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.

Spanish star Alexia Putellas continues her reign as the world’s consensus No. 1 women’s soccer player, taking home the Ballon d’Or for the second consecutive year.

While the midfielder missed out on the Euros after injuring her ACL days before the start of the July tournament, she made the most of the first half of the year with FC Barcelona. She is expected to miss the entire 2022-23 season while recovering from the injury.

“I’m very happy to be back here,” Putellas said in her native Spanish. “I’m pleased. A year ago, I was able to win, and it pushed me to want to be better. Without my teammates this wouldn’t have been possible. I want to thank the team, the staff and the coach as well, and everyone involved with the club.”

Putellas had 18 goals and a league-high 15 assists for Barcelona as she led the team to its third-straight Primera División title.

The 28-year-old helped lead Barcelona to a perfect season, winning all 30 of their games.

She has played for the club since 2012, making 271 appearances and scoring 117 goals. Putellas has appeared in the second most matches in club history, behind Melanie Serrano, and is also second on the club’s all-time scoring list, behind Jennifer Hermoso.

In August, she became the first player to win back-to-back UEFA Women’s Player of the Year awards. She also soared to No. 1 in the FIFA 23 ratings after failing to crack the top 10 in the previous two versions of the game.

England’s Beth Mead finished second among the 20 nominees for the Ballon d’Or, followed by Australia’s Sam Kerr and Germany’s Lena Oberdorf.

As for the three American nominees, Catarina Macario placed ninth, Alex Morgan came in 13th and Trinity Rodman finished 18th.

Rodman was the youngest player on the nomination list, at 20 years old.

This is the fourth year of the award, as Norway’s Ada Hegerberg won the inaugural award in 2018, followed by Megan Rapinoe in 2019. The award was not given in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The winner of the 2022 Ballon d’Or will be announced Monday in Paris, capping off an incredible year of soccer filled with plenty of jaw-dropping performances.

Some of the sport’s biggest names, including Vivianne Miedema, Ada Hegerberg and Alex Morgan, are among the 20 players in the running for the prestigious award, handed out annually by France Football magazine. But who are the top contenders? Just Women’s Sports looks at three players who have stood above the rest.

Alexia Putellas

Reigning Ballon d’Or winner Putellas once again tops the list of candidates. While the Spanish star missed out on this summer’s Euros after injuring her ACL days before the tournament, she made the most of the first half of the year as a domineering force for Barcelona.

Putellas had 18 goals and a league-high 15 assists as she led her team to its third-straight Primera División title. In total, Putellas scored 34 goals en route to a domestic treble with Barcelona.

The club also advanced to the Women’s Champions League final. While Barcelona finished as the runner-up to Lyon, Putellas was named the tournament’s best player and its top scorer with 11 goals.

She also became Spain’s most-capped player this year with 100 appearances, scoring four goals through seven appearances in 2022.

Sam Kerr

Any time Kerr steps onto the field for Chelsea, it’s guaranteed to be a show. The striker earned her second consecutive Golden Boot in the Women’s Super League last season en route to Chelsea’s third straight league title and second straight FA Cup.

Her 29 goals through 31 club appearances already have won her WSL Player of the Season, FWA Footballer of the Year, PFA Players’ Player of the Year and PFA Fans’ Player of the Year.

She also dazzled for her country this year, scoring five goals in Australia’s opening match of the AFC Women’s Asian Cup group stage. That number helped her surpass Tim Cahill (50 international goals) for the Australian international goal-scoring record.

She would add two more goals through the team’s remaining three games, winning the Golden Boot for the tournament with seven goals through four games.

Beth Mead

Beth Mead’s run at the Euros helped England secure its first-ever title, with the star forward scoring six goals and adding five assists to win the Golden Boot. She also was named player of the tournament.

