No NWSL players will compete in the 2023 World Cup final.
A league-record 61 NWSL players were called up for the tournament. Yet the final three NWSL players — Australia’s Alex Chidiac and Emily van Egmond and Sweden’s Sofia Jakobsson — were knocked out in the semifinals. None will compete in Sunday’s championship match between Spain and England.
The lack of NWSL players in the World Cup final underscores a larger trend. While the NWSL sent 61 players to the tournament, that total was eclipsed by England’s Women’s Super League and Spain’s Liga F. Spain’s Liga F featured 72 players on World Cup rosters. The WSL featured a tournament-high 94, and of those, 40 made the semifinals.
After the creation of the NWSL in 2013, the USWNT won the next two World Cup titles in 2015 and 2019, which ensured ample representation from the U.S.-based league. But the global game is catching up with the USWNT and with the NWSL.
The WSL saw increased investment after the 2019 World Cup. Barclay’s paid $12.7 million to sponsor the league in 2019, and that number has since doubled. The Football Association is aiming to give girls equal access to soccer in schools by 2024. A three-year broadcast deal with Sky Sports and the BBC has brought in record revenues and an attendance jump of 173%.
In Spain, Liga F – which was granted professional status in 2020 – has grown to 16 teams and has drawn roughly $80 million in media and commercial partnerships.
And world power FC Barcelona has 11 players in the final across both national teams, with Lucy Bronze and Keira Walsh representing England. Irene Paredes and Alexia Putellas lead the Barcelona contingent representing Spain.
“We are very proud with the achievements of our women’s team, but this isn’t something that could happen overnight,” Barcelona president Joan Laporta said.
“There has been an extraordinary and consistent work for years from a great group of professionals within the organization,” Laporta continued. “You cannot improvise players like Alexia Putellas or Aitana Bonmatí and need to create the right structures and environment to ensure their talent could bloom, and then attract international talent like Keira Walsh or Lucy Bronze. This is what we have been working on as an institution for years, as a strategy that goes from soccer grassroots to the top professional level.”
Real Madrid also has a number of players on the Spain side, with eight players in total. Manchester City is the leading WSL team with six players in the championship match.