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The Week in Women's Football: Angel City sale over board fracture; exciitng NWSL/Liga MX Cup; Euro qualifiers

This week, we review the format and draw for the 2025 UEFA Women's EURO Championship qualifying, which begins this month during the April FIFA international window. We also look at some more NWSL news—with a new tournament involving NWSL and Liga MX Femenil clubs this summer, the Women's Cup this summer in two Midwestern NWSL cities, NWSL expansion and team ownership change news, the 2024 Challenge Cup Result and team news from Gotham FC, Kansas City Current, Racing Louisville, Portland Thorns, Seattle Reign, Utah Royals and the Washington Spirit.

2025 UEFA EURO Championship qualifying groups

The format will be the same as the recently completed UEFA Women's Nations League, with teams divided into three leagues based on ranking coefficients to create more parity at the group stage: League A with 16 teams, League B also with 16 teams and League C with 19 teams. This EURO Qualifying tournament will also determine the league position of teams for the second-ever Nations League, which will begin after the EUROs next year.

The League 1 assigned groups are as follows:

Group A1

  • Netherlands
  • Italy
  • Norway
  • Finland

Group A2

  • Spain
  • Denmark
  • Belgium
  • Czech Republic

Group A3

  • France
  • England,
  • Sweden
  • The Republic of Ireland

Group A4

  • Germany
  • Austria
  • Iceland
  • Poland

Group A 3 has been called the group of death as England is the reigning EURO champions from 2021 and, along with Sweden, made the last four of the 2023 WWC Finals. France made the semifinals in England in 2021 and the Quarterfinals in Australia/New Zealand, falling to host Australia on penalty kicks. The Irish made the finals of the Women's World Cup Finals in 2023 for first time and were quite competitive. On March 5, England head coach Sarina Wiegman said: "It's a tough draw but it is a really exciting draw. Of course, we all went into the draw knowing that Sweden—one of the top countries—would be in pot three because of their Nations League performance in 2023, so with France, Sweden, and Ireland in our group, it will be very competitive. It's exciting and now we just have to show up and perform. For the fans and for football it is really good because it will be so competitive."

The League B groups are comprised as follows:

Group B1

  • Switzerland
  • Hungary
  • Turkey
  • Azerbaijan

Group B2

  • Scotland
  • Serbia
  • Slovakia
  • Israel

Group B3

  • Portugal
  • Bosnia and Herzegovina
  • Northern Ireland
  • Malta

Group B4

  • Wales
  • Croatia
  • Ukraine
  • Kosovo

The League C groups are comprised as follows:

Group C1

  • Belarus
  • Lithuania
  • Cyprus
  • Georgia

Group C2

  • Slovenia
  • Latvia
  • North Macedonia
  • Moldovia

Group C3

  • Greece
  • Montenegro
  • Andorra
  • Faroe Islands

Group C4

  • Romania
  • Bulgaria
  • Kazakhstan
  • Armenia

Group C5

  • Albania
  • Estonia
  • Luxembourg

For the 2025 EURO Qualifiers, the top two teams in Groups A1, A2, A3 and A4 (eight in total) automatically advance to the Finals along with host side Switzerland. Then to decide the other seven spots in the finals, two rounds of playoffs will be held. In the first round, the League A third and fourth place sides (eight teams in total) will be drawn against the League C five group winners and three runners up (eight teams in total). For League B, 12 teams—the four group winners, second place and third place sides will meet. In the second round all the winners will be seeded and playoff in 14 ties (home and away) with the seven winners advancing to Switzerland.

For the next Nations League, promotion and relegation playoffs will again be held (see: The Week in Women's Football: Mexico celebrate USA shock; Spain win Nations League - Tribal Football) involving promotion for the four group winners in League B into League A, promotion for five Group Winners in League C into Group B, relegation for the four fourth place teams from the League A groups into League B and relegation for the four fourth place finishers and the lowest rated third place team from League B into League C.

Looking at the 2025 EUROS host nation, Switzerland—which won the rights over France, Poland and a joint Denmark, Sweden, Norway and Finland bid—has seen reports that the country's federal council has cut the budget for the tournament from 15 million Swiss Francs (US$16.6 million) to four million Swiss Francs (US$4.4 million). The tournament has been criticized because of the size of the eight venues compared to remarkable and groundbreaking success in 2021 in England, when 87,192 attended the final at Wembley.