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Beth Mead (left) celebrates with Ellen White during England’s Euros run. (Marcio Machado/Eurasia Sport Images/Getty Images)

The success represented a stark turnaround and major comeback for a player that failed to make the roster for England’s Olympic team in 2021. In total, she’s made 15 appearances for England this year, scoring 13 goals in that span.

Mead also put on for Arsenal, scoring 12 goals through 26 appearances. That total includes 11 goals in the WSL — third-most behind Miedema and Kerr. Her eight assists were tied for the most in the league alongside Ella Toone and brought her career total to a WSL all-time high of 36.

Named to the shortlist for a multitude of WSL awards, Mead was named Arsenal’s player of the season.

Coming into this European swing, the U.S. women’s national team hadn’t lost consecutive games since March 2017. This week, while handling the emotional weight of the Sally Yates report that outlined systemic abuse and sexual assault in the NWSL, the back-to-back World Cup champions watched that streak come to an end with a 2-1 loss to England on Friday and a 2-0 defeat to Spain on Tuesday.

Multiple defensive errors led to four goals conceded during the two-game trip. Even though many of the USWNT’s issues involved the midfield, head coach Vlatko Andonovski made changes only to defense in the starting lineup for the second game against Spain.

In goal, Casey Murphy came in for Alyssa Naeher. On the backline, Becky Sauerbrunn replaced Naomi Girma at center back, Hailie Mace took over at fullback for Sofia Huerta and Carson Pickett started on the left side for Emily Fox, who was ruled out of the Spain friendly after taking a knock to the head against England. Veteran defender Kelley O’Hara was absent for both games.

Girma’s absence from the starting XI against Spain was the biggest surprise coming off of her impressive performance against England. In that game, the NWSL rookie played solid defense, distributed the ball well to the attack and singlehandedly shut down a breakaway.

The back-to-back losses were a wake-up call for the USWNT, giving Andonovski some work to do in the nine months leading up to the FIFA World Cup. Here is a closer look at the defensive errors that contributed to the USWNT’s difficulties in Europe.

Defending runs down the flank and crosses in front of goal

In a recurring play that resulted in a goal for both England and Spain, the opposing player ran down the left channel and sent a cross in behind the center backs, where another opponent was waiting to score. Considering it resulted in a goal twice, this is a key weakness for the USWNT and something Andonovski needs to act on, whether it requires marking more tightly in front of goal or reading balls better from out wide.

2-0 Spain

Spain set up a give-and-go in the midfield that sent Oihane Hernández flying down the sideline past U.S. fullback Crystal Dunn. As Sauerbrunn filled the space between Dunn and the goal, Cook was left to cover Esther González, who stood at the penalty spot between the two U.S. center backs. A couple of steps too far from González, Cook couldn’t shut down González’s one-time volley past Murphy.

1-0 England

U.S. midfielder Lindsey Horan lost sight of her player and couldn’t read the pass from England’s Lucy Bronze, who started the play. Beth Mead got behind Emily Fox and took a run down the sideline before sending the ball across the box. Cook got a foot on it but not enough to slow down the play, and England’s Lauren Hemp slotted it away. Cook was positioned well on the ball side of Hemp, but due to an unlucky slip, she lost control of the interception.

Knowing roles in zonal coverage

Zonal coverage is the modern-day preference to player marking, as long as players know which zone is theirs and are constantly communicating between one another. At various times in their half of the pitch, the USWNT didn’t look confident in whose job it was to step up to challenge for the ball. That was especially true in the midfield, where they might have benefitted from shifting their 4-3-3 formation to a 4-5-1 for more support.

The lack of pressure led to multiple shots against that, fortunately for the U.S., went wide. They paid the price when they conceded their first goal against Spain.

1-0 Spain

Spain opened the scoring Tuesday off a corner kick. The USWNT had organized in a zonal marking system, with five players in a line at the top of the six-yard box, another on the side of the six, one inside in front of the goal, and two on the cluster of five Spanish players who started in the middle of the 18 and ran toward goal. 

