As the U.S. women’s national team prepares for the 2023 World Cup, Just Women’s Sports is taking a look at its opponents — including its three group-stage adversaries and its likely matchups in the knockout rounds.

Next up is a recent foe and potential opponent in the 2023 World Cup final: England.

Manager: Sarina Wiegman

Fans of women’s soccer know the name Sarina Wiegman. The 53-year-old joined the club from the Netherlands, where she had been head coach from 2016-21 after a long international career as a player. Since taking over as manager in September 2021, Wiegman has led the club to its first-ever Euros title — a year after also winning it with the Netherlands — and to victory over Brazil in the first-ever women’s Finalissima. The 2022 Best FIFA Women’s Coach’s first loss as England coach came just this year, a 2-0 defeat in a friendly against Australia.

Key player: Mary Earps

England has a multitude of offensive and defensive weapons, but perhaps no player is more important than goalkeeper Mary Earps. The 30-year-old Manchester United keeper is the glue that holds the Lionesses together as they look to win their first-ever World Cup. Earps is one of the best goalkeepers in the world, becoming the first to reach 50 clean sheets in the WSL in May, and England will rely on her all tournament.

World Cup history

England has advanced to the knockout stage of every World Cup they’ve played in, including three quarterfinals appearances in 1995, 2007 and 2007 and a third-place finish in 2015. The Lionesses followed that up with a fourth-place finish in 2019 after the USWNT knocked them out of the semifinals, 2-1. England then lost to Sweden 2-1 in the third-place match.

Group stage schedule

England will play in Group D alongside Denmark, China and Haiti. Take a look at the schedule below, or check out the full World Cup schedule.

  • Saturday, July 22 – 5:30 a.m. (FOX)
    • England vs. Haiti
  • Friday, July 28 – 4:30 a.m. (FS1)
    • England vs. Denmark
  • Tuesday, Aug. 1 – 7 a.m. (FOX)
    • England vs. China

Keys to beat the USWNT

This England squad looks vastly different from the one that won Euros a year ago and beat the USWNT 2-1 in a friendly at Wembley last October. Leah Williamson, Beth Mead and Fran Kirby are all out with injuries sustained in the last year, with Williamson perhaps the team’s biggest loss.

Despite the injuries, England is considered one of the favorites to win the World Cup title. And based on the bracket, if the USWNT is to meet England in the tournament, it will be in the final.

This is a team full of stars who have come into their own since winning the Euros title last year. Ella Toone and Georgia Stanway are dangerous midfielders, while Rachel Daly, Lauren Hemp, Alessia Russo and Chloe Kelly provide England with a well-balanced attack up front. The team is anchored by Lucy Bronze, Millie Bright and Lotte Wubben-Moy on the backline and in front of Earps.

England has struggled to find its footing of late, taking a 2-0 loss to Australia and 0-0 draw with Portugal into the World Cup as their latest results. To beat the USWNT once again, they’ll look to follow a similar playbook as their win in October: strike early and attack often. They’ll also need to contain Sophia Smith, who had the USWNT’s lone goal in that game. The speed of the USWNT’s other attackers — Trinity Rodman, Lynn Williams and Alex Morgan — could also pose problems for England.

But if England can get rolling early, they’ll put the USWNT into a vulnerable position they don’t often find themselves in, needing to respond rather than attack.

The England’s women’s national team will not receive World Cup bonuses from its national federation following a breakdown in negotiations.

A new FIFA pay structure will see players directly compensated for the World Cup for the first time. But England’s Football Association has said it will not give its players bonus payments, The Times reported.

Instead, each player will receive just the FIFA payment, with every group-stage competitor receiving $30,000. The payments will increase with each stage; if England wins the tournament, each player on the Lionesses would receive $270,000.

While England players receive match fees for playing in international friendlies, they don’t receive such fees for major tournaments. Some national teams, including Germany, follow the same payment structure. But other teams, including the USWNT and Australia, will be paying out bonuses on top of the FIFA money.

According to The Times, players are set to push for additional bonuses to be put in place in the future, but negotiations for the World Cup began too late.

England players also are frustrated over a media “blackout,” which began at the start of England’s camp on June 19. According to players, the inability to participate in media opportunities has caused them to miss out on deals. And what deals they were able to negotiate were crammed into one week, or even in some cases one day.

