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The Week in Women's Football: WPSL/UWS update; Sky Blue spurned by top pick; Jordan wins West Asian championships;

This week have some franchise news for the summer North American women's leagues—the WPSL and UWS—and discuss a high draft pick last month of Sky Blue FC spurning the team and the NWSL to join the Damallsvenskan. We finally review the West Asian Football Federation women's championships in Bahrain.



WPSL/UWS U.S. Leagues News

Utah Royals FC of the NWSL has established a team in the amateur summer league, the Women's Premier Soccer League (WPSL), as their development team. The WPSL is a registered amateur league with U.S. Soccer and attracts collegiate, post-collegiate professionals and international players. The URFC Reserves replaces the Real Salt Lake Women's side; Real Salt Lake is the Major League Soccer side and parent company for the Royals. The RSL Women was established in 2015 and won the 2015 WPSL Elite National Championship title in its very first year.

Meanwhile the United Women's Soccer (UWS) league, entering its fourth season, has further expanded into Canada as the Queen City United franchise of Regina, Saskatchewan was approved for the 2019 season. They join the Calgary Foothills Women's F.C. who won the UWS title in their first season in 2018, led by Canadian international goalkeeper Steph Labbe, who is now with Linkopings in Sweden. Queen City United began as an indoor club in 1987-88 and now has over 350 athletes ranging from 4 years old to 18, for both males and females.

New England Mutiny of the UWS, which has been in existence for 20 years, and is entering a partnership with the men's side Western Massachusetts Pioneers of the USL-2 league, who themselves are starting their 21st season this spring. The Mutiny began in 1999 as the Springfield Sirens in the USL's W-League 2nd division, where they won a league championship in 2000. They played a season of exhibitions in 2002 and in 2003 they joined the WPSL as the New England Mutiny and made the national finals six times between 2003 and 2015, including a season in the WPSL-Elite in 2012. They narrowly lost 4-3 to the Chinese National Women's Team in 2004 in Agawam, Massachusetts. For 2016, they moved to the UWS league, which replaced the W-League which folded after the 2015 season. They will play this summer at historic Gremio Lusitano Stadium in Ludlow, Massachusetts. Dennis Fialho, the Vice President of the Pioneers said: "We could not be more excited to have the New England Mutiny showcasing pre-professional women's soccer at their new home, the Gremio Lusitano Stadium. The merger of the Western United Pioneers and Mutiny organizations, and the move to the stadium, further solidifies our commitment to soccer in this region. Best of all, it provides a building block for the community; a location where families come together and enjoy the beautiful game of soccer and each other's company. We have created an environment where boys and girls can watch a higher level of soccer live, meet players, and be motivated to develop through our club player path."

Two current Mutiny players are in the Jamaica national women's team pool for this summer's Women's World Cup in France: sisters Allyson and Chantelle Swaby, who grew up in Connecticut. Allyson played at Boston College and the defender played for Icelandic club Knattspyrnufélag Fjarðabyggðar last summer and then joined AS Roma of Italy's top flight for the 2018-19 season. Chantelle was a junior last season at Rutgers as a center back and both hope to be playing this summer for the Reggae Girlz in the Women's World Cup in France.

Also in the UWS, Santa Clarita Blue Heat and former Florida Gulf Coast University forward Evdokia Popadinova was selected as Bulgaria's top female footballer for the third consecutive year recently. Prior to last season with the Blue Heat, she played with the Detroit Sun FC and before that was the first Bulgarian to play in the English FA Super League with Bristol.

In addition, Santa Clarita's 2017 UWS West Defender of the Year and Finnish national teamer Natalia Kuikka, who played collegiately at 2018 NCAA College Cup Champions Florida State University, signed on with Swedish Damallsvenskan power Kopparbergs/Goteborg for this season.

Calgary Foothills Women's FC Canadian forward Christabel Oduro has signed with IFK Kalmar of the Swedish Elitettan for the 2019 season. The 26-year-old Ontario-native has five caps for the Canadian Women's National Team and appeared in 10 games (one goal, two assists) for Calgary last summer. Odura played at the University of Memphis and for Canada at the U-20 Women's World Cup in Japan, with brief spells in Germany in 2015 and in Israel with Ironi Ramat HaSharon in 2016. It was historic season for Foothills WFC, as the team won the West Conference title and advanced to the four-team UWS National Championship in their second-year of operation. IFK Kalmar is based in Kalmar, Sweden and will play in the second division Elitettan, whichkicks off this April. The team was relegated from the top-flight Damallsvenskan in October 2018 after a 12th-place finish.

