The Week in Women's Football: NWSL returns; College football suspended for 2020; UWS moves abroad | OneFootball

The Week in Women's Football: NWSL returns; College football suspended for 2020; UWS moves abroad | OneFootball

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·31 August 2020

The Week in Women's Football: NWSL returns; College football suspended for 2020; UWS moves abroad

Article image:The Week in Women's Football: NWSL returns; College football suspended for 2020; UWS moves abroad

This week, we have news concerning more NWSL games which are planned for September/October of 2020. We also discuss the U.S. women's college scene (played in the fall) as most college leagues have suspended play for 2020 along with that in their other fall sports, including gridiron football and men's soccer. We also look briefly at the state of the high school women's game vis-à-vis COVID-19, as well as wrap-up the Women's Champions League semifinals for the 2019-20 season, look at some UWS players going abroad and review some interesting club moves among top international players around the world for the new season.

NWSL Returns for Games in September/October

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On August 25, the National Women's Soccer League (NWSL) announced that it will begin resume play on September 5, after hosting the Challenge Cup to great acclaim in June/July in Utah. The NWSL fall series will include 18 matches over the course of seven weeks, featuring a trio of three-team pods that will all play one another and enable the league to minimize travel. The full format and schedule for the NWSL fall series will be released in the next week.

NWSL Commissioner Lisa Baird said, "Building on the success of this summer's Challenge Cup, I am so excited to smartly and safely take this next step on the NWSL's journey. The women of the NWSL want to compete and we've certainly heard from our fans all over the world looking for more action this year. I'd like to thank the NWSL Player's Association for their constant collaboration, as well as CBS for continuing to invest in our league's growth and this unprecedented opportunity to showcase the NWSL to a world-wide audience, week-in, week-out."

The NWSL's return-to-play protocols reflect the best practices previously developed by the NWSL Medical Task Force and successfully implemented during the Challenge Cup. Those protocols have been updated to reflect the reality of home-market matches and regional travel and will influence all league and club actions outside the field of play.

The three teams in each regional pod will each play four games. The pods are as follows:


OL Reign

Portland Thorns FC

Utah Royals FC


Chicago Red Stars

Sky Blue FC

Washington Spirit


North Carolina Courage

Orlando Pride

Houston Dash

There will be a televised NWSL Game of the Week on the CBS Television Network every Saturday in September, and on CBS Sports Network three Saturdays in October. CBS All Access will exclusively stream four games as well as the CBS broadcast coverage in September.

The teams will be without a number of stars who have moved abroad, including American internationals Emily Sonnett (Goteborg in Sweden), Sam Mewis and Rose Lavelle (both Manchester City), England's Jodie Taylor (Olympique Lyon) and Canadian goalkeeper Erin McLeod to Starjnan of Iceland, along with other players on loan deals. The NWSL teams won't be at full strength but the prospect of more games (and on national television) is still great news for the league's fans as well as the players still at home and practicing, keeping them in game shape as the league continues to stage games for them and their fans in this most difficult year with the COVID-19 pandemic affecting so much of our lives.

College Soccer Fall Play Largely is Cancelled for 2020

In the U.S., what has been shaping up for some time came to pass within the last few weeks in August when the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA)—which runs all collegiate sports including men's and women's soccer and is independent of FIFA—cancelled all of their fall 2020 sports championships, including the Women's College Cup (national championship for soccer). This decision also affected college (gridiron) football, for which their huge attendances and television audiences drive a significant amount of college athletic departments' budgets. The fallout from this decision could be devastating for the women's game, with effects for the following:

  1. Players—particularly juniors and seniors who are looking to pursue professional careers in the States or abroad when they finish their four seasons—will miss a full season of play, particularly damaging after players missed their summer amateur league seasons as well due to the pandemic—the WPSL completely cancelled its 2020 season while the UWS was largely dormant except for a few regional tournaments.

One of the top collegiate players has been affected in another way as two-time reigning Hermann Award Winner (for the best college player of the season) Catarina Macario of Stanford would have played her senior season and is expected to be a high draft pick of the NWSL and as well as sought after by clubs in Europe. She is also mentioned as a possible for the U.S. women's national team if she can gain her citizenship (she is a native of Brazil) but her interview was delayed due to huge backlogs at the U.S. government's Citizenship and Naturalization Services agency due to COVID-19. According to ESPN, Macario wanted to complete her college degree in 2021 so that she can use it as evidence to make her case for a FIFA waiver to begin playing for the USA as soon as she becomes a citizen, rather than wait until the fall of 2022, five years after her 18th birthday, as per FIFA rules for naturalized players. She has appeared for various U.S. national youth international teams but not in official FIFA or CONCACAF tournaments.

