The IX: Soccer Monday with Annie M. Peterson, April 20, 2020

Sobering thoughts about the future of women's sports, and excerpts from my conversation with Morgan Weaver. Plus links!

(Hi! Howard Megdal here. The IX helps build the necessary infrastructure for women’s sports media. In this moment, freelance budgets are being cut, reporters are losing their jobs. Women’s sports always bears the brunt of that first.

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“Existential Threat”

For the AP, I looked last week at how women’s sports might be impacted — in the long run — by the coronavirus pandemic.

I went beyond soccer to volleyball, softball and even individual sports like tennis and golf. I had an especially enlightening conversation with Cheri Kempf, commissioner for the National Pro Fastpitch league.

She put the forecast for women’s sports this way:

“If the seas get choppy and rough and you’re out there in a yacht, you can go downstairs and live it up and ride it out. You can eat good, drink good and all that. Men’s sports are the ones with the yacht. But if you’re out there in a canoe, and seas get choppy, you’re in big trouble. And that’s women’s sports. You know, we’re riding around out there in a canoe.”

Soon after my story came out, FIFPro, the international soccer players’ union, released a report on the women’s game and coronavirus. You can find the report here. FIFPro called the pandemic an `existential threat’ to the game.

In a conference call with reporters, FIFPro general secretary Jonas Baer-Hoffmann said: “We just thought it was it was an absolute necessity to highlight in the course of this crisis management problem, the importance of paying conscious attention to the women’s game because the damage that a crisis like this can have, on an industry which has been growing so well, but is still very fragile to many in many places, can be very drastic.”


I’m a bit concerned now that we’ve seen reports of Major League Soccer exploring the idea of a salary cut that NWSL teams could follow suit. Although when I spoke to Yael Averbuch two weeks ago she said this had not yet been discussed. (See last week’s The IX.)

An aside: The Equalizer asked this week about the as-yet-unannounced Women’s World Cup host for 2023. It got me thinking: Coverage of the event will likely look wayyyyy different than it did in 2019 France. Some of the reporters who covered the event have been furloughed or laid off. Media outlets are struggling. (Hint: Please consider subscriptions, if you are able.) So it’s not just the women’s game that could suffer, it’s coverage of the game that will likely be hurt, too.

Becky Sauerbrunn was more hopeful when I asked about her thoughts on women’s soccer, suggesting that perhaps the Olympic delay could help build more excitement.

“My hope is that we’re not going to have some sort of dip in the interest of sports. I also think now with the Olympics being pushed back, that actually is an opportunity for us to gain momentum going into the Olympics. And so sometimes I think when you think about sponsorships, that people kind of have a World Cup hangover when it comes to women’s soccer, like everything builds up to the World Cup and then you have the Olympics. And women’s soccer is just kind of like `We’re still hung over from the World Cup.’ So I think this also is an opportunity to really build momentum, again, leading into the Olympics now that we have a little bit more time.”

I hope so, too.

And with that: Stay Safe. Stay Home. Wash Your Hands! On to the links.


(Reminder: First, the underlined words are the links. Second. CLICK these, even if you’ve already read them. ESPECIALLY NOW, as newsrooms are forced to make difficult choices. Clicks = Attention from editors, producers and webmasters. Third, if you want to push out stuff you’ve written or read, email me!

Guys, the NWSL would have started this past weekend. Normally I would have written a season preview, a “five things’’ to look for story. Since there aren’t five things to look forward to this season, I spoke to rookie Morgan Weaver about how her first pro season is on hold.

Alex Vejar with the scoop for the Salt Lake Tribune. Sarah Bouhaddi and midfielder Dzsenifer Marozsan are headed to the Utah Royals.

Here’s my story on the threat to women’s sports in a post-pandemic world.

Here’s my story on the FIFPro report.

Julie Foudy is concerned, too.

Kieran Theivam had a wonderful story on Bend It Like Beckham. Kieran also announced he is leaving The Athletic. We wish him well, because he’s an amazing advocate for the women’s game. Also, buy his book (with Jeff Kassouf) here!

Oh, and while we’re at it, if you’ve been living on a deserted island for the past year and haven’t read Caitlin Murray’s book on the national team, it’s here.

I missed this when it came out but Meg Linehan wrote an awesome guide to indie bookstores in each NWSL market.

Linehan also took a deep dive into the FIFPro report and what the coronavirus might mean for the NWSL.

