Linehan has a piece up at The Athletic (paywalled, I’m afraid) giving the latest on the Thorns sale. The tl:dr is:
- Final deal now anticipated in “early 2024”. (“The Bhathal family, via RAJ Sports, is in the final stages of purchasing the team from Peregrine Sports, LLC, according to two sources briefed on the transaction who were not authorized to speak publicly while the deal is still in progress.”)
- The turnover of the staff – and it’s worth noting that the current Peregrine staff is the same for both Timbers and Thorns outside a) LeBlanc at GM, b) Norris at HC, and c) Norris’ assistants – is supposed to take place “three to six months” after the deal is done.
- The Thorns are committed to playing home games at Providence Park, but
- The buyers are committed to building the separate practice/training/office facility that Peregrine promised before the sale.
- The new titular head of operations will be the matriarch of the Bhathal clan, so technically the Thorns will be “woman-owned”.
The upshot of this is that KK and Norris will remain in place at least through training camp next season, and will oversee the expansion draft next week and the NCAA draft in January.
I’m…not thrilled with that.
Resigned might be the best description; the past couple of seasons have been underwhelming from a roster-building perspective, and last season was a one-step-forward-one-step-back succession of clumsy technical and tactical decisions and player personnel choices.
I’d have liked to see the Bhathal/RAJ consortium arrive impatient and dissatisfied with the current Thorns management, with a “shadow FO” already spun up and ready to replace KK/Norris and deal with the issues we’ve seen and talked about over the past season.
That’s not going to happen, and I get it; this shit’s complicated and difficult, and I’m being unrealistic to expect more and quickly. Still. It’s going to be frustrating in March to see Mike Norris trot out the same-old 4-3-3 with Coffey at the single pivot and Hina-san at RW again and watch more Sophia Smith hero-ball batter the league’s best striker against a wall of defenders.
We’re gonna get what we get, and we’re not going to get it nearly as quickly as we’d hoped.
more news items:
The 2024 “Challenge Cup” is now officially a joke; one game, the day before the league play opens on March 16, between the Shield (San Diego) and the Final (Gotham) winners. G’bye, COVID Cup. See ya, wouldn’t want to be ya.
The league will pause from mid-July to mid-August for the Olympic Games, with the left-behinders playing some sort of gimmick “tournament” that will include “international participants” (read: European clubs in preseason workup mode).
All the regular season will do is knock out six clubs. The remaining eight will playoff with full quarterfinals beginning in the second week of November.
The new broadcast deal looks like this: “Beginning in 2024, 118 matches will be distributed across the following partner platforms:
- The NWSL will begin each regular-season weekend with Friday night matches on Prime Video.
- Each Saturday night that follows will include a double-header on Scripps’–owned ION network, available over-the-air in 123 million homes.
- A package of regular season matches will air on The CBS Television Network and stream live on Paramount+, with additional matches airing on CBS Sports Network.
- ESPN will air a package of matches across ABC, ESPN, ESPN2, and ESPN Deportes (Spanish). All NWSL matches on ESPN platforms and on ABC will stream live on ESPN+in English and Spanish. The package also includes English, Spanish and Portuguese-language rights in Latin America.
The remainder of the NWSL regular-season schedule will be part of a domestic direct-to-consumer package produced and distributed by the NWSL”.
Worth noting here that:
“Prime Video” is “Amazon Prime”, meaning if you’re not signed up on Amazon Prime subscription you don’t see them. I’m not. That’s 27 games missing.
“ION Network” is a cable channel. In my part of Portland (North, 97203) it’s only available from 1) Charter, 2) CLink/Prism, or 3) DirectTV. I don’t have any of those, so I won’t see them, either. That’s too bad, because the vast bulk of the regular season NWSL will be there; 50 games.
Update 12/18: Good news, Thorns fans (for those of us with cable…)! Commenter Daniel Stratton has sleuthed out the elusive ION Network. Apparently it’s “KPXG” in the Portland area, and although the Comcast channel listings don’t show it as “ION” it does show a “KPXG” as channel 705 in the broadcast-suite portion of the Comcast lineup. For everyone with rabbit ears it’s Channel 22. So these games look gettable. Thanks. Daniel!
ESPN, ABC, CBS and Paramount+ are all widely available, tho the numbers there are pretty grim: ESPN/ABC is required to carry only 20 games, CBS only 18, of which 8 are restricted to the cable-only CBSSN, and CBS/Paramount+ only 10.
Frankly, this isn’t thrilling, either. It’s going to be work tracking down where all these games will be shown, and that’s assuming that they ARE findable. The ION stuff in particular is really hard to figure. The league press release says that it’s: “…one of the nation’s largest local TV broadcasters, Scripps serves communities with quality, objective local journalism and operates a portfolio of more than 60 stations in 40+ markets. Scripps reaches households across the U.S. with national news outlets Scripps News and Court TV and popular entertainment brands ION, Bounce, Defy TV, Grit, ION Mystery and Laff.”
Never heard of ’em. That doesn’t sound “largest” to me, but maybe it’s just me.
Anyway, that’s where we are.
Still more news:
Per Steph Yang, the one place Crystal Dunn won’t land is Orlando: “…they were in discussion with Crystal Dunn and made a “significant offer” but are no longer in talks.” Pierre works in Florida now and that led to a lot of speculation, but sounds like not happening.
Speaking of former Thorns, Madison Pogarch signed as a free agent with the Royals. That’s…interesting. She was supposed to have left here to join her partner (spouse?) Christen Westphal in San Diego, but Westphal hasn’t moved with her. Po seemed to be doing well with Stoney, so not sure if it was just following the money.
Chris Rifer noted that this was the first year in some time that the Thorns didn’t hold a postseason presser. No LeBlanc, no Norris, nothing. At the time I thought it might be because they were one foot out the door. Now? Not sure; possibly just more Peregrine schlamperi?