In Switzerland, three of the eight stadiums have capacities under 20,000 and the final is set to be hosted in the largest available venue, Basel's 38,512 capacity stadium. To compare a Swiss tournament to England is not fair. I've attended games in Switzerland and they will do a fine job on the organizational side and their local fans are passionate. There should be a strong demand for tickets with easy train travel to and around the nation, but of the other bidders, except for France, they were proposing smaller venues as well, with Poland planning for four out of ten venues and the Nordic bid three of nine with stadium capacities below 20,000 fans. All the bids did have a larger venue than Basel for the final but I think the Switzerland tournament will be remembered afterwards as fondly as the 2017 smaller tournament in Netherlands that really put women's football on the map in Europe.

NWSL Club and Team News

Gotham FC

U.S. international Midge Purce tore her ACL early in the 2024 regular season and is out for the rest of the season. She was the MVP of the 2023 NWSL Championship match when Gotham defeated the Seattle Reign 2-1.

Kansas City Current

The Kansas City Current opened their purpose built CPKC Stadium on March 16 with a sell-out crowd of 11,500 seeing the home team defeat Portland 5-4 in a shootout on the opening weekend of the 2024 NWSL regular season. U.S. youth international Alex Pfeiffer (16) scored KC's fifth goal to become the youngest goal scorer in NWSL history.

Racing Louisville

Racing Louisville signed Reilyn Turner to her first pro contract in a three year deal through the 2026 season. A four-year starter at UCLA, Turner was a 2023 All-American and helped the Bruins win a national championship in 2022. She was the 2022 Women's College Cup's Most Outstanding Offensive Player after scoring the game-winner against Alabama in the semifinal (3-0) and a dramatic equalizer with 16 seconds left in the national title game against North Carolina, which UCLA won 3-2 in overtime.

Turner finished her college career ranking sixth in program history in total points, just ahead of some of the biggest names in UCLA history, including U.S. international Mia Fishel (ex-Tigres UANL of Mexico and now at Chelsea), Canadian international Jessie Fleming (who moved from Chelsea to the Portland Thorns for the 2024 season), former U.S. international and 2019 Women's World Cup winner Sam Mewis (now retired) and U.S. international Ashley Sanchez (who moved from the Washington Spirit to the North Carolina Courage in the off-season). Turner has been to U.S. U-20 and U-23 WNT camps and was part of the U.S.'s 2018 CONCACF U-17 Championship roster, scoring twice at the tournament. Before college, Turner won four national championships in the Elite Clubs National League, the highest youth club level in the U.S.

See our recent column on the club's recent trip to Colombia for a pre-season tournament: The Week in Women's Football: Barbra Banda's near $3M move to Orlando Pride; examining Jan transfers report - Tribal Football.

Off the field, Racing appointed Carmelina Moscato as an assistant coach. She is a former Canadian international player who was on three WWC Finals sides, won an Olympic Bronze medal and who is in their National Soccer Hall of Fame. Moscato was the head coach and technical director at Tigres in Mexico and won the 2022 Apertura (Opening) Championship title, when current Racing and Nigerian international forward Uchenna Kanu (26)—who played collegiately in Florida and then in Sweden, Spain and Mexico—played for Tigres. She became the first foreign-born coach to win a Mexican league title and the first female coach to win a trophy at Tigres.

Moscato has coached at the college, youth national team and pro levels—she has also been a league commissioner (for the League 1 Ontario Women's Division in 2019-20)—a coach in Australia (at Illawarra Stingrays of the New South Wales State League) and worked at the Bahamas Football Federation as a women's football director in 2021. Prior to Tigres, Moscato coached FC Nordsjælland to a fourth-place finish in the Danish Women's League over the 2021-22 campaign. She also worked for years in the Canada Youth National Team system, leading the U-15's to a second-place finish at the CONCACAF championship in 2016 (losing 2-0 to the U.S.) and spending two years as an assistant for the U-20's. She played 13 years with Canada's senior national teams, earned 94 caps and won silver at the 2002 FIFA U-19 Women's World Championship on home soil, an event that attracted almost 50,000 fans to the final in Edmonton and launched the international profiles of many players, including Christine Sinclair and Brazil's Marta, and galvanized the country forever around the women's national team program.