  • College Teams—particularly those reliant on players from other regions of the country or even other countries (particularly teams in the Southeastern U.S. as well as Arizona State University, which I have followed since 2006) will have trouble recruiting for 2021 and even beyond as the U.S. is still struggling to control the COVID-19 virus, while other countries have managed to control it more effectively and allowed men's and women's soccer leagues to launch again in the fall (some have already resumed play in the summer) after virtually all leagues around the world were postponed in March. If an international player over the next six-nine wants to play, they might be better off staying in their home countries in lower level leagues.
  • College Programs—Women's football will inevitable face reductions, since the entire athletic budget pie will be much smaller and there will definitely be less money to spend on 'minor sports' (effectively anything except for gridiron football and men's—and at some schools women's basketball—and can include 15-20 sports depending on the institution) in the immediate future. The loss of the gridiron football season in the fall will result in all athletic departments having much smaller budgets to spread across all of their sports. Women's soccer should be largely immune to actual program cuts as it is an important sport for gender balance federal laws of athletes at the institutions (Title IX) but earlier this year the University of Cincinnati cut its men's program. Stanford University in California dropped 11 sports, including fencing and field hockey in early July. A huge question is, will there be funds for college soccer teams to fly across the country for out-of-conference tournaments in the years to come? ASU and the University of Arizona have for years each held a major tournament ahead of their Pac-12 conference schedule on consecutive weekends, with each school participating in the other's tournament—since their main campuses are less than a two hour drive apart—along with top level teams invited in past years' from Illinois, Nebraska, Virginia, New Jersey, Tennessee and other states. If travel budgets are cut, will college scholarship funding also be cut, with many women's football programs offering 14 a year (at Division 1 and 9.9 at smaller Division 2 schools), either as full individual scholarships or divided among team members.

The college game has been an important developer of professional and national team talent over the years, not just in the U.S and Canada but overseas as well. This column in the past has talked with and written about players from Australia, Canada, Croatia, England, Fiji, Greece, Malta, Northern Ireland, the Philippines and other nations who either came to the States to play women's football or are second/third generation Americans who want to play or who are already playing for their ancestral homeland. Though this fact has slipped under the radar in terms of the importance of trying to restart NWSL and international leagues, the impact of COVID-19 on college women's soccer may be the single most important impact for the continued development of the sport in the United States, and tangentially in other countries as well, at least short-term.

Some college conferences, like the Big Sky (including the University of Montana, Eastern Washington University, Weber State University in Utah, with 10 women's soccer programs) and the Pac 12 (with all 12 schools fielding women's soccer, including UCLA, Stanford, Cal-Berkeley, University of Utah, University of Washington, Washington State, Oregon, Oregon State and the two Arizona schools) have talked about holding shorter seasons in the spring of 2021 for fall sports (even for gridiron football) but this is viewed by many as unrealistic—Washington State University in the eastern part of the State is typically buried in snow well into February/March—and if college sports resume in the Fall of 2021, athletes will be playing more games in a calendar year in a condensed time period, which could increase injuries. At Arizona State University, English native head coach Graham Winkworth sees great potential for a spring season (in the past it has always been a mixed bag, with some schools playing 7-8 games seriously while others treating it as optional fare). Even prior to COVID-19, there has been a ground swell of interest for coaches in the U.S. of both men's and women's soccer to do a staggered season in the fall and in the spring, instead of condensing a 20-25 game schedule plus playoffs into 3 months. Winkworth said, "The coronavirus is giving us lemons and we're going to create some beautiful lemonade. It's going to taste so sweet at the end of it." Winkworth reasons that there will be more practice time for his players in the fall (though they are limited in what they can do on the field and in terms of their social mingling outside of practice). In addition, Winkworth still has two players abroad—forward Lucy Johnson of England (who has played in the U-17 European champions and is currently on the U-18 national side and made the quarterfinals of the FA Cup with her club Leicester City) and defender Tahlia Herman-Watt of New Zealand, (who played with the U-20 national team and came from Coastal Spirit Football Club)—who have been unable to travel to the U.S. because of the pandemic but are expected in the state by the end of the year. Johnson chose ASU because of the coaches and the team as well as the opportunity to play high level soccer. Winkworth himself was in Spain on a recruiting trip in March when the country shut down and had to quarantine for two weeks when he returned to Arizona.

