FIFA reached a deal to broadcast the 2023 World Cup in England, France, Germany, Italy, Spain and Ukraine, ending a stalemate with major European broadcasters over media rights fees.

The world soccer governing body announced the deal Wednesday, five weeks before the tournament kicks off in Australia and New Zealand on July 20. FIFA president Gianni Infantino had threatened TV blackouts in European markets if no deal was reached.

The European Broadcasting Union, an alliance of public media organizations, and FIFA agreed to extend their existing media rights partnership to include the “Big 5” European markets, all of which have teams in the World Cup. The expanded deal ensures “maximum exposure for the tournament,” Infantino said in a news release.

Infantino had criticized European broadcasters for not offering a “fair” price for the tournament in early May, calling it FIFA’s “moral and legal obligation not to undersell” the women’s World Cup. The announcement of the broadcast deal did not include any monetary details.

The U.S. broadcast rights are held by Fox as part of an existing agreement with FIFA, which also covers the men’s tournament.

In the United Kingdom, all 64 World Cup matches will be broadcast on either the BBC or ITV — except for the final on Aug. 20, which will be shown simultaneously flagship channels BBC One and ITV1.

“The growth of the women’s game is extraordinary, demonstrated by the 28 million who watched BBC coverage of the 2019 Women’s World Cup and the huge audience of 17.4 million who watched our coverage of the Euro 2022 final last summer on TV,” BBC Sport director Barbara Slater said, also noting the BBC’s excitement to bring the 2023 World Cup to “the widest possible audience.”

U.S. women’s national team star forward Mallory Swanson has provided an update on her recent patellar tendon tear.

Swanson, who tore the tendon in her left knee during Saturday’s 2-0 win over Ireland, revealed Tuesday that she had a successful surgery that morning.

“This is hard. I’m in shock and don’t have much to say other than, thank you to everyone for the messages. I feel the love and prayers, and holding them close to my heart,” she wrote. “Surgery this morning was a success. I’m thankful for my trainers, doctors, coaches, and teammates for their help throughout this process.

“The beauty out of all of this, is that God is always good. He’s got me and always has.”

The day proved for both members of the Swanson family, as Mallory’s husband Dansby had to exit the Chicago Cubs’ comeback win over the Seattle Mariners due to exhaustion. He woke up at 4 a.m. Tuesday to accompany Mallory and her mom to the hospital, spending most of the day there before reporting for the game at Wrigley Field.

“Realistically I felt like my body was just kind of done,” he said after the game. “I felt like doing anything more probably would have put me in harm’s way. It felt like the night was over for me, pretty simple. I probably haven’t eaten or slept or drank enough water the past few days, so already getting fluids in me and taking care of myself.”

Still, there is a silver lining for the Swanson family.

“Glad we can be here together — I can’t imagine being apart right now,” Dansby Swanson said. “Everybody knows it’s a pretty tough and heartbreaking situation for her. I’m heartbroken for her. Just a lot of tears and sadness.

“Two things can be true at the same time: It can stink, and we can be sad and upset. We can also understand God’s bigger picture and plans and everything. … It’s just a sad time and we’ll get through it together.”

Of course, surgery to a patellar tendon typically takes around six months to recover, putting Swanson’s status for the World Cup – which begins in three months – in jeopardy.

And for USWNT coach Vlatko Andonovski, a player like Swanson will be difficult to replace so soon before the World Cup. The team had been building around both Swanson and Sophia Smith’s attacking power, he says, so now decisions have to be made.

“With losing Mal [Swanson], conceptually we may look slightly different,” he said. “Now with Mal not being there, we’re going to have to make a decision. What are we going to go for? Like for like and try the same way? Or is Mal going to be replaced by a group of players?

“We’re going to change that as we go forward, from game to game. It’s hard for me to answer this question right at this moment but once camp is over and we review it, we hope to have a little better answer or at least a clear understanding of the direction that we want to take.”