Moscato had a previous connection to Louisville as she worked three seasons as an assistant for Karen Ferguson-Dayes at the University of Louisville in the late 2000's while still playing professionally. On the club side, Moscato played in Australia, Canada, Italy, Sweden and the United States, spending three seasons in the NWSL with the Seattle Reign, the Boston Breakers and the Chicago Red Stars.

Portland Thorns

The Portland Thorns FC have added midfielder Marissa Sheva (26), a four-year veteran of the National Women's Soccer League, to a one-year contract with a mutual second year option. Sheva played the last two seasons with the Washington Spirit, where she appeared in 18 matches. Prior to the 2020 NWSL Challenge Cup, Sheva signed with Utah Royals FC, but did not make any appearances. Before joining the NWSL, Sheva spent a season with Deportivo Alavés Gloriosas in Spain, playing in one match for the Liga F side. Collegiately, Sheva attended Penn State, where she was a two-sport athlete, running track as well as playing soccer.

As a freshman, Sheva helped the Nittany Lions lift its first-and-only National Championship in 2015. She joins teammates Kat Asman, Sam Coffey and Payton Linnehan as former Nittany Lions now members of the Portland Thorns. Vera Pauw brought her in late to play for the Republic of Ireland national team just before the 2023 WWC, where she played in all three games, but gave up a crucial penalty early in the first half (that Steph Catley scored from) in their 1-0 opening game loss to co-host Australia in front of over 75,000 fans in Sydney.

The Thorns have also acquired Portugal National Team forward Ana Dias (26) for the 2024 season, with a mutual second-year option. General Manager and President of Soccer Operations Karina LeBlanc said: "It's exciting to add a player of Ana's caliber to our roster. Her professional experience abroad will bring another element to our squad, which is exciting for us. Her personal goals and ambitions align perfectly with what we hope to do as a club."

She joins from Zenit St. Petersburg in Russia, where she played for three seasons, scoring 36 times in 70 appearances. She helped Zenit win its first Russian Women's League title in 2022. Previously she played at home with GDC A-dos-Francos and UR Cadima in her home country of Portugal. She has seven caps with the Portuguese full national team.

At the end of March, the Thorns signed U.S. national team forward Sophia Smith (23) to the highest annual salary in the league. She was set to become a free agent at the end of the season and signed a contract extension that will keep her with the Thorns through the 2025 season. She will retain a contract option for 2026. Smith said: "There is no place like Portland,. I don't believe there's an environment like Portland to play in and it's a city that's so special to me and a city that I feel like I've grown up in almost and become who I am."

Smith was the No. 1 overall pick by the Thorns in the 2020 NWSL draft after leaving Stanford University in Northern California following an NCAA championship title as a sophomore. This is her fifth season in the NWSL and she has scored 34 regular-season goals since then and become the youngest player in league history to win the MVP award (in 2022, when they won the title) and the Golden Boot (in 2023).

For the coaching staff, Portland Thorns FC have announced the addition of goalkeeper coach Jordan Franken, who arrives from his home country of Australia, where he served as the goalkeeper coach for the U-23 and U-20 Australia Women's National Teams, while simultaneously working as the first team goalkeeper coach for Melbourne City FC in the A-League Women. While with Melbourne City, Franken coached Australian international goalkeeper Tegan Micah (now with Liverpool in the WSL) when she won the 2020-221 W-League Women Goalkeeper of the Year.

Franken was also instrumental in the development of Lysianne Proulx, who recently earned her first call-up to the Canada National Team and is starting at Bay FC in the San Francisco Bay area. As a player, Franken spent time with his boyhood club, Perth Glory, as well as semi-professionally with Hume City FC. Additionally, Franken is the son of esteemed Australian goalkeeper and goalkeeping coach, Tony Franken.

Seattle Reign

Seattle signed Korea Republic international midfielder Ji So-yun (33) for the 2024 and 2025 season in late January for a transfer fee, as she had one more year on her contact with Suwon FC at home. She becomes the fourth Korean player in the NWSL after Jeon Ga-eul (the first to join the NWSL and who played for the WNY Flash early in 2016), Lee So-dam (Gotham FC in 2021), and Casey Phair (who signed a deal with Angel City in January). Ji is the highest scoring Korean national team player of all time—for either men's or women's football—with 69 goals in over 150 games since her debut in 2006.

