This week we check in on the UEFA Women's Champions League after last month's Round of 16 matches after the draw for the Quarterfinals, Semifinals and Final—which will be held in Kiev, Ukraine—next Spring. We also review the NCAA College Cup Final Four and look at some women running for U.S. Soccer Federation President next year, including one former player who will be contentious at best.
UEFA Women's Champions League Review to Date
Wolfsburg of Germany defeated Fiorentina of Italy 7-3 on aggregate over the two legs to advance to the Round of 16. Wolfsburg, Champions League winners in 2013 and 2014, is loaded with talent including internationals like defender Nilla Fischer of Sweden, midfielders Sara Bjork Gunnarsdottir of Iceland, Zsanett Jakabfi of Hungary, Caroline Graham Hansen of Norway and Swiss veteran dual Lara Dickenman and Vanessa Bernauer, along with forward Tessa Wullaert of Belgium, 21-year-old Ewa Pajor of Poland, Pernille Harder of Denmark, and German national team stars Alexandra Popp and Lena Gossling. The club is currently tied atop of the 2017-18 Frauen Bundesliga with 22 points (9-1-1 record) along with Bayern Munich, with their one loss away to Freiburg this season 1-0.
Linkoping of Sweden advanced 4-1 on aggregate over Sparta Prague of the Czech Republic. This is the club's third appearance in the WCL quarterfinals and they are the two-time reigning Damallsvenskan Champions, having won the title again this past fall.
Chelsea of England defeated Rosengard of Sweden 4-0 on aggregate. Emma Hayes' side is the only debut quarterfinalist this season. Karen Carney (ex-Chicago Red Stars in WPS), Katie Chapman, Gemma Davison (ex-Buffalo Flash in the W-League) and Gilly Flaherty, were all members of the only previous English team to win this competition when with Arsenal in 2006/07, with Hayes as an assistant coach.
Barcelona of Spain romped to a 9-0 aggregate victory over Gintra-Universitetas of Lithuania. Barcelona has made the quarterfinals four of the last five seasons and advanced to the semifinals in 2016-17. Toni Duggan has three goals in the WCL so far and 6 goals in league play for Barcelona in her first season abroad. Lieke Martens of the Netherlands, a 2017 European Championship winner and FIFA Women's Player of the Year, has 2 goals in the European Club Competition and 3 more in the league
Olympique Lyon of France blasted BIIK-Kazygurt of Kazakhstan 16-0 over two leagues. The French powerhouse is trying to the win the title for an unprecedented third season in a row, which would be their fifth title in total, surpassing Frankfurt who they are currently tied with for four titles. French international Camille Abily has 42 goals, the most of any woman in the Champions League competition with one club (Germany's Anna Mittag has 49 across three clubs). Norwegian international forward Ada Hegerberg has 13 goals this season in Europe, one off the record of 14 which is held jointly by Conny Pohler of Potsdam (2004-05), Margret Viosarsdottier (Valur 2008-09) and Celia Sasic of Frankfurt (2014-15).
Montpellier advanced 9-2 on aggregate over Brescia of Italy, seeing France advance both of their clubs to the Quarterfinals, while both Italian clubs went home. Montpellier made the semifinals in 2006 but this year the top scorer is Swedish international Sofia Jakobsson with 3.
Slavia Prague of the Czech Republic advanced 2-1 over Stjarnan of Iceland. Stjarnan was the revelation of the last round with a 4-0 away victory of Rossiyanka. Slavia also made the Quarterfinals last season out of five WCL campaigns in total. Czech Republic native Katerina Switkova has five goals this campaign.
Manchester City advanced 7-1 over LSK, to give England two of the 8 quarterfinals. They made the semifinals last season in their Champions League debut when they fell to Lyon. Nikita Parris has three goals. Danish international Nadia Nadim will join ahead of the quarter-finals from Portland Thorns; in her four previous campaigns with Fortuna Hjørring she fell each time in the round of 16.
The Draw for the Quarterfinals, held on March 21-22 with the return leg on March 28-29 see
1 Montpellier (FRA) v Chelsea (ENG)
2 Wolfsburg (GER) v Slavia Praha (CZE)
3 Manchester City (ENG) v Linköping (SWE)
4 Lyon (FRA, holders) v Barcelona (ESP)
Semi-final draw: 21/22 & 28/29 April
1 Montpellier/Chelsea v Wolfsburg/Slavia
2 Man. City/Linköping v Lyon/Barcelona
Final: 24 May – Valeriy Lobanovskiy Dynamo Stadium, Kyiv
Semi-final 1 v Semi-final 2
College Cup sees All Pac-12 Final
Stanford University defeated UCLA 3-2 on December 3 for the first all-Pac-12 Women's College Cup Final and only the third all-West Coast Final in history, following the University of Portland defeating Santa Clara 2-1 in overtime in 2002 and Portland's 4-0 defeat of UCLA in 2005. Stanford won a thrilling match but UCLA, who fought back from a 2-0 deficit only to lose on a late Stanford goal by Jaye Boissiere, a sophomore who has played on U.S. international youth sides.
