It’s that time again. Time to become rabidly nationalistic and to plan your day around foreign broadcast times. That’s right. It’s time for the Women’s World Cup. The tournament of tournaments kicks off July 20 in Australia and New Zealand. It will run through August 20.
I can’t wait! Life is the best when the World Cup is on. The world feels smaller when you’re packed like sardines into a soccer bar, everybody gasping, cheering, and screaming as a collective. And, the World Cup is so much more fun when your country is good at soccer (looking at you, men's team). Luckily, the US Women’s National Team (USWNT) is the best in the world. To make things even better, Seattle is a big ol’ soccer city. World Cup enthusiasm here doesn’t disappoint.
What’s the state of our national team?
Four years ago, the USWNT won their second consecutive World Cup championship. This year, they’re looking for a three-peat (yes, that's a real word), which would be their fourth overall World Cup win. This tournament won’t be a breeze, though. With other countries (gasp) actually investing energy and money into women’s soccer, the field is more competitive than it’s ever been. Not only that, but injuries are plaguing the USWNT’s roster. Still, our team is stacked with talent, most of it younger, and more diverse than ever.
It’ll be tough to top the poetry of four years ago when the team entered the tournament while suing their bosses for equal pay. Or when Megan Rapinoe said she wasn’t “going to the fuckin’ White House” if the team won, then, as the focus of that bygone era’s Trump tweetstorm, scored the Cup-winning goal against France. Rapinoe, who lives in Seattle and plays on the OL Reign, became a household name. President Joe Biden gave her the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2022.
This tournament will be 38-year-old Rapinoe’s swan song. Earlier this month, she announced her retirement from soccer after the Cup. I’m hoping she gives us one last great moment, but I’m not holding my breath. Rapinoe could still kick any of our asses in soccer, but she’s the oldest on the team, now. She'll play a reduced role. Still, she has this sick new Nike ad (see if you spot her swooning partner, Sue Bird, in this):
This will also be the last World Cup for midfielder Julie Ertz, defender Kelley O’Hara, and goalie Alyssa Naeher. The old guard is changing and other favorites are injured. So, who are some of these newbies?
At forward, pay special attention to the lightning-quick and creative duo Trinity Rodman, 21 (yes, she’s NBA star Dennis Rodman’s daughter) and so-good-she's-scary Sophia Smith, 22:
lmaoo this is so perfect pic.twitter.com/rLJH0ixwgy— ugh (@838_carlisle) July 15, 2023
Alyssa Thompson, the 18-year-old who played professionally in the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) on Angel FC while she was a high school senior, should see some playing time, but it's not clear how much.
Filling in for an injured Becky Sauerbrunn at center back is Naomi Girma, 23, the daughter of Ethiopian immigrants. Not only is she good with the ball, but Girma is strategic—a necessity for a center back. She’s getting her master’s degree at Stanford in science management and engineering.
Established stars like Alex Morgan, 35, and Crystal Dunn, will still be on the pitch.
These days, though, there are a lot more stars in women’s soccer than the players on the USWNT. That’ll make this a great tournament to watch.
Who should we be worried about?
Women's soccer is changing, but it still has room to grow. The prize money this year is 300% bigger than it was in 2019. The World Cup champion will win $150 million. That's still $300 million less than what the men's tournament winner won in 2023, but, teams around the world are more competitive than ever.
In the time since the last World Cup, the USWNT won a contract to make them one of the best-paid national teams (women or men’s) ever. Canada’s Women’s National Team, which won gold in the Tokyo Olympics (the USWNT won bronze), is currently negotiating a similar contract after going on strike earlier this year.
Canada will be a formidable opponent. So will reigning 2022 European Women’s Championship winners, England. Germany, who lost to England in the Euros, should be out for blood. Other European nations such as Spain, Sweden, and the Netherlands, could put up a big fight for the Cup, too. France, of course, is a contender.
One interesting bit of drama with the French is how earlier this year, multiple of their top players refused to play in the Cup if their coach stayed in charge. The French Football Federation sacked the old coach and hired Hervé Renard, the guy who coached Saudi Arabia in last year’s men’s World Cup. He’s never coached women before. Could be interesting!
Speaking of French and interesting, check out this cool ad for the French women’s team:
Wildly impressive French Football ad done for Les Bleues ahead of the World Cup. Helps if you speak French. But not required. 🇫🇷🔵🙌pic.twitter.com/DWyBHYmY4j— Men in Blazers (@MenInBlazers) July 10, 2023
Where can you watch?
Since the games will be held down under, the game times could get a bit crazy. You can stream all games on Fox Sports. Or, watch them live at soccer bars across Seattle. The Reign will be hosting watch parties at Ballard’s women’s sports bar, Rough and Tumble Pub. I also love the Atlantic Crossing, the George and the Dragon, and Rhein Haus for soccer viewing (RIP to Café Presse).
The first match of the tournament, New Zealand vs. Norway, kicks off at midnight PST on July 20. The USWNT’s first game will be at a more reasonable 6 pm PST on July 21.