Becky Sauerbrunn celebrated her 200th cap for the U.S. women’s national team Tuesday in her hometown of St. Louis, in a game she wasn’t even supposed to play in.

But of course she wasn’t going to miss this chance.

“I was very happy that she was able to celebrate her 200th cap in her city, in St. Louis,” USWNT coach Vlatko Andonovski said. “Even though the plan was for her not to play in the second game, we instrumented something because a legend like Becky deserves that.”

And the legend that is Becky nearly had a cherry on top of the celebration, with a header that hit the post and nearly resulted in her first USWNT goal. Andonovski called the near-miss “a good moment” on a play that was “very well-executed.”

“I pretty much blacked out, I don’t know what happened,” Sauerbrunn joked after the game. “It was a play designed for me and I blew it. But, super exciting. Needed to put it anywhere but where I did. … That would have been too good to be true.”

She played just 28 minutes due to load management, but still got to feel the love from her hometown.

“That crowd tonight was unbelievable,” she said. “It’s such a pleasure to play in atmospheres like this and for it to be my hometown and to have a moment where I can say thank you and goodbye, so it was nice.”

When asked after the game about Sauerbrunn, Andonovski spoke about the leadership the longtime captain brings to the squad, and about his longtime relationship with the defender.

“Becky and I go way back. I had a chance to work with her for a majority of my career. First in the club environment, and then on the national team. And every time I’ve worked with Becky, I have appointed or or helped appoint her as a captain on the team,” he said. “And the reason why is because I trust her. I trust that she can lead the team to success. She knows how to lead the team, she knows how to help the players.”

The team held a ceremony for Sauerbrunn prior to the game Tuesday, one which Andonovski said is “just for the team.”

“It was amazing to hear how the players talked about Becky and how much she means to them,” he said. “And how much of impact she has had, not just on the on the game globally or in the country or the team, but on individual players. And after everything. I had a chance to speak. I shared my experience briefly and told them how much she has impacted my career, as well. And I think it just speaks to who Becky Sauerbrunn is.”

Sauerbrunn herself was touched by the reception she received in St. Louis.

“It’s an honor — I was once one of those young girls watching this team, wanting to be on this team,” Sauerbrunn said of her celebration on Tuesday. “My message to them is — it’s so possible, anything is possible, as long as you love the game and you get the support that you need. And so, I would say that if your goal is to make it onto the national team, I am a representation of that being a possibility.”

Just days after hopping on a flight to join the U.S. women’s national team in camp, Alyssa Thompson made her first start for her country.

Thompson made her third international appearance in Tuesday’s match, playing a full 90 minutes against Ireland in the 1-0 win. While she played for the USWNT in October against England and Spain, she played just 26 minutes total in the two matches.

The 18-year-old forward came to the USWNT in place of Mallory Swanson, who tore the patella tendon in her left knee Saturday against Ireland.

Her start made her the youngest player to do so since Swanson in 2016.

“We wanted to explore every possible option before we make the final decision, and one of those was Alyssa Thompson,” coach Vlatko Andonovski said.

He listed Trinity Rodman, Lynn Williams, Midge Purce and Megan Rapinone as forwards who have already had the opportunity to start for the team and receive a look from the coaching staff as deadline to decide on a World Cup roster looms.

“We felt like we needed to see Alyssa start a game and give her a chance to showcase her abilities as well,” he said.

No timeline has been given yet for Swanson’s return, including whether or not she will be available for the World Cup, but her return for the summer tournament looks unlikely.

“She has things planned right away in terms of the timeline of how everything is going to play out for her from the rehab and medical side of it,” Andonovski said of Swanson. “So she’s in a good place — as good as she can be at this moment.”

Injuries and extended absences have taken a toll on the U.S. women’s national team as the reigning world champions prepare for the 2023 World Cup in Australia and New Zealand.

As head coach Vlatko Andonovski continues to evaluate players before naming a final roster, we take a look at recent USWNT mainstays on the outside looking in and where they stand in the run-up to the biggest tournament in women’s soccer.