In the semifinals on December 1, Stanford defeated South Carolina and UCLA edged Duke 4-3 on penalty kicks after a 0-0 tie in regulation and overtime. UCLA freshman Marley Canales coolly slotted the winning kick with her right foot into the top right corner while the goalkeeper dove to the other side. The College Cup was held at Orlando City Stadium, where the NWSL held its final game on October 14 but as opposed to a crowd of 8,124 for Portland's 1-0 win over North Carolina; only 1,938 fans came to the College Cup final, the lowest since 1,625 fans watched the 1989 final between North Carolina and Colorado College in Raleigh, North Carolina—twenty-eight years ago and two years before the first Women's World Cup was held in China. In 2018, the Women's College Cup will return to Cary, North Carolina, and then alternate between Cary's WakeMed Soccer Park and San Jose's MLS stadium through 2021.
Stanford has been to seven Women's College Cups in the past ten years and won its only previous national title in 2011. Stanford's Brazilian born freshmen Catarina Macario (who moved with her father and brother to San Diego as a teenager to pursue her football development but had to leave her mother behind, who worked as a physician to support their move) led the country in scoring with 17 goals and 13 assists for 47 points.
South Carolina had been to the NCAA tournament 10 of the past 11 years but made its first College Cup and Grace Fisk is a sophomore from London, England, played for Millwall Lionesses and England at multiple youth levels. Fisk had 3 goals and 1 assist in 20 games this year and played one year at Penn State, with 1 goal in 21 matches.
Former U.S. national team player Amanda Cromwell won the title in her first season at UCLA in 2013—the team's first—and Olympic bronze medalist with Canada Jess Fleming ran the midfield and finished with 6 goals and 8 assists in 23 games. Teagan Micah a sophomore goalkeeper from Australia, started 24 of 25 games this season and played in the Westfield W-League at home for Western Sydney Wanderers and Brisbane Roar. She has played in Australian youth sides and is in the full national team pool.
Duke lost the title game in 2011 1-0 to Stanford and gain in 2015 1-0 to Penn State. Senior Rebecca Quinn is a Canadian international and 2016 Olympic bronze medalist.
Hope Solo—U.S. Soccer Federation President?
In what seems like the most bizarre storyline of the year, Hope Solo—known as a lightning rod of criticism and turmoil during her years as the starting goalkeeper for the U.S. Women's National Team in three World Cups from 2007-2015, announced this week that she is running for U.S. Soccer President. She put out a long piece on Facebook about her life in soccer and said the following:
"The systemic problem in U.S. Soccer starts at the youth level. Soccer has always been a middle class sport and in more recent times, has become an upper middle class sport. Some of the best clubs around the country charge each youth player between $3000-$5000 per season. I have personally witnessed young players heartbroken over the financial reality that they could no longer pursue their dream.
Yes, most club teams 'scholarship' kids in, but it is the responsibility of the USSF to develop the best youth in America. The system has been set up to discriminate and to overlook the disadvantaged because of an arrogant belief that the United States possesses the world's best athletes, so therefore we can get away without having the world's best soccer players. It is an outdated and a painfully evident reality that the National Teams currently face.
We need passionate and intelligent soccer people leading the way at U.S Soccer. The business strategy at U.S. Soccer cannot continue to be profit before progress. The heart of what USSF must represent is the development of youth soccer in America.
Progress is a process, but the system currently in place does not allow for progress to happen at the rate soccer purists would hope for. It's the stubborn and elitist attitude of U.S. Soccer to continue down the path of capitalism first. My time in the negotiating room, as well as in countless meetings with USSF presidents, vice presidents, press officers, board members, attorneys and representatives, all the way down the line has given me firsthand experience in their business tactics and where their true goal lies. It has always been about the money.
But the question we all must ask ourselves is this: why does a "profitable" nonprofit organization with millions of dollars at its disposal not make the world's most beloved sport accessible to all? Where do the massive amounts of money go?
I certainly don't know, even after taking legal action to find out. As a player, as a representative of my team in negotiating a new Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA), and as a Players Association member, we were never able to get answers to our questions with regard to where the millions of dollars from Soccer United Marketing (SUM) and sponsors go, or where the millions of dollars collected from the youth club fees go.