Although things seem to change on almost a daily basis, the NCAA has given fall sport athletes an extra year of eligibility, even if there are some games played in the spring for their sport (like for gridiron football and men's and women's soccer). This extra year is great for the athletes but could reduce the number of team spots/scholarships available for younger athletes coming out of high school during the recruiting process (see more below), another in the bewildering number of variables that colleges, coaches and athletes are facing due to COVID-19. Players will keep their scholarships whether or not seasons are held this year and coaches' contracts will be honored as well. Leagues are still proposing to do some scaled back fall sport championships, which affects women's and men's soccer in the first half of 2021. They also are trying to be able to stage championships for winter and spring sports (like basketball, track and fell and baseball and softball) which were not able to stage championships at all for the 2019-20 season.

Some conferences in the South are still pursuing play this fall while nationally, according to Soccer America, at the NCAA Division 1 level, on August 14th, 19 of 31 conferences with women's soccer had postponed fall sports (16 of 24 with men's soccer and 13 of 24 with gridiron football). In the space of a week, on August 22, these numbers went to 26 of 31 with women's soccer, 21 of 24 with men's soccer and 14 of 22 with gridiron football, showing how in flux the college sports situation is in America, depending on local state regulations on playing as each state copes with varying fluctuations in positive COVID-19 case rates, even though colleges began working on their plans for fall sports once spring sports were shut down in March. The smaller division NCAA Divisions II and III cancelled fall sports championships and won't hold them in the spring.

The Atlantic Coast Conference (comprised of 14 schools playing women's soccer including the University of North Carolina, Florida State University, Clemson, Duke and Notre Dame) is planning to play in the fall with conference games only and a conference tournament in November in Cary, North Carolina. The Big 12 Conference (with 10 women's programs including the University of Texas, Texas Tech and the University of Kansas) and the Southeastern Conference (SEC) comprising 14 women's soccer teams including the University of Tennessee, Texas A&M, and the University of Georgia, can have conference and non-conference games but no word yet has come on a conference tournament for the Big 12. The SEC will have 8 conference matches in the fall and a conference tournament in November in Orange Beach, Alabama. The SEC will also hold a spring season for soccer if the NCAA holds championships for fall sports in the first half of 2021.

The American Athletic Conference is also continuing (9 women's teams including the University of Memphis and University of South Florida) as is the Sun Belt Conference (8 women's teams including Appalachia State and Coastal Carolina) with a conference championship tournament in Foley, Alabama.

Within the past week, Conference USA (10 teams including the University of Charlotte, Florida International University and Middle Tennessee State), decided to shelve fall sports after originally intending to stage their full sports schedule. Others cancelling for the fall include the Mid-America Conference (including the University of Toledo in Ohio, Central Michigan University, etc.) and Mountain West (San Jose State, University of Nevada-Las Vegas) each which have 12 women's teams. The Big 10 (with 14 schools including Ohio State University, Michigan State, University of Wisconsin, etc.) and Pac 12 schools are cancelled for the fall.

Other leagues postponing fall women's soccer include the Ivy League (8 teams including Yale, Harvard and Princeton) and Big South (with 12 teams including Campbell and UNC Ashville), Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) with 10 teams including Jacksonville, and the Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC) with 10 teams including Howard, Grambling State and Alabama A&M.

Those conferences without gridiron football teams that are shelved for the fall include: America East (9 schools including the University of Massachusetts and University of Maine), Big East (11 schools with Georgetown and St. John's), the Big West (University of California-San Diego and University of Hawaii), Western Athletics Conference (or WAC, with 10 teams including Seattle University and New Mexico State), West Coast Conference (10 women's soccer teams including Gonzaga University, Loyola Marymount and Pepperdine), the Summit League with 9 teams including the University of Denver and South Dakota State, and the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference with 11 teams including Monmouth University.

