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Friday Freedom Kicks: Morocco and Japan win, NWSL teams for sale, and more

It’s been a busy week

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Canada v Morocco: Group F - FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 Photo by Matthias Hangst/Getty Images

Another week has come to an end, but soccer news marches ever onward.

Some big news out of the National Women’s Soccer League: Merritt Paulson has announced his intention to sell the Portland Thorns — but not the Timbers — and Arnim Whisler has taken steps to initiate the sale of the Chicago Red Stars. Both owners have been under pressure to sell since the release of the U.S. Soccer report, which alleged they failed to act after receiving reports of sexual misconduct and other abuse of players by coaches.

In his statement, Paulson said he would offer favorable terms to new owners for sharing Providence Park to help keep the Thorns in Portland. But it’s too soon to say how a change in ownership will impact the Red Stars, who also announced that three free agents will not be rejoining the team for next season.

Meanwhile, Portland will join the teams looking for new head coaches in this offseason. Rhian Wilkinson announced her resignation this morning after an investigation into her relationship with a player. As reported by The Athletic, other players on the Thorns reported their concerns with the investigation and relationship to NWSL Commissioner Jessica Berman.

D.C. United’s schedule for the Coachella Valley Invitational has been set. The preseason tournament will kick off for United on February 1 against Charlotte FC. For any fans tempted to make the trip to Southern California, tickets go on sale at 1 p.m. today.

World Cup chaos continued yesterday. Morocco advanced to the knock-out rounds from Group F, sending poor Canada home with a third straight loss in their second World Cup appearance. Meanwhile, Croatia knocked out Group favorites Belgium.

In Group E, Japan beat Spain and secured its own spot in the Round of 16, thanks in part to a controversial call that the ball had not gone out of bounds before Japan’s second goal. The win also meant 2014 champions Germany failed to make it out of the Group Stage in their second World Cup in a row.

Groups G and H finish up the group rounds today, but the real excitement is tomorrow’s 10 a.m. USMNT game vs. the Netherlands! I don’t know about you all, but I plan to be at a bar at opening to get a good seat to cheer them on.

Here’s a little cheat sheet for those of you in the DC area and still scrambling for plans. Have a good weekend, everyone!