Position: Midfielder
Total caps: 17
Most recent USWNT appearance: April 12, 2022 vs. Uzbekistan (Friendly)

What is her track record with the USWNT?

Macario played her first match with the national team in January 2021, and the quick-footed midfielder wasted no time in establishing herself on the roster.

She scored a goal in her second appearance (and first start) for the USWNT in a friendly against Colombia on Jan. 22, 2021. While she took a back seat at the Tokyo Olympics, appearing in just one group-stage match, she emerged as a regular starter after that, and has made the starting lineup in 11 of her 17 appearances.

And she really found her scoring touch in 2022, totaling five goals in her three most recent matches with the squad.

What is keeping her off the roster?

Macario tore her ACL last June during a league match with French club Olympique Lyonnais. To add to the sting of the injury, the match held no stakes, as Lyon already had clinched the Division 1 Féminine title.

When will she be back?

The 23-year-old is well into her recovery, but her timeline could affect her chance at a World Cup roster spot.

Her return was expected in February, then March, and now April has arrived without a glimpse of her, though she was on track to return to training with Lyon in the first week of the month.

Andonovski wants to see her “play professional games” as he evaluates her readiness for the World Cup, he said during the USWNT’s April camp. For Macario’s part, she knows that her shot at the roster depends on the timeline of her recovery and on the decision of the coach.

“We’ll have to see in regard to the World Cup,” she told The Athletic in April. “My season with Lyon will end soon (in June), so I hope that he trusts me enough. Whatever decision he may make, that’s on him. First of all, I just have to be healthy.”

Whether or not Catarina Macario will feature on the World Cup roster for the U.S. women’s national team is a question mark for everyone, up to and including Macario herself. 

The road back from an ACL tear last June has been a long one for the 23-year-old, though recently told The Athletic her recovery is “going well.”

I obviously wish I could be with the team. With injuries, it’s always just a matter of time, you know? I’m just having a lot of patience,” she said. “Right now, I’m working my way back to fitness and doing everything that I can control in order to try to be ready as fast as possible. There are some things that are out of my control, but it is what it is.”

Macario was expected to return to training with Lyon last week, one month later than she was expected to make her comeback with her club team.

As a result of the delay, Macario was not named to the roster for the USWNT’s April friendlies – which will serve as the final preparation for the USWNT ahead of the World Cup. But while time in camp is certainly a factor as coach Vlatko Andonovski decides on the roster, so is club play.

“It’s interesting because that’s a tricky thing in terms of timelines and things like that. Obviously, he and I have talked a lot, especially with this being the last camp when the team will be together,” she told The Athletic.” It’s not necessarily when I’d like to be back. I’m leaving that up to the experts. 

“But he’s always said, ‘We want to see you play and we want to see you back in training and playing competitive games.’”

Lyon’s season is set to end in June, which leaves a limited number of games in which Macario could make her return to the field. So if club play ranks near the top of Andonovski’s list, that could make it more difficult for Macario to have a seat on the plane to the World Cup.

For her part, she recognizes that her shot at the roster depends on the timeline of her recovery, and on the decision of Andonovski. The final rosters for the World Cup must be submitted to FIFA by July 10.

“We’ll have to see in regard to the World Cup. My season with Lyon will end soon (in June), so I hope that he trusts me enough,” she said. “Whatever decision he may make, that’s on him. First of all, I just have to be healthy.”

For now, Macario is focusing on what she can control. Still, she would love to feature in her first-ever World Cup for the USWNT.

“I mean, the World Cup is literally my home screen — the World Cup trophy,” she said. “That’s what I want. I just have to be patient. I know I have a long career ahead of me. I have faith, knowing that if it’s meant to be it will be. The most important thing is my overall health really, so I can represent the U.S. and Team Visa very well for many years to come.”

The FIFA Women’s World Cup is officially 100 days away. 