We can't forget that College Basketball is in peril this season as well. The men's tournament in particular is a huge revenue generator—the 68 team March Madness for the NCAA Division 1 title attracts huge crowds, television viewerships and betting action. COVID -19 shut it down this past March while conferences were still playing their championships and the final field had not yet been selected. If the colleges lose the March Madness event two years in a row, it could be devastating for all college sports. Estimates are that the men's tournament accounts for 85% of the NCAA revenue, half of the profits from which go to the participating schools and their conferences. According to USA Today, "The NCAA had $1.12 Billion in revenue for the fiscal year ending August 31, 2019. Of that amount, $804 million came from their CBS/Turner [Network television] deal. Another $170 million was attributed to 'championships and NIT [basketball event for teams missing out on the premier event] tournaments, with a sizable portion of that likely coming from the men's basketball tournament. Administrators are even talking about doing a 'bubble format' for teams like the NWSL, MLS, NBA and other professional leagues have done which have proceeded largely quite well—particularly for the NWSL with led the way in designing and implementing this concept first. The bubble approach for college basketball will allow COVID-19 testing of players and staff and limit their interactions with others, but fans would probably be prohibited or severely limited.

At the high school level there is a similar reconfiguration going on at the state level for female soccer (which depends on the state as to whether they play in the fall, winter or spring, though many top men and women players skip high school soccer completely to play at the elite club level. Soccer America reports that North Carolina became the eighth state along with the District of Columbia to move fall soccer to the winter or spring as a result of changes to the fall sports season in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The other states are Colorado (boys), Delaware (boys), Illinois (boys), Maryland (boys and girls), Nevada (boys and girls), New Mexico (boys and girls) and Oregon (boys and girls). However, eight other states have started play in the fall, with 17 more planning on it. That is for soccer, but it is not the same for other sports like gridiron football and volleyball. Of the 51 states and the District of Columbia, 41 offer boys and girls soccer in the same season.

UEFA Women's Champions League Semifinals and Finals

On Tuesday, August 25, Wolfsburg of Germany and Barcelona of Spain met in their one-leg UEFA Women's Champions League semifinal. Barcelona had a tough battle against Atletico Madrid in the quarterfinals, winning 1-0 against their Spanish league compatriots, while Wolfsburg obliterated Glasgow City 9-1. Barcelona was aiming for their second straight final while Wolfsburg is aiming for a fifth final in 8 years and third European title, after wins in 2012-13 and 2013-14. Stephan Lerch, the head coach of favorites Wolfsburg, explained before their semifinal that, "Our focus has been to recharge the batteries [after their quarterfinal victory] and be more fresh and we've taken advantage of the time being outside a bit, fresh air, taking a walk and training, and the team and the players are good, all available, and I think that we have benefitted from the time in recent days to recharge the batteries, now we will take time to focus on the match."

Wolfsburg won a spot in the 2020-21 Final by the narrowest of margins from Swedish international Fridolina Rolfo's goal in the 58th minute to defeat Barcelona 1-0; Rolfo was substituted out 10 minutes later for German midfielder Pia-Sophie Wolter (22), who is in her third season with the club after previously playing for Werder Bremen. Rolfo is in her second season with the club after previous stints with Bayern Munich and Linkopings; she played in last summer's Women's World Cup side for her country.

On Wednesday, August 26, the all French League semifinal was held between Olympique Lyon and Paris St. Garmain. They met earlier this month for the French Cup in Auxerre, with Lyon winning 4-3 on penalties after no score in regulation time. Lyon also beat Paris on penalties last September to win the first Trophée des Championnes Féminin in Guingamp, and 1-0 at home through Japanese international Saki Kumagai's goal in the league on November 16, 2019. Paris's last win over Lyon came in the 2018 French Cup final. In 44 meetings, Lyon has won 32, lost only 5, with 7 draws. However, PSG was the last team to knock Lyon out of the WCL competition, in the 2014/15 round of 16. Since then Lyon have won four straight titles to take their tally to six, crushing Paris in the 2015/16 semis and defeating them in an epic final shoot-out the following year in Cardiff. In the 2014/15 season, PSG made the final but lost to Frankfurt of Germany 2-1.

In a very physical match, Lyon won 1-0 to advance to the Final for the fifth consecutive season. The game pivoted in the 66th minute when France youth and senior international defensive-mid Onema Geyoro (23) of Paris earned her second yellow card of the match and was sent off. Lyon was in the lead a minute later through their veteran captain and French international Wendie Renaud, who headed home from a pinpoint Amel Majri cross. Then Lyon's Nikata Parris, who has been so good for her club during the Champions League campaign, with 4 goals including one in the 2-1 quarterfinal win over Bayern Munich, was sent off for her second yellow card, evening the teams at 10 players each. Lyon held on at the end for the narrow victory, surviving a late Paris assault and a late, long distance shot by PSG's Polish international defender Paulina Dudek (23) that was well saved by French international and Lyon keeper Sarah Bouhaddi. After Lyon dominated for long periods of the first half, the two sides ended up about even on shot attempts (10 to Lyon to 9 for Paris), (4-2 for shots on goal) as well for corner kicks (6 for each side). PSG was by far the more physical side with 27 fouls called against them to only 11 for Lyon.