After the ball pinged off five red shirts, Laia Codina buried it from the top of the six. Carson Pickett slipped before reaching what probably would have been her zone, and there appeared to be confusion among the U.S. players over who should step up to cover that area. In the end, none of them challenged the ball.

Conclusion

With the World Cup looming, there’s no need to panic yet. The USWNT was missing veterans like O’Hara, Mallory Pugh and Alex Morgan, and Andonovski rotated in players who hadn’t gotten many minutes previously with this group. Chemistry takes time.

There’s another international window in November, when the U.S. will have a chance to smooth out their errors against World No. 2 Germany, the 2022 Euro Cup finalists. If the USWNT loses those games, too, we’ll likely be having a different conversation in a month.

Jessa Braun is a contributing writer at Just Women’s Sports covering the NWSL and USWNT. Follow her on Twitter @jessabraun.

The Spain women’s national team beat the United States for the first time ever Tuesday, but the 2-0 win came in the middle of a dispute between Spanish players, their coach and their national federation.

“All the praise goes to my players because they showed all their courage and how to do things the right way,” Spain coach Jorge Vilda said. “We were very competitive right to the end of the match.”

In praising the players on the roster for showing “how to do things the right way,” Vilda also made a point about the players whose names are conspicuously absent.

Spain played the match without 15 players who asked not to be called up to the national team if their concerns for their health and well-being were not addressed. The Spanish soccer federation (RFEF) said the players refused to play under coach Jorge Vilda.

Team captains Patri Guijarro, Irene Paredes and Jenni Hermoso all were absent from the squad for the friendly. While Paredes and Hermoso were not among the 15 players to send letters, both have expressed support for their teammates who did. Spanish star and reigning Ballon d’Or winner Alexia Putellas has done the same.

Even without those big-name players, Spain handed the USWNT its second straight loss in front of a record crowd of 11,209 at El Sadar Stadium in Pamplona.

“I think it’s a historic day for Spanish football as we beat the United States, the top team in the world, for the very first time,” Vilda said.

Even with the premier win, though, the rift between Vilda and the group of Spain’s best players remains a problem for the national team as it looks ahead to the 2023 World Cup.

Vilda has taken a defiant stance as the disagreement played out ahead of Tuesday’s match.

“This is a farce, on the world stage,” Vilda said on Sept. 30. “It’s hurting women’s football. I can’t see any other solution than to look at this squad and look forward. I’m with those players who want to be part of this national team.”

The 41-year-old also said he has not considered stepping down as coach.

“I wouldn’t wish what I’m going through on anyone,” Vilda said. “A lack of clarity in the message from the players has led people to believe there are non-sporting issues here… I’d ask every player I’ve coached, if anyone can say they haven’t been treated well, to come out and say it.”

The controversy surrounding the Spanish women’s national team will not affect its friendly against the USWNT on Oct. 11, U.S. coach Vlatko Andonovski said Thursday following the release of his team’s 24-player roster.

The Spanish soccer federation (REEF) claimed last week that 15 members of the team refused to play for coach Jorge Vilda and resigned from the squad.

Players contradicted that statement, saying they never resigned but instead asked not to be called up until questions surrounding their mental and physical health were addressed.

“Even though we are monitoring the situation, that means nothing for us in terms of preparation,” Andonovski said. “We are preparing for the best team that Spain can put out there.”

Andonovski added that “higher-ups,” meaning those involved in organizing the match between the USWNT and Spain, continue to keep him informed about the ongoing dispute. His only job, he said, is getting his players ready to play.

“From my side, I don’t really have to do anything except prepare the team in the best possible manner to win this game,” he said.

The Spanish players maintained their commitment to their team amid their disagreement with the RFEF, but they also stood their ground.

“We have never asked for the dismissal of the coach as has been commented,” reigning Ballon d’Or winner Alexia Putellas said in a statement written in Spanish. “We understand that our work is not in any case to choose said position, but to express constructively and honestly what we consider can improve the performance of the group.”

