The 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup is officially just under100 days away, and the U.S. Women’s National Team is riding an eight-match win streak as the four-time champions prepare to defend their 2019 title this July in Australia and New Zealand.
The 32-team field for the Women’s World Cup is set after February’s play-in tournament, where Portugal, Haiti and Panama emerged victorious from their respective groups to earn the final three spots in 2023 tournament. This year marks the first time the Women’s World Cup will feature 32 teams – eight more than in 2019. Several nations will make their debut, including Vietnam, which faces the USWNT in its opening group-stage match on July 22 at Eden Park in Auckland. The tournament kicks off with a doubleheader on July 20, with co-hosts New Zealand and Australia taking on Norway and the Republic of Ireland, respectively.
Team USA kicked off 2023 in New Zealand, where they shut out the co-host nation 4-0 on Jan. 17 and and 5-0 on Jan. 20. The USWNT followed up in February with three straight wins to secure its fourth consecutive SheBelieves Cup title, beating No. 6-ranked Canada (2-0), No. 11 Japan (1-0) and No. 9 Brazil (2-1). Most recently, the U.S. beat the Republic of Ireland in two friendlies on home soil, winning 2-0 on April 8 and 1-0 on April 12 in what was the USA’s final friendly before head coach Vlatko Andonovski selects his 23-player roster for the 2023 World Cup.
Perhaps the biggest news 100 days out is the injury of Mallory Swanson, who suffered a torn patella tendon in her left knee Saturday during the USA’s win over Ireland and had surgery on Tuesday. Swanson was leading the USWNT in scoring this year, with seven goals in five games — already tied for the most goals she’s ever scored in a calendar year for the U.S. She entered the match in Austin on a six-game scoring streak, tied for the fourth longest streak by any player in USWNT history and the longest since Christen Press had a six-game scoring streak from November 2019 to February 2020.
Swanson was replaced on the roster by 18-year-old forward Alyssa Thompson, who made headlines as the No. 1 pick in the 2023 NWSL Draft by Angel City FC and becoming the youngest draftee in league history. Thompson, who was part of the “Starting XI” Tuesday, made her USWNT debut last October in front of more than 76,000 fans at Wembley Stadium in London, coming into the match against England in the second half. She also came in off the bench against Spain four days later for her second cap.
“[Thompson] is an exciting player,” Andonovski said. “She has abilities to turn in small areas that not many players have. And it’s not just the turn, but she accelerates with the ball and runs at defenses with confidence. I almost want to say sometimes, for an 18-year-old, it’s borderline arrogant when she goes at you.”
Also making their return to the mix are veterans Julie Ertz, who gave birth to her first child (a boy) last August and made her first cap in 611 days on April 8, and defender Kelley O’Hara, a two-time World Cup winner who returned from injury and was named to the Starting XI for the April 11 friendly, marking her first cap for the U.S. since last summer. Also getting caps as subs on Tuesday were Casey Krueger, who gave birth to her first child (a boy) in July 2022 and was in her first USWNT camp since October 2021; and World Cup champion defender Tierna Davidson, who trained with the USWNT before the 2023 SheBelieves Cup but had yet to see action since recovering from ACL surgery.
As for prize money, FIFA announced in March a $150 million prize purse for the 2023 tournament, a significant increase from the $30 million four years ago in France. The U.S. women took home $4 million for winning their second straight World Cup in 2019 — a far cry from $42 million that Argentina won for the 2022 men’s World Cup, which featured a $440 million purse.
Read on as On Her Turf breaks down what you need to know heading into the ninth edition of the FIFA Women’s World Cup.
When is the 2023 Women’s World Cup?
The upcoming Women’s World Cup is set for July 20 to Aug. 20, with matches taking place in Australia and New Zealand. Telemundo will be the exclusive Spanish-language home of the tournament, with streaming also available on Peacock.
Veterans and fresh faces highlight USWNT roster, but questions remain
The U.S. women will be led by star veterans including 37-year-old Megan Rapinoe, winner of the Golden Boot and Golden Ball in 2019, Alex Morgan, Becky Sauerbrunn and Alyssa Naeher.
In positive developments ahead of the USA’s series vs. Ireland, the roster also featured the return of two-time World Cup champion Julie Ertz and 2022 BioSteel U.S. Soccer Female Player of the Year and 2022 NWSL MVP Sophia Smith, both of whom made their return to action April 8 after extended absences on the USWNT roster. The 22-year-old Smith, who opened the 2023 NWSL season with four goals and one assist in two games for the Portland Thorns, returned after missing the year’s first two USWNT events due to a foot injury, and played the entire game.
The 31-year-old Ertz played on April 8 for her first cap in 611 days, making her first national-team appearance since the bronze-medal match of the Tokyo Olympics in 2022. But Ertz, who gave birth to her first child — a son — in August 2022, still has to prove herself to Andonovski, who noted: “Nothing is going to be given.” Ertz hasn’t played for an NWSL team since the 2021 season with the Chicago Red Stars and admitted: “I’m trying to stay focused on the games coming up, but also knowing that I need a club team.”
An infusion of new talent is poised for action, led by forward Smith and center back Naomi Girma, who were teammates at Stanford and shined bright in last year’s NWSL season. Smith, who won the 2022 championship with the Portland Thorns, was named league MVP, while Girma won both Rookie and Defender of the Year awards. Other young stars to keep an eye on are 18-year-old Alyssa Thompson, who replaced Mal Swanson in the second April friendly, and 20-year-old Trinity Rodman, who was a Ballon d’Or finalist this year.