After starting her career at INAC Kobe in Japan, she joined Chelsea in 2014, becoming the first South Korean to play in the FA Women's Super League. By the end of that first season, she was named the league's Player of the Year and the PFA Players' Player of the Year. Ji would go on to score 68 goals in 210 appearances, including 37 Super League goals. When she left the WSL in 2022, she was fifth in the league all-time for assists with 29.

Ji contributed to the first dozen major trophies Chelsea won in the WSL era in eight years: six Super League titles, three FA Cups, one community shield and two Continental Cups. She was the first non-British player to pass 100 and 200 Super League appearances and is still recognized as one of the best international players ever to play in the WSL.

In the fall of 2022, Ji returned to Korea to prepare for the Women's World Cup with her teammates. She joined WK League side Suwon FC and scored a brace in her debut. Ji led Suwon FC to the championship last season and was named Midfielder of the Year, with six assists in 16 games. Ji was appointed co-president of the Korean Pro-Footballers' Association in 2020, becoming the first woman to occupy that role.

Seattle Reign and other NWSL Club Ownership updates

The Seattle Reign has officially been acquired by the global investment firm Carlyle and the owners of the MLSSeattle Sounders, who are celebrating their 50th year in existence across multiple leagues, thus ending the four year ownership of Olympique Lyon of France, which—even though their first year of ownership was during COVID—started off turbulently amid initial declarations by OL Lyon that they wanted to move the club out of Washington State.

This is never an endearing strategy in a state where fans are still angry over the Seattle Supersonics NBA franchise being sold to a group in Oklahoma City by Starbucks owner Howard Schultz in 2006, who in so many words labeled fans as a "bunch of whinners" before apologizing over a decade later to Sonic fans for selling the team (and pocketing $200 million in the process) when he was running for U.S. President. OL Reign bought the team for $3.5 million and sold it for a then record $63 million, a pretty profitable deal and an indication of how valued NWSL ownership has become over the past few years.

In other league ownership news, the San Diego Wave is reportedly set to be sold to the Levine Leichtman family. The club is valued at $113 million and the sale price was reportedly set at $120 million. The Current Wave owner paid $2 million for the expansion side in 2022. Up the road, Angel City FC, valued at $180 million—though it has yet to be profitable—is also exploring a change in their ownership mix. Four of the owners have hired a New York investment bank to manage the sale in order to take control of Angel City's board, which has reportedly been fractionalized of late over their spending outgo, though one AC investor termed it as a fund-raising scheme.

Their valuation of $180 million is three times the average value of a NWSL team and their revenue was $31 million in 2023, nearly double the next highest league team figure. Angel City's vast ownership group includes Hollywood A-list actors Jessica Chastain, Eva Longoria, America Ferrera and Jennifer Garner, and athletes such as Serena Williams (tennis), Candace Parker (basketball), Billie Jean King (tennis) and Mia Hamm (two time Women's World Cup winner). The team is a benchmark for women's football teams around the world, with about 15,000 season-ticket holders as they led the league with an average attendance of more than 19,400 in their first two seasons. The league itself also has never been profitable but is attracting a lot of investment and has a new four-year, $240-million broadcast deal, and a Boston group last year paid the league a $53-million expansion fee to join in 2026.

Utah Royals

The Royals, coached by their former forward and ex-U.S. WNT veteran Amy Rodriguez, is taking a much different route to constructing the squad than fellow 2022 expansion franchise Bay FC, which brought in top international talent in Nigerian international Asisat Oshoala from Barcelona, Veneuelean international Deyna Castellaneous from Manchester City, Scottish international Jen Beattie from Arsenal and Zambian international forward Racheal Kundananji from Madrid CFF in Spain.