Several USWNT players – including Megan Rapinoe and Becky Sauerbrunn, who are set to travel to Spain – offered their support to the Spanish players.

“You got a 16th standing with you in [the United States],” Rapinoe wrote in a statement released on social media. “This many players together like this is so powerful. We should all listen.”

Sauerbrunn echoed Rapinoe’s words on her own Twitter account.

“I don’t know the private details, but if 15 of the best players in the world wanted to share feedback I’d respect them enough as people and players to take their concerns seriously,” she wrote Friday.

Alex Morgan, who will not play with the USWNT in October due to a knee injury, echoed her teammates’ sentiments.

“This is so hard to watch knowing the federation is throwing their players under the bus for players asking for better protection, treatment, and professionalism,” Morgan tweeted. “Players (the BEST players in Spain) deserve so much better.”

Andonovski took a different stance Thursday, stating that it would be “inappropriate to comment on the inner workings of a team” that he is “not involved with,” before mentioning the importance of communication between players and federation coaches.

“It is vitally important in situations like this when conflicts arise,” he said. “So the parties that are involved can work through them in a productive manner.”

Jenni Hermoso, the all-time leading scorer for Spain’s women’s national soccer team, is speaking out in support of her teammates in the midst of a dispute with their national federation.

“I wish with every ounce of my soul that I didn’t have to write this, but I understand that not doing so would leave control of my message in the hands of others and my name to be subjected to manipulation by third party interests,” she wrote in a statement.

Hermoso called the disagreement between players and the Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) “one of the worst times in the history of Spanish women’s football.”

Last week, RFEF announced that 15 players on the team said they would resign rather than play under coach Jorge Vilda.

The players took issue with that characterization, saying they did not resign but rather asked not to be called up to the national team until their concerns for their health and well-being were addressed.

In a statement posted to several players’ Twitter accounts last Friday, the players said they had not called for the firing of Vilda. They also made clear that had wanted their correspondence with the federation to remain private.

While Hermoso did not post that statement to her Twitter account, she posted her own statement Tuesday.

“The reality is that I haven’t slept for days, thinking of solutions and looking for explanations to the emptiness so great that I feel inside of me,” Hermoso said. “And it is that, after all that we have worked for, that breaks my heart to recognize that we are experiencing the worst moments in the history of women’s football in Spain.

“I want to publicly express my support for all my colleagues who a few days ago decided to communicate their position. Not only do I understand your reasons, but I have also experienced many of the feelings and concerns you have communicated.”

Hermoso admitted to feeling “immense loneliness within the national team” in recent years.

Per an ESPN report, sources have said that players are unhappy with the current management structure of injuries, locker room atmosphere, team selection and training sessions. As a result, players’ relationship with Vilda has broken down.

“It is important to understand that the situation we are experiencing does not come overnight,” Hermoso said. “It is evident that it is the consequence of a cluster of events, behaviors, decisions, failed attempts and exhaustion from trying to make the player’s voice heard.”

RFEF has thrown its full support behind Vilda, who is under contract until 2024. The federation also has threatened bans of two to five years to players who refuse a national team call-up.

USWNT stars Megan Rapinoe, Becky Sauerbrunn and Alex Morgan have voiced their support for the Spanish players.

The two teams are set to face off on Oct. 11, and Spain is scheduled to play against Sweden on Oct. 7. Vilda is expected to name his squad for those two friendlies on Friday.

Hermoso said she will accept a call-up but is still hoping for a solution.

“I am lucky to have worn the [Spain] jersey for 15 years, and I have tried to enjoy every stage that I have lived to the fullest,” Hermoso said. “In that time, I have always put the group first and this time it will be no different because for me, defending my country is, and always will be, a source of great pride and motivation.

“All of the players that decided to raise their voices are committed to the national team and wish to be part of the preparation process for next year’s World Cup.