English clubs are pushing back at national teams’ World Cup preparations, opting to release their players just 10 days before the tournament so they have more time to rest after their club seasons, the Telegraph reports.

The move follows FIFA regulations, which state that clubs are obliged to release their players for national team duty on July 10. But the proposed date comes weeks after many national team camps are scheduled to take place.

The European Club Association has told women’s national teams that players will not be available until the international window officially starts due to concerns about player welfare.

“The issue of early call-ups is a hangover from the game in its amateur form and is detrimental to the future success and growth of women’s football,” ECA head of women’s football Claire Bloomfield told the Telegraph. “They also generate a great deal of unnecessary tension in the relationship between clubs and their players.”

The ECA has also written to FIFA to ask for their support. As the list of injured women’s soccer stars continues to grow, the ECA believes that players need more rest and an actual offseason.

Many national teams had planned to start their training camps in mid-June, with the intention of traveling to Australia and New Zealand in early July to give their players time to get acclimated before games begin. England is currently scheduled to fly to Australia on July 5.

FIFA will compensate clubs for releasing their players after July 10.

“This is not a matter of financial compensation or the absence of adequate protection and insurance, but a serious concern for player welfare,” Bloomfield told the Telegraph. “We were given a very clear mandate by our member clubs, which includes engaging in constructive and direct communication with our key stakeholders and partners, and this will be our focus in the coming days.”

A number of high-profile stars have suffered injuries in recent months, including England captain Leah Williamson, England forward Beth Mead and Dutch star Vivianne Miedema are all out with ACL injuries. England defender Lucy Bronze also underwent a knee surgery this week that isn’t expected to keep her out of the World Cup.

The WSL is set to conclude on May 27, and the Women’s Champions League final will be played on June 3. England, Sweden, Denmark and Norway are said to be among the national teams requesting clubs to release players for a mid-June training camp start.

There is also concern over the World Cup’s Aug. 20 end date, which gives players very little time to rest before Champions League first-round qualifiers begin as early as Sept. 6. The 2023-24 WSL season then begins the final weekend of September, with another international break scheduled for mid-September.

The NWSL and the USWNT underwent a similar dispute in February ahead of the NWSL season, which has since been resolved.

The U.S. women’s national team remains the favorite to win the 2023 Women’s World Cup, and the field looks as wide open as ever after a wild international window.

While the USWNT looked shaky in its two wins against Ireland, several of its competitors did not fair any better.

England fell 2-0 to World Cup co-host Australia, snapping its 30-match unbeaten streak, while Germany lost to Brazil for the first time since the 2008 Olympics. Sweden tied with long shot Norway, and France bested Olympic gold medal-winner Canada.

After the break, the USWNT leads all odds at +275 to win its third straight World Cup, according to DraftKings Sportsbook.

England follows with +350 odds. That represents a slight change from January, when both England and the USWNT were tied with odds of +300 to win the World Cup trophy. At that time, Spain stood in third with +600 odds, while France and Germany tied for fourth at +700.

Spain and Germany now are tied for third at +650, while France is fourth at +750.

Sweden’s odds have slipped to +1400, while Australia remains at +1400 and is now tied for fifth. The Netherlands (+1600), Canada (+2500) and Brazil (+2500) also remain the same.

The international window represented the last chance to see national teams in action before World Cup rosters are finalized. The USWNT next takes the pitch at 4 p.m. ET Sunday, July 9, in San Jose, California, for a World Cup send-off match against Wales.

The United Kingdom government will put £600 million toward equal athletic opportunities for girls as a result of a push from the England women’s national team.

“We want every young girl in the nation to be able to play football at school,” the Lionesses wrote an open letter to government leaders last August after winning England’s first Euros title.

Just 67% of schools offer equal access to soccer in their physical education curriculum, according to the country’s Football Association. And just 46% of schools offer girls the same extracurricular activities as boys.

With the new standards set by the government, schools will be required to offer at least two hours of physical education per week as well as equal access to sporting activities — including soccer.

“The success of the summer has inspired so many young girls to pursue their passion for football,” England captain Leah Williamson said. “We see it as our responsibility to open the doors for them to do so and this announcement makes that possible. This is the legacy that we want to live much longer than us as a team.”

FA chief executive Mark Bullingham said that England’s Euros win “can now live on with a legacy,” adding that the government’s plans have “the ability to change the future of women’s football.”

The £600 million funding package will support the improvements to the physical education curriculum and extracurricular activities in primary schools.