FIFPro also looked at depression among soccer players during the outbreak. The Guardian covered it here. I’m guessing this is true for a lot of professions right now. I’ve noticed a change in my sleep and eating habits, both signs I need to pay attention to what my body is telling me and take care of myself (`self care’ seems like kind of a cliche at this point).

The Equalizer’s Jeff Kassouf asks a good question: When will the host for the 2023 World Cup be selected?

The Equalizer had a really wonderful Player’s Week series. Here is Toni Pressley’s contribution.

Sophie Lawson took a look at whether the women’s soccer tournament has outgrown the games. Interesting. For All for XI.

Kim McCauley at SB Nation with a hopeful look at the future. I loved this piece.

And this one from All for XI from Stephanie Yang and Jason Anderson. And check out the Two Drunk Fans podcast from Friday. It’s awesome.

I’m not really big on comparing the women’s game to the men’s, but here’s a story from The Athletic that does that if you’re curious.

Tweet of the week

This is a good group.

Five at The IX: Morgan Weaver!

As I mentioned above, I spoke to Morgan Weaver, the No. 2 pick in the NWSL draft. We talked about a bunch of stuff, from her career at Washington State to her great story about going second in the draft. Here are some excerpts. Oh and totally check out her mom’s banana bread recipe in the link above.

Annie: I want to go back and talk to you a little bit about your senior season at Washington State. Looking back looking back at what the Cougars were able to do. Were you surprised?

Morgan: No, I wasn’t. I knew we had it in us and I knew that we had the fight and the grit. I think we just all had to believe in ourselves — and I think that’s what happened. Once we hit the tournament, we all believed in each other, knew what we had to do to get to that spot. And I think that was what helped us through everything.

Annie: You had been there for four years. What did Todd instill that kind of turned the program around, do you think?

Morgan: Well, Todd’s a very — he has a big heart. I think the thing about Todd, it didn’t matter if we won the game, if we didn’t play as well, he would be like `I’m so proud that we won. But it needs to be better. It wasn’t clean enough.’ And I think him getting on all of us, it was able to make us say `OK we need to pick it up a little bit. We are so much better than this, and that’s OK that we didn’t do well. But you know what? That can’t happen again.’ I think he was someone who really pushed us.

Annie: Do you think that that you guys collectively in the end, were impacted by the spotlight that was on you?

Morgan: I don’t think the spotlight mattered to us, at all. We didn’t care about what people said, honestly. You know, when the spotlight was on us might read something and everyone’s like, `Oh, my goodness, whatever. We don’t need to pay attention to that, because we know who we are. It shouldn’t matter what anyone says about us.’

Annie: What was your favorite moment of your college career?

Morgan: My favorite moment — Ooh, that’s a hard one. I mean, I think this last year, all together. You know, there were so many ups and downs. But I think being able to make it to the Final Four and just turning a program into something so amazing and being able to continue to do it with so many great people. And also, learning from other people, and learning the way that teams and people work with each other with different personalities.

Annie: I thought you were going to say the hat trick against the Huskies.

Morgan: Oh well yeah, that’s also my favorite thing. I can have two.

Annie: So you played for four years and you were not on some people’s radar. You weren’t considered by some to be a No. 2 pick. So what happened on draft day?

Morgan: I didn’t really care what people said. I kind of just let it go and went in with an open mind. I didn’t really read any of the articles saying where I should have gone or what I should have done, or why did I get No. 2. I kind of just left it alone and was like, `I earned this, and I’ve worked as hard as I can and I’m going to continue to do the best I can here in Portland.’

But I think, you know, what helped me get here today was my teammates, my coaching staff, my family. I mean, being able to push me to be the best I can, the support I’ve got so many different people, has really gotten to where I am now. Going No. 2 was a complete shock. I honestly didn’t believe it at first, but I’m very honored and happy to be here in Portland right now and to continue with such an amazing team.

Annie: I read somewhere that your agent turned to you and said you’re going No. 2. Is that true?

Morgan: Yeah, it’s was like before I went up. He told me and I was like, `OK, whatever. I don’t believe you.’ Then it actually happened.

Mondays: Soccer
By: Annie Peterson, @AnnieMPeterson AP Women’s Soccer
Tuesdays: Tennis
By Joey Dillon, @JoeyDillon  Freelance Tennis Writer
Wednesdays: Basketball
By: Howard Megdal, @HowardMegdal High Post Hoops
Thursdays: Golf
By Carly Grenfell, @Carlygren
Fridays: Hockey
By: Erica Ayala,@ELindsay08 NWHL Broadcaster

Written by Annie Peterson