Jill Ellis talks biennial World Cups, Marla Messing named interim CEO of the NWSL — Lindsey Horan talks Thorns win — Must-click woso links

Soccer Monday with Annie M. Peterson, October 18, 2021

So a bit of news broke this morning. First, on the international front: Jill Ellis is leading an FIFA advisory group that is looking at biennial World Cups.

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If you remember, this issue started bubbling up back during the Olympics. And last month FIFA announced aspirations to move forward with the plan.

But it has drawn widespread criticism. England coach Sarina Weigman has been one of the most vocal critics on the women’s side, but others against the plan include UEFA, COMNEBOL, the French football league and even the IOC, which came out with a statement denouncing the idea over the weekend.

The IOC cited clashes in the schedule with other sports, the men’s World Cup overshadowing women’s editions tournament and a strain on athlete welfare.

Ellis said the goal of the technical advisory group is to ultimately grow the women’s game and make it self sustaining. That means putting the game out front-and-center more often.

But, she also insisted that a biennial World Cup is not a foregone conclusion. FIFA president Gianni Infantino strongly supports the plan.

I truly believe we should think that our sport at some point can be self-sustaining, and I also think that the way we do that is to get ourselves front and center more frequently. It’s not to go to sleep for three years, it’s to make sure that we are out front and center, driving the game, driving the standards as an organization.”

Among those on the technical advisory group: Pia Sundhage, Mark Parsons, Alex Morgan, Kristine Lilly, Karina LeBlanc, Lindsey Horan, Emma Hayes, and Wendie Renard.

We’ll obviously be watching this story. To be honest, I kind of scoffed at the idea of a biennial World Cup when I first heard it, but now I’m thinking it looks more probable.

Here’s my story for the AP.

Also breaking this morning, but domestically: Marla Messing has been named interim CEO of the NWSL. Messing was president/CEO of the 1999 World Cup here in the United States, and was director of 2028 Los Angeles Olympic bid.

Messing’s appointment means the executive committee, named after Lisa Baird stepped down, will be dissolved.

“First and foremost, I am honored to have the opportunity to help lead the NWSL and fully embrace the abundantly clear need to transform the league so that player welfare is central to every discussion and decision. I also want to commend the bravery and strength of each and every player in the league to demand the change that should be at the core of every organization. Gaining the trust of our players and uniting players and owners is central to my approach so that we can most effectively create systemic change.”

There’s a conference call with Messing set for Wednesday, so I’ll be addressing this more next week. But on the face of it, this is a good, solid hire.

Oh and hey, my hometown team clinched the NWSL Shield!

Even with a bunch of players in and out because of the Olympics and international duty, the Thorns also won the preseason Challenge Cup, the International Champions Cup, and now the Shield. And if you want to go back a bit, they also won the Fall Series. Now it’s on to the playoffs.

The Reign and Spirit have also secured postseason spots. Eliminated are the Orlando Pride, KC NWSL and Racing Louisville.

Other spots are up for grabs. Remember, this season six teams make the playoffs. My favorite Tweet of the weekend:



Ya’ll know the drill. Give these writers some love with some clicks. And as always, email me with suggestions: apeterson@ap.org.

Steph Yang on the Black Women’s Player Collective and reflecting on the past two weeks for The Athletic.

US Soccer President Cindy Parlow Cone writes an open letter addressing the recent controversies.

Molly Hensley-Clancy covers Steve Baldwin’s intention to sell the Washington Spirit, for the Washington Post. Worth subscribing for Hensley-Clancy and Steven Goff.

The Courier Journal on the NWSL championship game move.

Alex Azzi for NBC’s On Their Turf on the players reclaiming the NWSL

ESPN’s Jeff Carlisle on Steve Baldwin’s plan to sell the Washington Spirit.

Forbes magazine on the NWSL and hostile workplaces.

Interesting Sports Business Journal piece on the NWSL and crisis management.

Amee Ruszkai for Goal.com on the Ballon d’Or snubs.

The wonderful Paul Danzer of the Portland Tribune on the NWSL players calling for change.

