy. This year Morocco is hosting the 12th edition of the Africa Women’s Cup of Nations, with 12 teams competing for the title in July. 

Just The Facts (JTF)

  • Are you ready for more football? The UEFA Women’s Euro kicks off this summer in host country England. The best of the European talent will be on display as 16 teams vie for the title of continents’ best. And qualifying for the Australia / New Zealand 2023 Women's World Cup will start shortly after. 

  • The Men in Blazers Women’s Soccer Podcast is coming this Spring. One of my favorite broadcast duos, Rog and Davo, have always shown great respect for the women’s game and have frequently highlighted its players and stars. Expect more of the same–great interviews and analysis of the NWSL.

  • Briana Scurry’s new book comes out this June, but you can pre-order it now. My Greatest Save: The Brave, Barrier-Breaking Journey of a World Champion Goalkeeper, is the memoir of an incredible athlete and her career with the U.S. Women’s national team. Scurry set a number of records on the way to collecting a World Cup title, two Olympic gold medals, and becoming the first African American woman to be inducted into the National Soccer Hall of Fame. 

Only Forward / Solo Pa'lante
The expression March “comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb” ties right into where the USMNT fits now, with the final three matches left of CONCACAF World Cup Qualifying. For most of the qualifying cycle, they’ve fought ferociously and managed to stay among the top three on the table. Their current second-place spot would guarantee entry.  And while the odds are in their favor, nothing is guaranteed, and these last three matches, two of which are on the road, are crucial.  The memory of not qualifying four years ago, losing to Trinidad and Tobago and missing the World Cup for the first time in 32 years, still stings.

Fans would love to see Berhalter’s young squad beat El Tri at Azteca, but the U.S. has never won a WCQ in Mexico. The team will also be without Weston McKennie after the midfielder suffered two fractures in his left foot last month while playing for his club Juventus in a Champions League match. His energy, skills and leadership on the field will not easily be replaced. 

If the U.S. fails to finish in the top three and automatically qualify, a fourth-place finish would mean facing an Oceania team, in a one-game playoff, to qualify for Qatar. Let’s hope we have a tranquil ending to this March, with the team getting back to the World Cup.

JTF: What Everyone's Watching

  • U.S. Talent Goes to Europe. Ever since David Beckham crossed the pond to play in Major League Soccer the league has had the reputation of being a retirement spot for aging European stars. But because MLS has improved as a development league for American players, now top clubs in Europe are looking for talent on MLS teams. There are more than 50 American players currently on overseas clubs. 

  • TNT/TBA and HBO Max Deal. They're pretty well known for their great NBA coverage, but starting next year, the TNT/TBS sports analysts will have to get very familiar with Pinoe, Captain America and the rest of the men’s and women’s national team players. The WarnerMedia streaming service signed an eight-year deal with the U.S. Soccer Federation to show 20 U.S. Women’s and Men’s National Team matches annually beginning in 2023. And despite what Charles Barkley had to say, it's going to be awesome!

  • Dest Drama. A little over a month ago Sergiño Dest was linked to trade rumors over his disappointment with the amount of playing time he was getting at FB Barcelona. But then the U.S. national was added to the lineup in several matches, demonstrating his value as the Catalan club won four straight. Said Barca boss Xavi Hernandez, “Dest has been playing at a very high level. He has shown that he has what it takes to play for Barca.”

Upcoming USMNT Schedule
March 24: Mexico vs USA, 10:00 p.m. ET, Estadio Azteca, Mexico
March 27: USA vs Panama, 7:00 p.m. ET, Exploria Stadium, Orlando, Florida
March 30: Costa Rica vs USA, 9:05 p.m. ET, Estadio Nacional de Costa Rica

#WeStandWithUkraine: How Soccer Promotes Peace
On Thursday, February 24, we all woke up to the news that Russia had invaded Ukraine, launching a massive attack on the Eastern European country. Troops entered from the north, south, and east, and within a day, fighting had reached the Ukrainian capital Kyiv. To date, more than one million have fled their homes seeking refuge in neighboring and other countries. Sanctions from the world swiftly followed. The sports industry responded too, as it is becoming less and less possible to separate it from the politics of the world. Reactions and messages showed just how powerful soccer can be as a platform for peace. 

Here’s just how big the impact has been within the first 48 hours:

  • FIFA reacted within hours of the invasion, pulling the UEFA Champions League Final from St. Petersburg. The May 28 final will now be played in Paris. (On February 28, FIFA and UEFA jointly announced that all Russian teams would be suspended from all competitions until further notice). 

  • Both Poland and Sweden national teams announced they refused to play Russia in upcoming matches including a World Cup Qualifier. One player made this emotional post on Instagram.

  • Both German Bundesliga club Schalke and England’s Manchester United terminated shirt and stadium sponsorship deals with Russian companies, ending 15 and 10-year partnerships. 

  • Before their Premier League match players from England’s Everton and Manchester City football clubs wore warmup shirts with No War, and the blue and yellow flag colors of Ukraine in solidarity with two players on each team.

  • #WeStandWithUkraine. Football fans in Europe joined protests and marches around the world and brought anti-war signs to matches to show their support. 

One Nation: Donald Wine's Incredible Support of USMNT & USWNT. Take a peek at superfan Donald Wine, out of Washington, D.C., who since 2008, has been intent on encouraging everyone to become supporters of the U.S. men’s and women’s national teams. Last month he celebrated his 100th cap, the number of matches he’s attended. Donald is President of the American Outlaws D.C. Chapter and Co-Manager of Stars and Stripes FC at SB Nation. Check out this video that demonstrates his dedication and passion, and his mission to see more diversity in the sport.

Notable Arm Wrestling Match
Big Meeks vs Gooch
Paramount network’s soccer pundits in the U.S. and England regularly poke fun at each other, whether it’s about their former playing careers, teams they have allegiance to and even their taste in clothing. So when the topic of strongest, as in who is, and arm wrestling came up, two of the tv crew found themselves volunteering for a non-football challenge. On March 24, former U.S. national Oguchi Onyewu (@OguchiOnyewu5) and Micah Richards (@MicahRichards) will battle each other, in studio, in New York, in an arm-wrestling match. They probably won’t be calling in Michael Buffer, but this should still be an entertaining bout. 


Notable New Football Podcast
Men in Blazers European Nights

Thanks to MiB’s Roger Bennett, there’s a new way to catch up on all things Euro football. In Rog’s words, per the Men in Blazers newsletter, the new podcast is “all you need to know to truly savor the magic of football played under the floodlights.” European Nights will feature Bennett and recurring guest Rory Smith, The New York Times Chief Soccer Correspondent, recapping the week that was, with content geared toward an ever-growing American audience.

Notable Female Football Campaign
Her Game Too
Last July a group of 12 women football supporters started Her Game Too, a campaign to raise awareness about and combat sexism in the football industry. The UK-based group has been advocating for things like women and girls feeling safe sharing their opinion about football both online and in real life without fear of sexist abuse. Everton FC became the first Premier League club to partner with the group and a number of teams have since followed. Last month, Everton and Brentwood held matchdays that highlighted their backing of Her Game Too and their focus on equality and inclusion. The campaign is hoping to continue inspiring by working with partners and volunteer ambassadors.


Notable Football Designs
AFCON Country Kits
The Africa Cup of Nations wrapped up last month, and we won’t soon forget the Sadio Mane, Mo Salah faceoff in the Senegal, Egypt final. But before Senegal were crowned champions, SoccerBible took a look at some favorites of the 17 different brands that designed the jerseys of the 24 nations. The bright colors and bold shapes reflect the spirit of the countries that wore them.


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