The ninth edition of the tournament, which will be held in Australia and New Zealand, kicks off July 20. Already, more than 500,000 tickets have been sold for the competition, which is set to break the overall attendance record of 1.1 million set in 2019.

According to Footballco, U.S. fans are the most likely of any national fan base to follow the World Cup. More than 82% have said they plan to tune in this summer.

Respondents were asked to identify as “superfans” who will watch as many games as possible regardless of team, as “supporters” who focus on their national team or as “casuals.” Globally, 52% identified as supporters or superfans, while 68% of U.S. fans identified with those categories, according to Sportico.

“From a U.S. point of view, it’s a very established sport for women,” said Morgan Brennan, head of Footballco’s women’s soccer brand Indivisa. “There has been more of a historical fan base for the women’s national team, obviously, as champions.” 

The U.S. has won the Women’s World Cup four times – in 1991, 1999, 2015 and 2019 – which has caused an uptick in fans in the States. Per the survey, 45% of U.S. fans said they had followed the women’s game for at least six years, more than any other country except for Japan.

Rose Lavelle will miss Tuesday’s friendly against Ireland for the U.S. women’s national team, coach Vlatko Andonovski announced Monday.

The 27-year-old midfielder picked up “a little knock” during Saturday’s 2-0 win, Andonovski said, though she played a full 90 minutes in the first of the two-match series. She will remain out of the lineup Tuesday as a precaution.

While Lavelle is “not very happy” with the decision, the team does not want to risk her aggravating the injury.

“This is not a game for us to take any chances,” Andonovski said.

Lavelle also missed two matches during the SheBelieves Cup in February with a knock she picked up in training. She returned for the third and final match of the round-robin tournament, contributing an assist in a 2-1 win against Brazil.

A rising star turned seasoned veteran, Lavelle was one of just six players who played at least 1,000 minutes for the USWNT in 2022. Another? Mallory Swanson, who tore the patella tendon in her left knee in Saturday’s match.

The 24-year-old forward, who Andonovski called “arguably one of the best players in the world,” had scored seven goals in five matches in 2023, including the finish on Lavelle’s assist against Brazil. While the USWNT did not provide a timeline for her recovery, she is likely to miss the World Cup this summer in Australia and New Zealand.

Alyssa Thompson met the USWNT in St. Louis to take Swanson’s place on the roster. The 18-year-old forward made her first appearance for the USWNT last October, and she is excelling in her first NWSL season for Angel City FC.

Sinead Farrelly’s “surreal” return to soccer took another twist Friday, as she will start for the Ireland women’s national team in Saturday’s friendly against the USWNT.

Just last week, the 33-year-old midfielder played in her first NWSL match since 2015. She had left the sport after experiencing sexual abuse at the hands of her coach, but she went public with her story in 2021, prompting major investigations into the league.

Farrelly returned this year, joining Gotham FC for the preseason as a non-roster invitee before singing a contract for the 2023 season. She made her debut in the club’s most recent match against OL Reign, and she slipped “seamlessly” into the flow of the game, her teammate Lynn Williams said.

While the match ended in a 2-0 loss, Farrelly made an immediate impact when she entered in the 70th minute, bringing “a lot of control to the midfield,” Williams said on the latest episode of Snacks. And she does the same day in and day out.

“Every day when I see her at training, she’s so technically good that half the time I’m like, ‘Sinead, give me the ball.’ If I’m defending her, I’m like, ‘Just give it to me!’ But I can’t get it off her,” Williams said.

Now Farrelly can show her skills on the international stage, as she joins Ireland for its pair of friendlies against the USWNT, starting with the first at 2:30 p.m. ET Saturday.

Ireland is preparing for its first-ever World Cup appearance, and Farrelly is getting the start in just her first camp. Coach Vera Pauw announced the lineup decision Friday, just hours after Farrelly officially joined the roster.

“She has been the standout player, to be honest,” Ireland midfielder Denise O’Sullivan said.