The USSF is a nonprofit organization that refuses to be transparent in its business dealings. It refuses to follow the Equal Pay Act that was passed more than 60 years ago, and despite reports to the contrary, the economic and financial terms of the new World Cup Champion U.S. Women's National Team's Collective Bargaining Agreement do not provide the USWNT equal pay, and are neither fair nor equitable.
This historical, immoral and unconscionable USSF conduct comes at an unacceptable cost: the cost of national pride, the cost of not qualifying for a Men's World Cup, the cost of not providing the USWNT equal pay and telling the women on the USWNT that they do not deserve to be paid what the men get paid, the cost of actively engaging in gender discrimination, and most glaringly, the cost of overlooking talented young players from diverse socio-economic communities who, if given the opportunity to participate in the system, would develop an enormous, great pool of talent that could eventually populate our USWNT and USMNT's and lead them to greatness.
I came from knocking on doors for support as a kid in the youth system to standing on the podium as World Cup Champion and feeling the full weight of support from our country. I spent my life in this system and I have seen the USSF's best and worst days. And I have always believed that US Soccer was and will be again, the leaders of the global game.
What we have lost in America is belief in our system, in our coaches, in our talent pool, and in the governance of US Soccer. We now must refocus our goals and come together as a soccer community to bring about the changes we desire.
The time for talking is over. I have been traveling internationally learning and speaking about many of these issues. I have met with foreign national soccer teams' player associations and unions. I have met with Presidents and members of the United Nations to discuss leadership and the importance of sport in the world order. Through all of these experiences, I have learned that it is the responsibility of those in leadership positions who have the ability to change policy to stop giving lip service to the issues, but to instead, execute and take the actions required to affect real change.
Given the opportunity, as President of the USSF, I will make these changes. Developing players' skills at all levels and in all communities in order to get the most out of our national player pool, to ultimately develop the Men's and Women's National teams into perennial world champions, should be the USSF's number one priority.
The only way for American soccer to propel itself on the world's stage is by creating a culture that is diverse and by shedding a mentality that is no longer acceptable.
As President, I will be campaigning on these core principles:
1. "Know How to Win": Creating a Winning Culture at USSF
Invest in robust player developmental programs, starting with diversity in the ranks of the Youth Club soccer.
Creating a winning American soccer identity and culture through building a home base training facility for U.S. Soccer development.
2.Equality and Women's Issues
Push for Equal Pay for the USWNT and all women in the USSF workplace
Push for the inclusion of women at all levels of the USSF executive and organizational hierarchy
Eliminate sexism and discrimination
3. Youth and Diversity at all levels
Address the issues of "pay to play"
Make soccer financially accessible to all
Demand socio-economic diversity and inclusion in USSF youth and developmental soccer clubs and USSF player developmental programs
4.USSF Organizational, Operational and Financial Governance Transparency
Engage and engender true USSF organizational, operational and financial governance Transparency
Restructure the roles and functions of Executive Officers and Executive branch of the USSF
I know exactly what U.S. Soccer needs to do, I know exactly how to do it, and I possess the fortitude to get it done. I have always been willing to sacrifice for what I believe in and I believe there is no greater sacrifice then fighting for equal opportunity, integrity and honesty, especially in an organization like the USSF that could give so much more to our communities across the nation. Soccer is the World's game, and I want to share it with all of America."
This is well-worded and fine in theory but she has always been iconoclastic and to think that she could lead a disparate organization is akin to believing that Joseph Stalin was beloved as a benevolent leader. Other former players are vying for the federation leadership position in a crucial election after the U.S. struggled in CONCACAF qualifiers and finished fifth in a six team group after an inexplicable final game loss to bottom side Trinidad and Tobago and missed the 2018 World Cup since the first time since 1986.
Solo is not the only former player bidding to replace Sunil Gulati, the longtime USSF President who will not run for reelection including men's former national team players Paul Caligiuri, Kyle Martino and Eric Wynalda. Another female candidate is Kathy Carter, who played collegiately and is the President of president of Soccer United Marketing, the marketing arm of Major League Soccer andU.S. Soccer and the Mexican national team, which allows it to profit not only from the matches and tournaments it controls but also from its partnerships with national federations, regional and global governing bodies, corporate sponsors and television networks.
Carter versus Solo, with what the latter has done in building an important entity to the growth of soccer, versus Solo's consistent ability to drive wedges and not work with people. It will be surprising if Solo wins any votes at all from the U.S. Soccer Federation constituent base.
Tim Grainey is a contributor to Tribal Football. His latest book Beyond Bend it Like Beckham on the global game of women's football. Get your copy today.
Follow Tim on Twitter: @TimGrainey