The L.A. XFL franchise when it begins play at Dignity Health Sports Park will "try to fit into a fan space that combines the intimacy of the successful LAFC fan experience with the passion of Raider nation at prices cheaper than the Rams or Chargers," according to Bill Plaschke of the L.A. TIMES. XFL L.A. President Heather Brooks Karatz, "hired from a successful stint" as the LAFC Exec VP & General Counsel, hopes to "recreate the 3252 supporters' group atmosphere." The Raiders influence comes from coach and GM Winston Moss, who played for the L.A. Raiders. The new XFL will be "fundamentally sound" thanks to backing from Founder Vince McMahon and broadcast deals with ESPN/ABC and Fox. However, that "doesn't change the fundamentals of history." Plaschke: "Spring football doesn't work. Scrub football doesn't draw. The money doesn't last. The initial interest dies." Plus, pro football in L.A. "barely works." There is also the issue of "competition for spring sports dollars" with two NBA teams, two MLB teams and two NHL teams in the market. A game with "anonymous prospects wearing helmets is going to have a hard time winning that fight" (L.A. TIMES, 5/8).
BEYOND BELIEF: In California, Ryan Kartje writes whether Moss' "exuberance will be shared by skeptical sports fans" in the market "remains to be seen." Moss "isn't a hire that inspires much excitement." The XFL "must sell itself as a more affordable option in a football landscape where prices promise to skyrocket with the opening of the new NFL stadium in Inglewood." But it "takes more than cheap tickets and decent football to build a fanbase." With Karatz, the XFL "made a point to hire an executive already accustomed to building a fanbase from scratch in the city." She "played a pivotal role in building LAFC into an overnight soccer success in a city where expansion teams have struggled" (ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER, 5/8).
The NFL in September will open a London-based academy, where it will have U.K. youth ages 16-18 "training under professional coaches, while completing full-time education," according to Charles Walford of the LONDON TIMES. The 80 students will be "selected at open trials over the summer." The academy will "provide those who show talent a clear pathway to college football" in the U.S. and "potentially the NFL -- a route hitherto difficult for players coming from the U.K." Former NFLer Osi Umenyiora and free agent RB Jay Ajayi are "among those who will take on ambassadorial roles at the academy," along with Browns WR Odell Beckham Jr., Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes, Steelers WR JuJu Smith-Schuster and Pro Football HOFer Jerry Rice (LONDON TIMES, 5/8). NFL U.K. Managing Dir Alistair Kirkwood said that the announcement was the "'most important' development for the sport" in the country since the Jaguars "made a commitment to play multiple regular season games in London" (London EVENING STANDARD, 5/8).
Former USWNT MF Kristine Lilly is "trying to bring an NWSL expansion team to Connecticut," which could "have an impact on Mia Hamm's efforts to bring a team to Southern California," according to Kevin Baxter of the L.A. TIMES. Lilly's group, which includes Mohegan Sun Sports, "expects to learn this month if its bid will be approved." The group is "hopeful of beginning play in the NWSL next year." This comes after Hamm last month said bringing an NWSL team to Southern California was a "top priority" for LAFC; Hamm is an LAFC investor. With the FIFA Women's World Cup kicking off in France next month, the NWSL is "obviously hoping the tournament will provide a significant bump to the league." The NWSL "declined to discuss" either of the expansion proposals, but there is "no doubt the league has become an important part of the soccer landscape, especially in terms of its contribution toward building the national team." All 23 players selected to the U.S. Women's World Cup side are on an NWSL roster (LATIMES.com, 5/7).
THE ATHLETIC's Salvian & Strang noted despite more than 200 women's hockey players announcing last week that they would boycott the upcoming NWHL season, there "remains a sizeable contingent of players who did not sign on for the call to action." Those who "opted not" to sit out the season still "largely support that broader goal of achieving better pay, infrastructure, insurance and overall support." But their "chief concern" is "how quickly this movement developed and the lack of clarity provided on key questions." Several players said that they "had only a matter of days between being contacted by a representative appointed to speak to them and making a decision whether to be on board" (THEATHLETIC.com, 5/7).
FEDERATION PLANET: YAHOO SPORTS' Leander Schaerlaeckens writes the U.S. Soccer Federation's "persistence with this self-inflicted public relations nightmare is baffling" after the NGB this week "pushed back" against a lawsuit filed against it by the USWNT. The USSF "willingly frames itself as the penny-pinching overlord pitted against one of the nation's most popular teams." The federation "continues to focus on revenue," and that is "where its argument falls flat." As a nonprofit, the USSF "really has no standing to reduce a moral quandary to money" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 5/8).
JUICE CLEANSE: In S.F., Scott Ostler wrote in an "age in which sports fans demand more action," MLB "offers less." The recent trend to "homerball results in more whiffs, fewer hits, less action." The league "could reverse that trend simply by squeezing some of the juice out of the ball." MLB has "long insisted it does not alter the balls, that they've been exactly the same for years," though some "pitchers and hitters say otherwise" (S.F. CHRONICLE, 5/7).