Utah's imports are Swedish youth international Agnes Nyberg (23) from IK Uppsala, Dutch midfielder Dana Feoderer (21)—who moved from Fortuna Sittard at home and captained the Dutch 2022 U-20 WWC side in Costa Rica to fourth place—and American-born and raised Nigerian international Ifeoma Onumonu, who won a league title last season with Gotham FC and has played over 100 league games across six seasons, plus two from CONCACAF nations: Canadian defender Zoe Burns (21), who is from Washington State, played for the U.S. at the youth level and at the University of Southern California, and Puerto Rican international goalkeeper Christina Roque (22), who was drafted number 33 in the third round of the recent 2024 NWSL draft. Most of the rest of the Royals' squad is quite young with a number having roots in Utah, at the youth and/or college level.

Off the field, the club announced on March 15 that Olympic downhill skiing champion Lindsey Vonn is investing in the club [through her foundation], reinforcing her dedication to empowering women and impacting girls from underserved communities.

A resident of nearby Park City, she said: "On the eve of tomorrow's sold-out opener [March 16], I'm proud of our Foundation's first step in providing a block of tickets to each URFC home match this year, and I cannot wait for us to help. [Head Coach Amy Rodriguez] and the players connect with the community as the Royals re-introduce themselves to both the local and national sporting landscape."

Through the Lindsey Vonn Foundation (LVF), Vonn will be donating 25 tickets to every Utah Royals FC home match. This initiative aims to provide girls from various communities with the unique opportunity to see professional soccer in action, promoting inclusivity and access to sporting events. Through 2023, the LVF has awarded more than $1,000,000 in scholarships to impact girls from underserved communities.

Washington Spirit

The Washington Spirit, as was rumored for some time, has replaced 2023 head coach Mark Parsons with Jonatan Giraldez. Unfortunately, the Spirit needed an interim coach for the first few months of the season as Giraldez will stay with Barca until the end of the 2023-24 Liga F season in mid-June. At 32, Giraldez will be the youngest coach in the NWSL. His record at FC Barcelona Femení included two Liga F titles in 2021-22 and 22-2023, a Copa de la Reina [Spanish Cup], a Supercopa Femenina [the Super Cup of Spain involving Copa de la Reina finalists and Liga F top finishers] and a UEFA Women's Champions League title and runners-up finish. In the league he had 71 wins, 1 loss and 1 tie in two and on-half years at the club.

Prior to Giraldez' arrival, another Spanish coach—Adrian Gonzalez—will be the interim head coach for the first half of the season and then will stay on at the Spirit as Giraldez' assistant coach. He has been coaching at RCD Espanyol in the Spanish second division. He also coached in Japan with Ventforet Kofu and in Greece as an assistant coach with Xanthi FC (Greece Super League 2).

González brings extensive academic training to the Spirit as he has always been involved with several academic institutions as a professor or instructor for classes related to training and football methodology (clubs, soccer federations and universities). He holds a degree in Sport Science from INEF Lleida, two master's degrees in Sport Management and Financial Intelligence and a UEFA A license. For the last five years, he has concentrated on gaining knowledge and experiences in the mental and emotional optimization of athletes.

New NWSL and Liga MX Femenil Tournament will launch this summer with 20 teams

In exciting news for both the NWSL and Liga MX Femenil, the two leagues will participate in a Cup tournament this summer, branded as the NWSL x Liga MX Femenil Summer Cup 2024. The 20 team tournament will involve all 14 NWSL teams and the six highest rated Liga MX Femenil teams (based on points in 2023: Tigres UANL, Club America, Guadalajara, Monterrey, Pachuca and Tijuana), and will start during the 2024 Olympic Games Finals break on July 19.

There will be 30 games in total with only the group winners moving on to the semifinals on August 4, with the final to be held in late October (25-27) when the Mexican league is well into its 2024-25 Apertura (Opening) Championship and the NWSL is winding down for the season. All of the games will be played in the U.S. except for Tigres vs. Pachuca, which will be played in Monterrey. applauds both leagues for launching this ground-breaking new in-season tournament, which should build interactions between clubs in the two leagues, awareness of Liga MX Femenil and assist both leagues in building towards the 2024-25 CONCACAF Women's Champions League tournament and ultimately a Women's FIFA Club Cup.