Farrelly’s father is from Ireland, and she spent part of her childhood living there. She maintains dual citizenship, which opened the door for this opportunity.

“Ireland’s always been really interwoven into our life and my family life,” she said Friday. “And so it feels a little surreal, but I feel really honored and proud to be wearing this badge.”

While Farrelly and the Ireland team had been in contact, whether she would be able to join the team came down to the timing of her return, she said.

“I was still trying to figure out if I could do this and my body could do this, and I wanted to try to make a team in the U.S. first and have a solid club,” Farrelly said. “And so I think the timing of getting invited into this last camp to train was exactly how it was supposed to be and perfect for both of us.”

While Farrelly is thrilled by this latest opportunity, she still is giving herself grace as she works her way back into the game.

“The only thing I’ve learned in this journey back to soccer for me is one day at a time, one session at a time,” she said. “I can get really overwhelmed and I can be really negative and critical with myself. And really the most important thing for me is just to show up and try my best and keep a positive attitude. So that’s just what I want to do every day.”

Each month in the leadup to the World Cup, Just Women’s Sports will make the case for one player as most essential to the success of the U.S. women’s national team in 2023. Next up: Julie Ertz.

Julie Ertz’s inclusion on the April U.S. women’s national team roster came as a surprise to almost everyone.

After all, the fanbase was preparing for a World Cup without the midfielder – especially after coach Vlatko Andonovski said in February that the team was “probably not going to be able to count on [her] in the World Cup.”

And while the question still remains as to whether or not she will make the trip Down Under this summer, her abilities and the state of the USWNT’s midfield make her one of the most essential players for the team.

Yes, there are risks to her return. But there’s also the possibility of reward if Ertz is at all near her best.

While Andi Sullivan has covered Ertz’s role as well as she could, she is one of a rotation of midfielders trying to work outside of their natural skill sets to fill the hole that Ertz left. And while each of those players makes a worthy addition to the squad, something has been missing. And that something is Ertz.

After all, Ertz is a true No. 6, which the USWNT has not had since she played in the Tokyo Olympics nearly two years ago. While she has remained out of the lineup due to injury and then pregnancy, the USWNT has struggled to find consistency.

That lack of consistency has been frustrating for fans and players alike, and helped contribute to three-straight losses at the end of 2022.

“We’re excited to have Julie back. We know the quality of the player that she is, and that if she comes anywhere near her best, she will certainly help us win a World Cup,” Andonovski told reports after the roster announcement for the April camp.

Still, while Ertz “at her best is one of the best in the world,” as Andonovski said, the 31-year-old midfielder still “has to come in and prove herself.”

A true defensive-minded midfielder like Ertz should help to fill the gaps on the field, and should enable players like Lindsey Horan and Rose Lavelle to revert back to their natural positions, thus creating more scoring opportunities for the USWNT.

And that will become even truer if Catarina Macario can get back to full health in time for the World Cup as well.

While her time away from the game may leave her with questions to answer as the USWNT takes on Ireland, the break also gave her a new perspective. So we could possibly see an even better Ertz on the field.

“I’m proud of the player that I have been able to be, but at the same time, it’s hard to just be complacent … It’s just not in this team’s DNA to do that,” Ertz said Tuesday.

And if you ask her, she’s embracing the pressures that come with stepping into camp with so little time before the World Cup, which kicks off on July 20.

“I’ve learned that pressure is a privilege. And there’s always been pressure in any position, any time of my career,” she said. “I don’t want to go back and be the player that I was, I want to be better.

“I love the sport differently than I did then, and I thought I loved it then. But taking a step away and kind of having a new perspective has given me kind of like a new drive.”

No, she hasn’t played in a professional match in almost two years, a fact she is working on rectifying. But if you ask other players, having Ertz back has been good. Really good.

“The energy she’s been bringing is great,” Sophia Smith said Tuesday. “And technically, she looks like she hasn’t missed a beat.”

Who is the most essential USWNT player?