“Last year the Lionesses’ victory changed the game,” U.K. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said. “Young girls know when they take to the pitch that football is for them and, thanks to the Lionesses, they too could be a part of the next generation to bring it home for their country. We want schools to build on this legacy.”

Spain’s Alexia Putellas won the Best FIFA Women’s Player award for the second straight year, beating out fellow finalists Beth Mead of England and Alex Morgan of the United States.

Putellas tore her ACL last summer ahead of the Euros but led FC Barcelona to their third-straight Primera División title before her injury. She becomes the first repeat winner of the award since its introduction in 2016.

The 29-year-old midfielder also won the Ballon d’Or for the second consecutive year last October, and she became the first player to win back-to-back UEFA Women’s Player of the Year awards last August.

Morgan was the lone U.S. women’s national team player to make the 14-player shortlist for award. She was also the lone USWNT or NWSL player to make the FIFA Women’s World 11.

The 33-year-old striker won the NWSL Golden Boot in 2022, scoring 15 goals in the regular season for the San Diego Wave.

While Mead, like Morgan, lost out to Putellas, the Lionesses had a strong showing at the ceremony. The 27-year-old forward finished behind Putellas after she helped push England to its first Euros title. She also stars for Arsenal in the Women’s Super League.

England goalkeeper Mary Earps, who also plays for the WSL’s Manchester United, won Best FIFA Women’s Goalkeeper. And England manager Sarina Wiegman won Best FIFA Women’s Coach after leading the Lionesses to the Euros title

“It’s incredible to be here right now & celebrate women’s football,” Wiegman said in her acceptance speech. “The dangers, we have to take care of too. Yes, we want to develop, but we need to do the right things. We’re competing on the pitch, but off it we have to work as a team to grow it more.”

Nominees for the awards were selected by a panel of former players, including retired USWNT star Carli Lloyd. Nominees were evaluated for their play from August 2021 through July 2022.

The winners for each award were selected through a wider vote, which included four groups: national team coaches; national team captains; soccer journalists; and fans. Each group received equal weight (25%) in the process.

The United States women’s national team enters 2023 as co-favorites to win the World Cup, according to DraftKings.

Along with England, the USWNT’s odds are +300 to take home the World Cup trophy, which would be their third straight tile after they won the 2015 and 2019 tournaments. Spain comes in at third with +600 odds, while France and Germany are tied for fourth at +400.

The USWNT held onto their No. 1 FIFA ranking at the end of 2022, but they experienced some turbulence throughout the year. The last few months included the team’s first three-game losing streak since 1993, with losses to England, Spain and Germany — three of the world’s best teams. Despite that, the U.S. enters 2023 poised to return some of its best players from injury.

Catarina Macario, who ruptured her ACL during the UEFA Women’s Champions League final last summer, is expected to return at some point in February. Christen Press, who also tore her ACL at the beginning of the NWSL season, could return around the same time.

Other stars like Sam Mewis and Tobin Heath are also recovering from injuries, though their timelines remain unclear. Defender Crystal Dunn will likely see more playing time in 2023 after giving birth to her first child in 2022.

A number of young players have stepped up in their absence, giving the USWNT more depth options for the World Cup roster. Most notably, Sophia Smith and Mallory Pugh have established themselves on the frontline, and Naomi Girma was a force at center-back in her first year with the team.

While much has been made of the USWNT’s injury status, they appear poised to have reinforcements ready in time for the World Cup, just as other national teams are weathering the absences of star players.

Previous odds could also lend further insight into the USWNT’s chances in 2023. According to Fox Sports, the USWNT entered the 2019 tournament as co-favorites to win the title (+350), and in 2015, their odds were +300, the best of any team.

“No country has won three straight World Cups on the men’s or women’s side,” soccer analyst David Mosse told Fox Sports last July. “But if Catarina Macario comes back strong and youngsters like Sophia Smith continue to develop, the U.S. is more than capable of accomplishing that feat.”

Notably, Canada has +2500 odds to win the World Cup, putting the reigning Olympic gold medalists behind eight other teams. Spain’s chances could also improve if Alexia Putellas returns from her ACL injury sooner than expected.

Sarina Wiegman is confident in her team’s abilities heading into 2023.

England, the reigning Euros champions, have found a new level in 2022 with Wiegman at the helm. But for the Lionesses boss, winning the 2023 World Cup in Australia and New Zealand is paramount.