LA Galaxy OC Women's Ghana international Sheifatu Sumaila has signed with Mallbackens IF of the Swedish Elitettan, after playing in the UWS in the summer of 2018 and then for Djurgardens in the Damallsvenskan last fall. She played for her full national team at the African Women's Cup of Nations last fall in her home country, winning Player of the Match honors in a 1-0 win over Algeria. Ghana will not be returning to the World Cup this summer as they did in 2015 as they did not make the semifinals of the African qualifiers.




University of North Carolina star bypasses Sky Blue FC for Linkopings in Sweden

As we indicated in our recent NWSL 2019 College Draft review last month: (https://www.tribalfootball.com/articles/the-week-in-women-s-football-nwsl-draft-results-and-rule-changes-orlando-pride-hire-new-coach-4265742), the number six pick in the draft, Julia Ashley of the University of North Carolina, is not joining Sky Blue FC and is headed to Sweden after signing with Linkopings. Ashley is a native of New Jersey but was conflicted about playing for the side that has received so much negative press over the past year for its subpar facilities and poor oversight of off-the-field living arrangements. Ashley told the The Equalizer Soccer website: "All my friends and everyone saying, 'Oh, Julia's coming to play in New Jersey.' That was really cool. But the downside, just from what I've heard in terms of organization, some of the housing issues that they've had this past year — I've heard some bad things. I think everybody has."

Ashley said that she tried to explain her feelings to the club and head coach Denise Reddy ahead of the draft, both in person and through her agent, but also doesn't blame the coach for making the pick. Ashley did have a dialogue with Reddy as well as with Phil Murphy, the Governor of the State of New Jersey, who is one of the owners of the team: "When I had a conversation with Denise, I had kind of said [I didn't want to play for Sky Blue], but it wasn't straightforward. I think a lot of the top picks and everyone in general—everyone knows what has happened there." With regard to her discussion with Governor Murphy, she said: "I think before the conversation I just kind of knew that regardless of all that, my opportunity in Sweden seemed a bit more lucrative and that was what I wanted to do,"

Linkopings has a strong history in the Swedish league, winning the Damallsvenskan as recently as 2017.She signed a five-month contract with Linkopings through June, common for that league as there is a long break during the summer, which also benefits the national team as they will be playing in France during the Women's World Cup starting in June. This short-term contract gives her options to stay in Sweden, move elsewhere in Europe or come back to the U.S. and the NWSL, though Sky Blue retains her rights. She said: "I'm going to play it all by ear. I'm excited for what's coming up."




2019 West Asian Football Federation Women's Championship

Jordan won the 2019 West Asian Football Federation Women's Championship in January with 4 consecutive wins over tournament hosts Bahrain, Lebanon, the United Arab Emirates and Palestine. Jordan is still led by American coach Mike Dickey, who was in charge of Jordan last season in the Asian Women's Championship and Women's World Cup qualifiers—which Jordan hosted—when a surprising loss in the opening match to the Philippines sent them crashing out, when they had legitimate hopes to become the first West Asian side to ever make the Women's World Cup as the fifth place side from the region (which again will be Thailand). This was the sixth edition of the tournament, which Jordan has hosted on three occasions, in 2005, 2007 and 2014, and they have won the last two titles and four of the six events (2005, 2007, 2014 and 2017).The UAE hosted and won in 2010 and 2011 over Jordan and Iran on penalties respectively. These regional competitions are important for countries when developing women's football, particularly where it is getting a late start or is under supported or even held with disdain because of traditional values.

Jordan entered the tournament ranked 52nd in the world in the FIFA rankings of women's national teams, followed by the UAE at 92, Palestine 106, Lebanon at 134 and Bahrain at 153. Bahrain tuned up with three friendly wins over Sri Lanka at home.

2019 West Asian Football Federation Women's Championship Final Table

GPW D L GF GA GD Pts

1

Jordan

4

4

0

0

11

2

+9

12

2

Bahrain

4

2

1

1

9

4

+5

7

3

Lebanon

4

2

0

2

8

6

+2

6

4

UAE

4

0

2

2

2

7

-5

2

5

Palestine

4

0

1

3

0

11

-11

1



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

Tim Grainey
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Tim Grainey

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