CARY, N.C. — The NWSL final takes place Sunday between the North Carolina Courage and the Chicago Red Stars (3:30 p.m. ET, ESPN), and there are plenty of storylines heading into the game, from North Carolina going for its second straight NWSL title to the Courage’s Heather O’Reilly playing the final game of her storied career to Chicago’s Sam Kerr—the league MVP and Golden Boot winner—perhaps playing her final NWSL game as the world’s best center forward (soon to be out of contract) entertains offers from teams in Europe as well as from Chicago.
In addition to our postgame coverage of the final, which you can find on SI.com, here’s an appetizer of news nuggets that we’ve picked up here over the weekend:
• SI.com has learned that Vlatko Andonovski’s first roster as the new USWNT coach (ahead of games on November 7 and 10) will include American-English dual national Alana Cook, a 22-year-old center back for Paris Saint-Germain who played at Stanford. Cook has played for U.S. youth national teams, but she is not cap-tied and was called up to train with England earlier this month by coach Phil Neville. She has yet to earn a cap with the U.S. senior team.
Cook could represent the start of a trend with Andonovski’s USWNT potentially calling in more young Americans who have decided to play in Europe (where clubs are starting to invest more money in women’s soccer) instead of the NWSL. Cook would almost certainly have been a first-round pick in this year’s NWSL draft, but she decided to sign a three-year contract with PSG for a salary that I’m told was around five times the size of the one she was being offered in the NWSL.
The upcoming U.S. games are friendlies, which means Cook will not be cap-tied if she plays in them. The Massachusetts-born defender is eligible to play for England through her father, Bryan.
• Speaking of NWSL salaries, I’m told that the NWSL board will vote on Monday at a meeting on whether to approve a new salary structure for the league. Chicago owner Arnim Whisler told SI.com this week that the new structure would allow for the NWSL to make a competitive offer to Sam Kerr, emphasizing that while Kerr could still choose to leave for Europe, it won’t be the NWSL salary cap that causes Kerr to leave. Previously, the maximum salary allowed for a non-U.S. player in the NWSL has been $46,200 a year.
• A person with direct knowledge of the situation tells me it’s “99 percent” certain that Sacramento will have an expansion team in the NWSL next season to bring the league to 10 teams in 2020. The team will be run by the same ownership group that announced last week it was getting an MLS expansion team in 2022 to play in a new $300 million soccer stadium there. Sacramento will obviously have to move quickly to be ready for having an NWSL team next season.
Sacramento's likelihood of being an NWSL team in 2020 was first reported earlier this month by The Equalizer.
I’m also told that Atlanta United is aiming to have an NWSL team in 2021, but it’s waiting for more information on U.S. Soccer’s role in the league moving forward, which should come by the December board meeting of U.S. Soccer.