“For this reason and from my position as a player fully committed to football, to Spanish women’s football and to the national team, I want to find solutions so that we can put our sport where it deserves to be. I sincerely hope that we will soon see a united, committed and enthusiastic national team again. I will raise my voice and listen to anyone who wants to fix this situation.”

Players on Spain’s national team are speaking out after the Spanish soccer federation (RFEF) said 15 players resigned from the team over a coaching dispute.

The federation said 15 players resigned in refusal to play under coach Jorge Vilda, but the players took issue with that characterization.

“The RFEF can confirm that, throughout today, we received 15 emails from 15 players of the women’s senior soccer team… in which they state that the current situation affects ‘significantly’ their emotional state and their health and that, ‘as long as it is not reversed,’ they resign from the Spanish national team,” the Spanish federation said in a statement.

Reigning Ballon d’Or winner Alexia Putellas joined other Spanish national team players in responding to the RFEF’s account.

“We have never asked for the dismissal of the coach as has been commented,” the statement read in Spanish. “We understand that our work is not in any case to choose said position, but to express constructively and honestly what we consider can improve the performance of the group.”

The players did not resign, they said in their statement, and indeed “maintain an unquestionable commitment” to the national team. Rather, they asked “not to be summoned” until concerns regarding their physical and emotional well-being were addressed.

The players’ response also makes clear that they wished the correspondence with the federation to remain private, but RFEF went public with the dispute Thursday.

“We regret that in the context of women’s sport we have to go to the extreme, as unfortunately has happened in other national teams and other sports historically worldwide, in order to advance in a powerful and ambitious professional project for the present and for future generations,” the players’ statement concluded.

The move comes after a disappointing quarterfinal Euros run for Spain and just months ahead of the 2023 World Cup.

The U.S. women’s national team is set to travel to Spain for an Oct. 11 friendly as a part of the squad’s European swing.

U.S. women’s national team star Megan Rapinoe expressed her support for the Spanish national team in a message posted Thursday to her Instagram.

Fifteen players on Spain’s national team asked not to be called up to the squad until their concerns were addressed.

The Spanish federation claimed the players had resigned the team in refusal to play under coach Jorge Vilda, but the players took issue with that characterization. In any case, the Spanish federation threw its support behind Vilda, taking a hard-line approach.

“The RFEF is not going to allow the players to question the continuity of the national coach and his coaching staff, since making those decisions does not fall within their powers,” the Spanish soccer association said.

Rapinoe added her voice to the player protest, backing the Spanish team on social media.

“You got a 16th standing with you in (the United States),” Rapinoe wrote. “This many players together like this is so powerful. We should all listen.”

The USWNT is scheduled to travel to Spain for an Oct. 11 friendly in Pamplona.

The U.S women’s national soccer team will travel to Pamplona, Spain, to take on the Spanish national team on Oct. 11 at El Sadar Stadium.

The fixture, announced Monday, is part of a two-match European swing. The USWNT first will face off against England at Wembley Stadium on Oct. 7.

The October friendlies come after a landmark 2022 UEFA Women’s EURO tournament, with England charging to the championship after knocking out Spain in the quarterfinals.

“I know Spain fell short of their goals at the Euros, but they are a fantastic team, one of the best in the world, with world class players all over the field and as a coaching staff, we are really looking forward to the challenges these two games will present for our team,” USWNT coach Vlatko Andonovski said. “Away matches against England and Spain are among the most difficult and high-profile friendlies a team can play and having those experiences will be valuable in many different ways for our continuing preparations for the World Cup.”

The USWNT and Spain have met three times before, with the United States pulling out three tight victories, including a 2-1 win in the 2019 World Cup’s round of 16.

Spain is one of nine European teams already qualified for the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup, while the USWNT qualified for both the World Cup and the 2024 Paris Olympics after their Concacaf W Championship run.