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How Spain’s win vs. USWNT helped set path to World Cup title

Megan Rapinoe reacts after a goal during Spain's 2-0 win over the USWNT in October 2022. (Juan Manuel Serrano Arce/Getty Images)

In a World Cup butterfly effect, Spain’s win against the U.S. women’s national team in an October friendly helped set the stage for its 2023 title.

La Roja bested the USWNT, 2-0, in an international friendly. In retrospect, the match provided a glimpse of each team’s World Cup trajectory. For Spain, the dispute between its players and its national federation had just begun, but the team played to its first-ever victory over the U.S. in spite of the tumult. For the U.S., head coach Vlatko Andonovski’s system sputtered to a disappointing finish.

The result also had a tangible impact on Spain’s World Cup path. La Roja jumped from No. 8 in the world to No. 6 after the October international window, becoming one of six seeded teams for the tournament.

By sneaking into the top tier of World Cup seeding, Spain avoided the other top seeds — the USWNT, Sweden, Germany, England or France — in its group. While Spain fell back to No. 7 in the ranking immediately following the World Cup draw in October, the brief stint in sixth place did the trick.

Spain ended up in Group C with Japan, Costa Rica and Zambia. Japan won the group, courtesy of a 4-0 win against Spain to close out the group stage, but runner-up Spain went on to win the World Cup title. La Roja’s path to the title included wins over Switzerland, Netherlands and Sweden, and then finally a 1-0 win over England in the championship match.