2024 NWSL Challenge Cup

The NWSL Challenge Cup, which started as a central location tournament during COVID in 2020 without fans in Salt Lake City and has seemingly changed formats each season, was reduced to a one game playoff this year to open the season, between the 2023 NWSL Champions Gotham FC and the 2023 NWSL Shield Winners (regular season title) San Diego Wave. Held in Harrison, New Jersey, the Wave won the title game 1-0. In a defensive battle, the Wave scored the only goal in the 88th minute through U.S. international Alex Morgan on an assist from U.S. international midfielder Savannah McCaskill (with six caps since 2018), who joined the Wave in the off-season from Angel City FC. The sponsors UKG provided the prize money, with each San Diego player earning $3,500, while Gotham's players received $2,200. UKG will also fund the launch of a career development program designed to support all NWSL players

Boston 2026 Expansion Franchise and Other NWSL Expansion News

Boston's group that is entering the NWSL in 2026 faced a lawsuit from a private non-profit organization that is fighting the club's attempt to utilize Franklin Park's White Stadium. The Emerald Neck Conservancy announced Wednesday that it, along with 15 citizens, have filed a lawsuit against the city of Boston, Boston Mayor Michelle Wu, Boston Unity Soccer Partners LLC and others to stop what the non-profit calls the proposed privatization of White Stadium and 1.5 acres of surrounding public parkland in Franklin Park. The club has previously announced that they would share White Stadium with Boston Public Schools athletic teams.

The renovations, proposed by Boston Unity Soccer Partners, include a weather canopy with a leaf motif, curving staircases and balconies, a restaurant and a beer garden. There is also the potential for a geothermal well system to be built under the field. White Stadium, formally known as George Robert White Schoolboy Stadium, was erected in 1945 and cost $2 million to build; the venue currently has stadium seating for approximately 10,000 spectators. Boston Unity Soccer Partners plans to expand the capacity to approximately 11,000 spectators. The Emerald Neck Conservancy claims the city agreed to the deal without enough public input, and it also questioned whether the city has the authority to enter White Stadium into a long-term lease.

Note: As of press-time, a Boston judge dismissed the lawsuit by the Emerald Neck Conservancy, clearing the way for the 2026 expansion franchise to utilize Franklin Park's White Stadium as their new home.

In other NWSL expansion news, Cleveland, Ohio has expressed interest in joining the NWSL in the future. Other cities mentioned on short lists include Minneapolis-St. Paul, which has had a Major League Soccer franchise in 2017 and has a very nice purpose-built stadium, while the Minnesota Aurora has been a fantastic addition to the W-League over the past two seasons, with stellar attendance and investor and sponsorship revenue. Nashville, Miami, Philadelphia and Atlanta—all with Major League Soccer franchises—and Austin (who also play in MLS, but interest has cooled there over the past few years) are other cities that are mentioned frequently in NWSL expansion discussions. This month, Buffalo, New York has stated an interest in building a soccer stadium downtown for a USL Championship franchise. The city currently has a UWS summer amateur league team and had the Western New York Flash in the city in the NWSL from 2013-2016. Initial statements focus on a USL Super League franchise in the future, but the NWSL could be a candidate to again play in the city.

The Women's Cup will be held this summer in Louisville and Kansas City

The Women's Cup international tournament will return this summer to America, with Louisville a host for the third time in four seasons, and Kansas City hosting for the first time. Each city will host a four team tournament involving possible teams from Europe, South America and Africa, with $100,000 in prize money at stake in each city. The 2024 U.S. tournaments are part of the new TWC Global Series, played in different locations.

The champion of each event will be invited to play in the Global Series Finals in February 2025 at a neutral site to be announced. TWC is trying to act as an interim FIFA Women's Club World Cup, which is in the planning stages, but hopefully launches within the next year or two.

Racing Louisville won the inaugural TWC at home in 2021, defeating Bayern Munich in the final at Lynn Family Stadium. A year later, Seattle-based OL Reign topped Racing in Louisville for the trophy. Atlético Madrid beat AC Milan to win the 2023 TWC in the first version of the tournament played in Europe. The Women's Cup Colombia was held in February with Racing Louisville FC and reigning NWSL champions NJ/NY Gotham FC playing Colombian powers América de Cali and Deportivo Cali, with Gotham defeating Racing for the title in the final.

Tim Grainey is a contributor to Tribal Football. His latest book Beyond Bend it Like Beckham is on the global game of women's football. Get your copy today.Follow Tim on Twitter: @TimGrainey

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