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Fuel Soccer Talk: NWSL’s influence on USWNT’s success; changes at U.S. soccer; Klopp talks to kids

What role has NWSL played in U.S. Women’s success?

There has been a lot of talk about what the U.S. women’s soccer team’s World Cup victory will mean to the professional league here in the U.S. But what about turning that around and asking what has the league meant to the continued success of the Women’s National Team. Writer Jamie Goldberg brings up the topic in a recent column in The Oregonian.

Bolstered by the monetary and managerial support of U.S. Soccer and a more sustainable financial model, the NWSL has offered top players, like Alyssa Naeher, a highly-competitive environment to train, develop and compete in over the last seven years. That has been a boon for the national team program.

“I think, especially in the goalkeeper position, games are very valuable,” said Naeher, who has played in the NWSL since its inception in 2013 and has been the starting goalkeeper for the Chicago Red Stars since 2016. “They’re important because you experience different things in games that you can’t always train to the fullest. To have those games week-in and week-out is huge.”

After failing to win the World Cup for three straight cycles, the USA won back-to-back World Cup titles for the first time in 2015 and 2019. All 23 players on this summer’s World Cup-winning roster play in the NWSL, while 22 of 23 players on the 2015 team competed in the league. Portland Thorns coach Mark Parsons doesn’t think that is a coincidence.

“They hadn’t won in 16 years, the league starts, they’ve now won back-to-back,” said Parsons, who has been a coach within the NWSL since 2013. “For development reasons, it’s critical. For providing eighth months of the most competitive environment in the world, where it’s do-or-die every single week, it’s critical.”

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U.S. Soccer promotes Stewart, hires Markgraf as USWNT GM

The United States Soccer Federation is staying on brand and promoting from within. USMNT general manager and program legend Earnie Stewart has been elevated to sporting director for the entire federation, and 201-times capped USWNT defender Kate Markgraf has been named general manager for the women’s program.

“This is a great day for the Federation and for soccer in America,” said U.S. Soccer Federation President Carlos Cordeiro in a press release. “In Earnie Stewart and Kate Markgraf, we’re keeping our commitment to ensure that soccer operations are run by soccer experts.

“With Earnie as sporting director and Kate as the first general manager of our women’s national team, we have the leaders in place to align our technical approach, develop the next generation of players and win championships.”

That means that Stewart, 50, will be in charge of hiring his replacement.

Stewart was a force for the USMNT as a player and his post-playing career has been impressive, with stints as technical directors for NAC Breda and AZ Alkmaar in the Eredivisie before taking a similar post with the Philadelphia Union.

Markgraf’s resume is less traditional for the post. According to U.S. Soccer, her post-playing career has included acquiring two graduate degrees, working as a broadcast analyst — including with NBC Sports — and volunteered with four D-I women’s programs in the NCAA. Most intriguing, however, is how her academic research will play into her philosophy on developing the women’s program.

MORE ON THE STORY

Jürgen Klopp interviewed by American kids in California

This video is from a few years ago but it’s worth another spin. Kids not only say the darndest things, but they also ask the darndest things. Celine Dion, Pele and Klopp’s US bucket list are just some the topics covered in this Kop Kids special. The boss faces questions from a group of young LFC fans at Levi’s stadium.

I like when he tells the kids to google Pele.

LET’S TALK: OK, now you’ve read what’s on my mind…what are your thoughts on the above or any other “football” happenings?

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