Lyon now faces Wolfsburg on Sunday August 30 for the third time in the last five finals, hoping to win their fifth title in a row and seventh overall, while Wolfsburg is aiming to be a three time winner, only the third ever after Lyon (currently with 6) and Frankfurt (4).

UWS Alumni Headed Abroad

Bulgarian international Evi Popadinova (Santa Clarita Blue Heat) is one of four United Women's Soccer alumni to move to Europe this summer, as she joined AaB Kind Elitefodbold in Denmark. Popadinova, the four-time reigning Bulgarian Footballer of the Year, is returning to the pros since playing collegiately in the States since 2016. She previously was with Bristol Academy in The FA Women's Super League (FA WSL) and London Bees in the FA WSL 2. She scored 36 goals in 44 matches with NAIA side Northwestern Ohio University before going to Florida Gulf Coast University for two seasons. Popadinova played for the Blue Heat from 2018-2019 in the UWS West Conference.

Article image:The Week in Women's Football: NWSL returns; College football suspended for 2020; UWS moves abroad

Bulgarian international Evi Popadinova at her unveiling with AaB Kind Elitefodbold in Denmark (Photo courtesy United Women's Soccer league.)

Annika Schmidt (Indiana Union) signed a two year deal with Göteborg FC in Sweden, after helping Indiana Union to the Midwest Conference crown in her second season with the club. She played at Butler University in Indiana. Goteborg—one of the regular battlers for a Women's Champions League spot—who in turn loaned Schmidt out to Sunnanå, who are currently the bottom team in the second division Elitettan.

Article image:The Week in Women's Football: NWSL returns; College football suspended for 2020; UWS moves abroad

Annika Schmidt joins Goteborg FC in Sweden. (Photo courtesy United Women's Soccer league.)

Emily Burns (Calgary Foothills WFC) signed her first pro contract with Real Racing Club of Santander in Spain's Primera Division Femenina. The Canadian-born backstop played an integral role in Calgary's back-to-back trips to the UWS semifinals after collecting West Conference titles with the Foothills. She played at MacEwan College in Edmonton, Alberta. She's the second UWS player to find their way to Real Racing Club in recent years, as Lancaster Inferno center back Sonia Rada spent time with the club following the 2019 UWS season.

Article image:The Week in Women's Football: NWSL returns; College football suspended for 2020; UWS moves abroad

Emily Burns signs with Real Racing in Spain in her Calgary Foothills gear. (Photo courtesy United Women's Soccer league.)

Finally, goalkeeper Emily Dolan (Lancaster Inferno 2014-2016) re-signed with Real Betis Feminine in Spain's top flight. Dolan is coming back after suffering a season ending injury in 2019. She is being watched as a future possible national team goalkeeper, so the move will be good for her. She'll suit up alongside fellow UWS-alum Michaela Adam (Colorado Pride) in Real Betis's pursuit of improving on their 12th-place finish last year. We reported earlier this month that Matilda Jenna McCormick has left Melbourne Victory to join Betis as well (see:

Emily Dolan in action and has re-upped with Real Betis in Spain for the 2020-21 season. (Photo courtesy United Women's Soccer league.)

Some Club Transfers by International Players from Around the World for 2020-21

We look at some of the recent off-season moves by internationals around the world, most of which involved European clubs.Some Club Transfers by International Players from Around the World for 2020-21

Confederation of African Football

Forward Thembi Kgatlana, the globetrotting South African international, is now with Eibar, which won promotion last season from the Spanish Second Division B League to the Spanish top division; Kgatlana moved from Benfica of Portugal in the off-season. The 24-year-old played for her country in last summer's World Cup and scored her country's first ever goal at a FIFA Finals; she has previously been with the Houston Dash in the NWSL (in 2018) and in China with Beijing Phoenix. She only appeared in 2 games in the Portuguese Taca da Liga Feminina after signing late in January of 2020, but then the league was shut down due to COVID-19.

