FIFA Women’s World Cup (WWC) Round of 16 & baseball diamond knock outs
💔 What hurts the most
The GIST: Sadly, it wasn’t a bad dream — the two-time defending WWC champion No. 1 USWNT were eliminated on penalty kicks (PKs) 5–4 after their 0–0 draw with No. 3 Sweden yesterday. A sick joke, indeed.
How it happened: In a turnaround from their sloppy group stage play, the USWNT controlled the match and created a handful of offensive opportunities (that Swedish goalkeeper Zećira Mušović repeatedly batted away). But after neither squad found the back of the net after 120 minutes, the game went to dreaded PKs.
- Despite goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher making a clutch PK save (and even converting one of her own!), Sweden capitalized on the Americans’ three failed attempts, advancing by a literal millimeter. Gut-wrenching.
The goodbyes: With the red, white, and blue suffering their earliest WWC exit ever, two legends’ international careers also come to an early end — forward Megan Rapinoe, who had previously announced this would be her last WWC, and the inimitable midfielder/defender Julie Ertz, who said postgame that it was her last time donning the crest.
- Two-time WWC champs, two-time FIFA Women’s World IX honorees, Olympic medalists, and tireless equal pay warriors — they certainly left the game better than they found it.
The future: You don’t go from three-peat favorites to tumbling out in the Round of 16 without some sort of change. It’s likely that highly scrutinized head coach Vlatko Andonovski will be on his way out after yet another major tournament failure.
- But the squad’s young core will remain intact, and the future looks bright. Center back Naomi Girma was arguably the team’s MVP, while forwards Trinity Rodman and Sophia Smith both offered offensive prowess in their first WWC.
- That said, the chaos of this edition (more on that below) has proven that while the USWNT dominated for decades, the rest of the world has caught up. It’s the end of an era, but the dawn of a new one.
FIFA WOMEN’S WORLD CUP
🏆 It’s getting hot in here
SOURCE: LARS BARON/GETTY IMAGES
The GIST: Kick on the TV right now because host No. 10 Australia (featuring the Matildas’ goal-scoring superstar Sam Kerr back in the mix) and No. 13 Denmark are competing in the Round of 16 as you read this. Nothing better than watching footy while recapping the rest of the happenings from the pitch…
Who’s through: Save the aforementioned Sweden, the rest of the weekend’s winners were unsurprising: No. 6 Spain, No. 11 Japan, and No. 9 Netherlands all punched their quarter-final tickets with ease, notching at minimum two-goal wins over their Round of 16 foes.
- And while you were sleeping, the 2022 Euro champs, No. 4 England, also squeaked through, ending No. 40 Nigeria’s remarkable WWC run with a slim dub on PKs 4–2 after their 0–0 draw.
What’s next: Perhaps some mayhem. The last two quarter-final spots will be booked early tomorrow morning in what could be two of the spiciest matchups: First, No. 25 Colombia takes on No. 43 Jamaica at 4 a.m. ET, and whoever wins will make history: Neither nation has ever advanced to the WWC quarter-finals.
- Then, prep for an historical clash between No. 5 France and No. 72 Morocco (the lowest ranked team to ever advance out of the group stage), as the Atlas Lionesses attempt to do what their male counterparts failed to do in Qatar, and oust Les Bleues at 7 a.m. ET.
TOGETHER WITH CRACKER JACK
💪 Doing the most
SOURCE: CRACKER JACK
We don’t have to tell you there’s nothing women can’t do — and Corinne Thompson is living proof. A staffer for a pro basketball team and a Team USA competitor in modern pentathlon (comprising swimming, fencing, horse riding, pistol shooting, and running), she’s bringing more women into the sport while leveling up her own game. Tired just thinking about it.
Given her status as an, ahem, Jill-of-all-trades, it’s no surprise the Cracker Jack brand named Thompson as a finalist for their Cracker Jill campaign, an effort to spotlight and support women’s sports.
- Learn more about the search for Cracker Jill and the other finalists here. Go ahead, dig in.
NCAA CONFERENCE REALIGNMENT
🎓☠️ An overnight implosion
The GIST: Well, that escalated quickly. The Big Ten and the Big 12 made like Kens taking over Barbieland on Friday, poaching half of the Pac-12’s schools —the latest conference realignment news majorly shaking up the NCAA.
- The conference’s death knell began when USC and UCLA announced their upcoming Big Ten move last summer, and it continued when Colorado jumped ship for the Big 12 last week, setting the stage for a complete collapse.
The moves: Early Friday, Pac-12 founding schools Washington and Oregon announced they’re Midwest-bound, leaving their home of 108 years for the Big Ten. Arizona, Arizona State, and Utah followed suit hours later by bailing for the Big 12, hanging the conference’s remaining four schools — Stanford, Cal, Washington State, and Oregon State — out to dry.
- These moves won’t happen until the 2024–25 season, when the Pac-12’s current media rights deal expires. Like having to live with your ex until your lease is up, this year is going to be awkward AF.
Why it happened: Because everybody has a price. The massive media rights contracts that created the Power Five are also their undoing: With the clock ticking down on its current deal, the Pac-12 has struggled to secure a new one that can compete with the monstrous contracts the Big Ten, SEC, and Big 12 landed.
What’s next: Under NCAA rules, four schools isn’t enough to make a Division I (DI) conference. The new Pac-4’s options include finding Group of Five replacements or dissolving entirely. The Pac-12 is the focus right now, but as schools, money, and power begin to consolidate in the Big Ten, Big 12, and SEC, concerns are swirling around the ACC as well.
- Could we be heading toward a super-conference future? Watch this space.
P.S. This is just the beginning of the college chaos. Subscribe to our three-times weekly NCAA sports newsletter to stay in the know.