Catarina Macario, 23, is still a TBD as she recovers from a torn ACL. Macario was expected to resume playing for Lyon (France) in March, but that return was delayed and the club reportedly is still not clear on her timing. She was left off the U.S. roster for this month’s friendlies, which Andonovski addressed last week: “First, we need to see performance,” he said regarding her chances of making the final roster. “We have to see her on the field… Cat has to get back in a professional environment, play professional games, competitive games, games that matter.”
Other notable names on the questionable list include Abby Dahlkemper (back), Tobin Heath (knee surgery) and Christen Press (torn ACL), who revealed in March that she’s had three surgeries in the last eight months on her knee. Andonovski previously confirmed Sam Mewis as likely unavailable after undergoing a second knee surgery.
USWNT on course to face England in 2023 Women’s World Cup final
The draw for the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup was announced in October, with the U.S. women and their perennial foe England on opposite sides of the bracket. The U.S. is aiming to become the first team in either the women’s or men’s game to win three successive World Cups, after taking the title in 2015 and 2019. But they face a battle in their Group E pairings, which include Vietnam, Portugal and Netherlands, whom they beat in the final in Lyon, France, four years ago.
The USWNT World Cup group schedule (all times ET):
- Friday, July 21: USA vs. Vietnam, 9 p.m. ET at Eden Park (Auckland, N.Z.)
- Wednesday, July 26: USA vs. Netherlands, 9 p.m. at Wellington Regional Stadium (Wellington, N.Z.)
- Tuesday, Aug. 1: USA vs. Portugal, 3 a.m. at Eden Park
The USWNT secured its spot in the tournament last July at the 2022 Concacaf W Championship, where it clinched the title with a 1-0 victory over 2020 Olympic gold medalist Canada and also punched its ticket to the 2024 Olympics in Paris.
RELATED: Women’s World Cup 2023 draw, schedule, fixtures, groups
They closed out the 2022 calendar year with a 14-3-1 record, with all three losses coming in the later months of the year. The rare losing streak started with a 2-1 loss to England at iconic Wembley Stadium on Oct. 7, followed by a 2-0 loss to Spain on Oct. 11 and a 2-1 defeat by Germany on Nov. 10. They wrapped 2022 on a high note, beating Germany 2-1 on Nov. 13.
The #FIFAWWC 2023 Groups are set! 🙌
Which one is the most exciting? 😁 #BeyondGreatness
— FIFA Women's World Cup (@FIFAWWC) February 23, 2023
Who’s playing in the 2023 Women’s World Cup?
A total of 32 nations will compete in the Women’s World Cup for the first time, up from 24 in 2015 and 2019. The event began as a 12-team tournament in 1991 and was expanded to include 16 countries in 1999. The number was increased to 24 teams ahead of the 2015 edition in Canada.
The field was finalized in February at the conclusion of a 10-team playoff tournament, where Haiti, Panama and Portugal qualified for the 2023 Women’s World Cup. The groups are:
- Group A: New Zealand, Norway, Philippines, Switzerland
- Group B: Australia, Republic of Ireland, Nigeria, Canada
- Group C: Spain, Costa Rica, Zambia, Japan
- Group D: England, Haiti (Group B playoff winner), Denmark, China
- Group E: United States, Vietnam, Netherlands, Portugal (Group A playoff winner)
- Group F: France, Jamaica, Brazil, Panama (Group C playoff winner)
- Group G: Sweden, South Africa, Italy, Argentina
- Group H: Germany, Morocco, Colombia, South Korea
What’s the format for the 2023 Women’s World Cup?
The 32 teams were drawn into eight groups of four nations. Each team will play every team in their group once, with the top two teams from each group advancing to the knockout rounds.
The competition then moves on to a Round of 16 (Aug. 5-8), followed by the quarterfinals (Aug. 11-12) and semifinals (Aug. 15-16). The match to determine third place will be Friday, Aug. 19, with the final set for Saturday, Aug. 20. The tournament is being held across nine cities in Australia and New Zealand, with the final to be staged at the 83,500-seat Stadium Australia in Sydney.
Portugal, Haiti, Panama earn final three spots in 2023 Women’s World Cup
The competition to decide the final three final entrants to the 2023 Women’s World Cup was held Feb. 18-23, with 10 teams from six confederations participating in the play-in tournament. Portugal, Haiti and Panama won their respective groups to secure their spots, and World Cup co-host New Zealand hosted the contests at two of the World Cup venues, Waikato Stadium in Hamilton and North Harbour Stadium in Auckland.
Ten teams that narrowly missed out on qualification via their confederations’ qualifying tournaments made up the intercontinental playoff field:
- AFC (Asia): Chinese Taipei, Thailand
- CAF (Africa): Cameroon, Senegal
- Concacaf (North America): Haiti, Panama
- Conmebol (South America): Chile, Paraguay
- OFC (Oceania): Papua New Guinea
- UEFA (Europe): Portugal
The 10-team field was then divided into two groups of three teams and one group of four teams. The winners of each group secured their spots in the 2023 World Cup (bold denotes winner):
- Group A: Portugal (top seed), Cameroon, Thailand
- Group B: Chile (top seed), Senegal, Haiti
- Group C: Chinese Taipei, Papua New Guinea, Paraguay, Panama
The top two seeds, Portugal and Chile, were given the top spots in Groups 1 and 2, respectively, and received first-round byes. The top seed in each group faced the winner of the first-round match between the two unseeded teams in the group final. Hence, Cameroon beat Thailand for the right to play Portugal in the Group A final, while Haiti blanked Senegal before beating Chile in Group B. In Group C, the third-seeded Chinese Taipei fell to unseeded Paraguay, while fourth-seeded Papua New Guinea lost to unseeded Panama. Panama bested Paraguay 1-0 to win Group C.
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