“You can’t beat that – you can only get equal on that,” Wiegman told The Guardian when asked about the team’s year. “We actually don’t talk about these results all the time. We want to win every game, but we talk about how we can improve the next game.

“Of course, we want to break all the records, but breaking a record doesn’t say what you have to do. We always bring it back: How do we stick together as a team? I truly believe that’s where it starts.”

The upcoming World Cup could bring about a sense of déjà vu for the coach. Wiegman lost to the United States in the 2019 final as head coach of the Netherlands.

“I’m not about revenge; I’m not really vengeful,” she said. “I don’t really think that way. At that time, they were the better team, although I thought after halftime we could have won that game until the penalty.”

Even while she tries to keep perspective, winning is always on Wiegman’s mind.

“Don’t always think of the result,” she said. “We’re not going to a World Cup just to play, we’re going there to win.”

Arsenal striker Beth Mead ruptured her ACL in a Women’s Super League match against Manchester United on Saturday, the team announced Tuesday.

The 27-year-old, who helped lead the England women’s national team to the Euros title in July, will spend “an extended period on the sidelines” as a result of the injury, per Arsenal’s statement, with the timeline for recovery to come after she sees a surgeon.

An ACL injury typically requires six to nine months of recovery time.

For example, U.S. women’s national team star Catarina Macario tore her ACL while playing for French club Lyon in June. The 23-year-old is expected to return to the USWNT in February, eight months after her injury, coach Vlatko Andonovski said ahead of the team’s November friendlies.

The 2023 World Cup kicks off July 20 in Australia and New Zealand, almost exactly eight months after Mead’s injury.

Mead excelled for the Lionesses at the Euros, which were held in England in July. She won both the Golden Boot and the Player of the Tournament awards.

She also finished as runner-up for the 2022 Ballon d’Or. Spain’s Alexia Putellas won the prestigious award for the second year in a row — though Putellas is recovering from her own ACL tear in the lead-up to the Euros.

A week before Mead’s injury, she made her 50th career appearance for England in a 4-0 win against Japan. She has scored 29 career goals with the Lionesses.

Mead led Arsenal with four assists and also had scored three goals this season before the injury. The Gunners are in second place in the WSL standings after Saturday’s 3-2 loss to Manchester United, trailing only Chelsea.

At the 2022 men’s World Cup, armbands have become a signifier of the greater issues that plague the sport of soccer.

This year’s World Cup kicked off Sunday in Qatar, which has been accused of human rights violations as well as the persecution of LGBTQ+ people. The host nation has been accused of bribing FIFA to win the privilege of hosting the event.

Several national teams’ captains had planned to wear rainbow armbands throughout the competition in a show of support for the LGBTQ+ community. Seven captains had confirmed their plans to wear the armbands, including England’s Harry Kane.

And then FIFA stepped in.

The international governing body for soccer threatened players with yellow cards if they wore the armbands, so the players backed down from the gesture. But that didn’t stop former England women’s national team star and current pundit Alex Scott from wearing the armband on the sideline as she joined the BBC broadcast.

Wales women’s national team star and OL Reign midfielder Jess Fishlock took to Twitter to call out FIFA and to implore the captains to wear the armbands.

“It was never a huge message, but it was a message,” she wrote. “As the weeks have gone on, FIFA are getting defensive, hostile & have realized the noise surrounding this WC is not going anywhere.”

She continued to lambast FIFA in a later tweet.

“More I think about this armband situation, I am disgusted by FIFA,” she wrote. “Imagine threatening players: ‘Stand up for others and I’ll book you.’”

In another powerful response, Bernd Neuendorf, the president of the German FA, accused FIFA of an “unprecedented demonstration of power.”

He also said that the timing of the reprimand seemed “deliberate,” as the European nations had informed FIFA of their plans “months ago” without hearing back but the threat of yellow cards came just before matches started Monday.

“FIFA have prevented a statement for human rights and diversity. These are values that they pledge to uphold in their own statues,” he said. “That’s more than frustrating, and unprecedented. In our view, this is a show of power from FIFA.

“They told us we were facing sporting sanctions (for wearing the armband), a few hours before Harry Kane and [Dutch captain] Virgil Van Dijk were to step on the pitch. We didn’t want this conflict being fought on the backs of the players and expose players to this risk. They can take our arm band but we will continue to express the values we stand for.”