Fellow South African forward Jermaine Seoposenwe (26) moved in the other direction, from Real Betis in Spain to Braga in Portugal. She came to Europe in 2019 to play with Baltic regional power Gintra Universitetas in Lithuania. Another South African who joined Gintra in 2019—defender Nothando Vilakazi (31)—joined Logrono in Spain's First Division. Vilakazi also played in the 2019 Women's World Cup—receiving a red card in Spain's 3-1 Group match win in Le Havre—and has 100 caps for her nation.

Rebecca Elloh, an Ivory Coast international who played with her side in their 2015 WWC debut in Canada, will play with Vilakazi at Logrono this season. She has played with Gintra Universitetas in Lithuania and then at two clubs in Cyprus—Barcelona and Pyrgos Limassol—in the recent past.

Uchenna Kanu is a Nigerian international who played for her country at the FIFA U-17 and U-20 Women's World Cups (both in 2014) and at last summer's senior World Cup in France. She played collegiately in the U.S. at Southeastern University. The 23-year-old moved from Sevilla in Spain to Linkopings in Sweden for the 2020 season. She won a WPSL title in 2019 with Pensacola FC.

Alice Ogebe is another Nigerian international forward on the move, transferring from Real Betis to Polish Ekstraliga club KKP Bydogoszcz. She had played in 2018-19 in Serbia with Red Star Belgrade.

Nigerian defender Osinachi Ohale (28) moved from Real Madrid/Tacon in Spain to Italy to play with Roma. She played with the Houston Dash in 2014 and then in Sweden with Vittsjo and Vaxjo. She has been a member of Nigeria's Women's World Cup side in three consecutive events since 2011.

Princella Adubea, an U-20 international with Ghana, moved from Sporting Huevla in the Spanish Primera Division Femenina to Racing Femenino in Spain's Iberdrola B League (second division) for the 2020-21 season.

CONMEBOL—South American Football Confederation

Turning to CONMEBOL, 21-year-old Mayra Ramirez has moved from Independiente de Medellin in Colombia to Sporting de Huelva in Spain. She was on Colombia's 2019 Pan American Games Gold Medal winning squad in Lima, Peru.

Natalia Gaitan, the captain of the Colombian National Team for the 2011 and 2015 Women World Cup sides, moved from Valencia—where she played since 2015—to Sevilla. She played collegiately in the States at the University of Toledo in Northwestern Ohio.

Colombia's Lady Andrade was a breakout star at the 2015 WWC with 2 goals and, at 28 years-of-age, is another world traveler, having played in Spain, Finland, Turkey and with the Western NY Flash in the NWSL after the WWC in Canada. She spent last season in Italy with Milan but returned to Spain this summer to play with Deportivo La Coruna.

Her fellow national teamer, Carolina Arias, moved from Atletico Huila to Atletico Madrid for the 2020-21 season. She has also played club ball at home, in Turkey and at Community College (2 year level) in the States.

Ecuadorian national team player Kerlly Real (21) has moved from Cordoba in the second tier in Spain to Valencia CF in the top league in Spain; she played in the 2015 WWC for her country.

CONCACAF (North America/Central America/Caribbean Football Confederation)

Kenti Robles is a 29-year-old veteran Mexican international defender who has played in Spain since 2006 and moved from Atletico Madrid across town to join Real Madrid. Robles played 5 years at Atletico where she won three league titles after previously winning two crowns while with Barcelona. Robles is a dual national (Mexico and Spain) and played one game for Catalonia's national team.

Pamela Tajonar is a Mexican national team goalkeeper and has moved to Logrono after two years with Barcelona in Spain, primarily in a backup role. Tajonar (35) has played in Spain for most of this decade and also played in the U.S. with the Arizona Heatwave, FC Indiana and Buffalo/Western New York Flash.

UEFA European Football Confederation

Cláudia Neto (32), a Portuguese international midfielder, has left VFL Wolfsburg after three seasons and is joining Fiorentina. Neto has played professionally in Spain, Sweden, Germany and now Italy. She won two Damallsvenskan titles while with Linkopings in 2016 and 2017, where she was hugely instrumental in their successes, and then was a part of three Frauen Bundesliga titles and Cup titles with Wolfsburg, while also finishing runners-up in the WCL in 2017-18.

Elena Pisani, a defender and member of Italy's U-17 and U-19 national teams in the past and recently selected to the U-23 squad, finished her college soccer at East Tennessee State University. The Milan native signed with Florentia San Gimignano in Italian Serie A.

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

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