Megan Rapinoe to Skip NWSL Tournament

(Seattle Reign now named OL Reign)

Renowned throughout the soccer world, Megan Rapinoe is no stranger to the pitch. In fact, just take a glance at her record: she’s played US national team, received the Ballon d’Or Féminin, was named FIFA’s Best Women’s Player in 2019, served as co-captain for the FIFA Women’s World Cup US Team, won a Golden Boot, a Golden Ball… on and on the list goes. Sufficed to say, it’s stranger for Rapinoe to not be on the field racking up awards.

That’s why the recent news that Rapinoe won’t be playing in the upcoming NWSL Tournament has soccer pundits wonder what better plans the player has—especially as captain of a fledgling NWSL team that needs her leadership.

Rapinoe’s squad, OL Reign, is a new arrival to the city. Following the team’s establishment in 2013, they’ve had to compete with other local sports teams for news coverage and spectatorship.

In particular, the Seattle Sounders (part of the men’s MLS) share a large fan base with the OL Reign, though it’s NFL franchise the Seattle Seahawks who have the hearts of local sports fans. The team’s playoff appearances make the Seahawks a mainstay among top sportsbooks that offer NFL betting odds—not to mention Seahawks fans can fill a stadium and make enough noise to be considered the ‘twelfth man’ on the field. Given that the OL Reign were recently relocated to Tacoma, it could take Rapinoe’s squad a few years to fill their 6,000-seat stadium.

OL Reign in the NWSL

Through OL Reign have to compete with other local sports franchises, Rapinoe’s addition to the team in 2013 has seen an undeniable turnaround in the team’s NWSL play. By 2014, Rapinoe’s goal-scoring and leadership on the field saw OL Reign take the NWSL Shield, awarded to the team with the highest score count at the end of the regular season play.

Though OL Reign went on to lose to FC Kansas City in the NWSL finals, they weren’t able to clinch the title. However, since then, the team has seen a steady rise in consistent winning records. This all occurred despite some major losses.

First, in 2016, it was announced that top player Hope Solo would be taking a leave of absence. Shortly after, Kim Little announced that she’d be moving to play for Arsenal in the UK. By 2017, OL Reign were picking up the pieces, and it was Rapinoe who took her place at the team’s leading goal scorer—which also helped her pick up the aforementioned FIFA World Player of the Year in the coming season (2019).

Following a coaching turnover in 2018, a lack luster season was eventually turned around. The Seattle Reign made it to the playoffs for the first time in three years. While the Seattle-based team still has a lot of work to do before they’re ready to take the place of FC Kansas City or the North Carolina Courage, the club has consistently shown an ability to raise its level of play incrementally.

Player training

NWSL Tournament

With no injuries and no official statement released, speculation abounds as to why Rapinoe may not be listed on OL Reign roster for the upcoming NWSL Challenge Cup, set to be played in late June in Utah.

Some have pointed to health concerns. After all, the NWSL tournament in Utah will be voluntary just like practices for all NWSL players and teams. However, without an official statement from Rapinoe, these types of rumors abound, spread by a former coach of Rapinoe’s, Farid Benstiti, from her time playing in Lyon, France.

Others point to issues related to the vast pay gap between women and men’s soccer teams in the United States. Rapinoe was one of 28 US women’s players who pointed to the vast difference in the World Cup payout between men and women’s tournaments ($400 versus $30 million), with particular emphasis on the US women’s teams economic viability. They’ve continually brought in more money than the men, but haven’t seen that reflected financially.

Rapinoe is no stranger to being vocal about such injustices, and many wonder if there are subsequent issues with FIFA or US Soccer that have made Rapinoe unwilling to participate in the upcoming Challenge Cup.


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