The Kansas City Star looks at the arc of KC NWSL’s season.

Sandra Hererra takes a look at the U.S. roster for the upcoming friendlies against South Korea for CBS Sports.

The Oregonian’s Steve Duin with a nice column on Bridge City Soccer Academy.

Suzanne Wrack speaks to Amanda Vandervort about launching a second-division women’s league in the US.

FIFA is helping evacuate players and others from Afghanistan.

Iran bars spectators from World Cup qualification, leading some to speculation that the decision was meant to exclude women.

Australia Associated Press reports on the online abuse faced by the Matildas.

The IX Interview: Postgame with Lindsey Horan

Horan spoke following the Thorns victory Sunday over the Dash. With her goal, she became the third player in club history to score 25 goals.

Question: Just wondering, going into the last game of the season and in the playoffs, how are you feeling about where the team is at?

Horan: We came off of a kind of rough few games. And I think coming into this game we just wanted to find our personality again and, Thorns’ values and what the game means to us and I think we found that tonight. We showed grit. We wanted this win so bad. We wanted to put ourselves in a great spot to end the season. Everyone goes through a roller coaster rides through the season, and we just went through one and we came out stronge. We pulled off this win and everyone that was on the field showed up. Credit to Houston, they’re a great team and they’ve improved so much over the past few years. So they gave us a tough game especially in the last 10 minutes, it was a rough one but we ended up going so very, very proud.”

Question: Obviously every team comes into the season with goals and winning the shield is one of those on the list, what’s the significance for this club?

Horan: We kind of said coming into the season and we want to win everything. And that’s what we’re trying to do. I think we’re focused on every single game, whatever’s in front of us. That was today: We had the chance to win the Shield today but by all means, we just wanted to win the game, and we wanted to beat Houston and we wanted to show, like I said, who the Thorns are, and our passion, our fight. Everything that we showed today was back to what we want it to be.

Question: What’s meant to be able to be a part of this team for so long, and to be able to get that goal today to join that group?

Horan: I was making fun of myself before today’s game that I barely scored this year so I was very happy with the goal. Secondly, I think, being a part of this club for so long is truly such a special thing for me. Playing with the Thorns, playing with these players, everyone on the field today. It’s truly just remarkable and just very, very special so I’m very happy, very grateful, and I had no idea it was 25.

Question: I was wondering if you could just talk a little bit about how you found success individually against Houston — you had the two assists in the previous game and the goal tonight. And I was also wondering if you talk a little bit about what it means to win this third trophy of the season in Mark’s last year.

Horan: For me individually, I think playing against a team like Houston, you know it’s going to be physical, you know it’s going to be a battle and it’s just about finding, which ways I can be impactful. I think the first game against Houston, a week or so ago, was different in this game. I think this one was a little bit more of a battle and I found certain pockets and whatnot, but I was able to be on the ball more, I think, than in the prior game. And to win a third, what do you want to call it a trophy. This is a shield but I like to call it a cup. I think it’s very special. For Mark, we want to send him away this last year, in the best way possible. For this team and everyone a part of it, it is such a special team. It’s such a special group, we’ve never been like this before and never had this kind of team chemistry before on and off the field. So winning three trophies now, and hoping to win the fourth is incredible. We would like to have the quadruple. So I think that would be a testament to everything that we are in this club and what we’re looking forward to.

Question: You’ve got your 12th shutout of the season, what has allowed you to be so consistent on defense?

Horan: First and foremost our backline and Bella have been incredible. Even today, I don’t know how many balls that our backline had to clear, had to block shots. Bella coming up so strong with some of her saves and some of the balls out of the air. It’s incredible to see her improvement over the past few years, and her confidence. And our backline has been so strong. But I think defensively, we know that we’re the type of team that we want to make sure we keep the ball in their half.

Mondays: Soccer
By: Annie Peterson, @AnnieMPeterson, AP Women’s Soccer
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By: Joey Dillon, @JoeyDillon, Freelance Tennis Writer
Wednesdays: Basketball
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Written by Annie Peterson