Tribal Football

The Week in Women's Football: Brazil win '27 World Cup bid; NWSL check as Seb Hines has Orlando Pride flying

The Week in Women's Football: Brazil win '27 World Cup bid; NWSL check as Seb Hines has Orlando Pride flying
The Week in Women's Football: Brazil win '27 World Cup bid; NWSL check as Seb Hines has Orlando Pride flying
The Week in Women's Football: Brazil win '27 World Cup bid; NWSL check as Seb Hines has Orlando Pride flyingAction Plus
This week, we look at the first third of the 2024 NWSL regular season, with some interesting new players, results and some unexpected teams sitting in the top six, which would qualify them for the playoffs at the end of the season.

With 26 games in 2024, most teams have played nine matches, with the exception of Gotham FC, Angel City, San Diego and Louisville, who have all played eight games each. In part 1, we examine the top seven teams in the league: Kansas City Current, Orlando Pride, Washington Spirit, Portland Thorns, Chicago Red Stars, North Carolina Courage and NJ/NY Gotham FC.

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Last season the six playoff qualifiers were: San Diego, Portland, North Carolina, OL Reign, Angel City and champions Gotham FC. To date, only Portland and North Carolina would repeat in the top six, while Kansas City, Orlando, Washington and Chicago would qualify after missing out last season, if they maintain their form all season. We also have news at deadline about the 2027 FIFA Women's World Cup Finals Award to Brazil and some thoughts on a very important decision for the growth of the game in the Southern Hemisphere.

Next week, in part 2, we will review the seven teams in the bottom half of the table: San Diego Wave, Angel City FC, Houston Dash, Racing Louisville, Seattle Reign and expansion sides Bay FC and Utah Royals.

 

NWSL Review First Third of the Season Part 1

2024 NWSL Regular Season Review after 8 games of the 26 game season Part 1

 

Kansas City Current (6-3-021 points; Tied for First)

Head coach Vlatko Andonovskisomewhat unjustly pilloried and scapegoated by USWNT fans after the national team fell out of the 2023 WWC Finals at the Round of 16 stage under his purviewwent back to Kansas City, where he has lived for years, and to the NWSL, where he won two NWSL titles with FC Kansas City in the early years of the league (2014 and 2015). Andonovski has had a perfect return home as he has the Current cruising along nicely, unbeaten in their first nine games and tied for the top spot with the Orlando Pride, but ahead slightly on goal differential (+10 to +8).

Malawian international forward Temwa Chawinga (25) has been a revelation with her speed in attack, much like her sister Tabitha at PSG in France, though the French-based sister can also play as a post-up player, whereas Temwa likes to break away to score, as she when Bia Zaneratto started a breakaway in her own half against the reigning champions Gotham FC, Temwa made up the ten yard advantage that Bia had in front of her and streaked towards goal, leaving all the NJ/NY field players behind, and then taking Bia's pass and slotting the ball past Gotham FC American goalkeeper Cassie Miller in their 1-1 tie away to Gotham on April 14. Temwa has scored five goals and added three assists so far this season after scoring 83 times in 84 games with Wuhan Jianghan in China. Temwa is definitely more than just a speedster however and her passing ability attests to her unselfishness, as she is good at creating space for teammates through her off-ball runs.

NWSL veteran and Current midfielder Vanessa DiBernardo said: "Honestly, I think she (Chawinga) is so much more than her speed. I think she's a great player. She's strong. She works hard, she works hard offensively and defensively. She's been just a great asset to our team. I think you guys are finally seeing what we saw."

The Current won all three of their home games in their first six matches in front of sellouts of 11,500 at their new purpose-built stadium for women's football (see: The Week in Women's Football: Angel City sale over board fracture; exciitng NWSL/Liga MX Cup; Euro qualifiers - Tribal Football). They bested Portland 5-4, Angel City 4-2 and Bay FC 5-2 at home, which is rapidly becoming a fortress for the team.

Chawinga and Bia Zaneratto (30) of Brazil, who joined the side after four seasons with Palmeiras in Sao Paulo, Brazil, have provided most of the team's goals (5 goals and 3 assists and 4 goals and 3 assists, respectively) for the highest scoring team. The side set an all-time league record for most goals to start the season with 17 in 5 matches and after nine matches has 22, one ahead of second place Portland with 21. Vanessa DiBernardoso long overlooked at the national team level, even under her now club coach Vlatko when he led the national team over the past four years, which is puzzlinghas been pulling the strings with five assists (second in the league to Sophia Smith of Portland's six assists) to go with three goalstied with her league best in 2017 and 2019 in Chicago in 21 and 23 regular season matches, respectively.

In Kansas City's 3-1 win away against Angel City on April 24, French international forward Claire Lavogez scored a 90 minute winner and then added her second goal three minutes later, returning after recovering from a torn ACL. It is nice to see her back from her long injury layoff and scoring goals again.

The Current, only in their fourth season, is setting the pace for the rest of the league and, with their brilliant new stadium constructed just for women's football, they are on a cloud right now and sailing above the competition. They are also setting a high bar for independent women's football clubs around the world, particularly in a city with a vibrant men's sideMLS Sporting K.C. since 1996and which will be a men's World Cup Finals host city in 2026.

The Current fired their head of medical services, Carlos Jimenez, for violating the NWSL policy against fraternization. A report by the Athletic alleged the policy violation involved a relationship with an unidentified KC Current player. The team confirmed Jimenez's termination to The Kansas City Star in a statement: "When we learned of his actions in violation of club and league policies, he was immediately terminated. We remain committed to making sure our policies and practices ensure a safe space for our players and our staff."

The league's non-fraternization policy, instituted in 2022, states that a supervisor: "may not engage in, develop, continue, or pursue any romantic and/or sexual relationships or encounters, even when consensual, with any employee (including NWSL players or trialists) over whom they currently have direct or indirect supervisory or management influence." Jimenez previously worked as a physical therapist with the U.S. Women's National Team from 2019-21 under then-coach Vlatko Andonovski, who now is in charge of the Current. Jiminez worked for the Washington Spirit last season and was hired by the Current in December.

Kansas City will host another The Women's Cup international friendly tournament at their new CPKC Stadium this summer, mirroring what Racing Louisville will do (see more in next week's column for Part 2 of our NWSL review). The Current will host 2023 African Champion Mamelodi Sundowns, 2023 Spain's Copa de la Reina Champion Atltico de Madrid and Japanese powerhouse INAC Kobe Leonessa for a $100,000 total prize money pool.

 

Orlando Pride (6-3-0, 21 points; Tied for First)

We have previously reported on Zambian international forward Barbra Banda's incredible welcome to Orlando by fans and the Zambian diaspora, as well as her reaction (see The Week in Women's Football: Celebrating Barbra Banda's Orlando arrival; deep analysis on India - Tribal Football). She has played in five games (four starts) and has four goals to lead the side; she has been one of the most immediately impactful imports in the history of the NWSL and has shown her true class on the field and off. In her first start against the Washington Spirit away, she had one goal, one assist and drew the penalty that led to the third goal in a 3-2 win at Washington. In her second start, against the North Carolina Courage, she scored twice, picked up another assist and took the shot that led up to a rebound and follow-up goal in Orlando's 4-1 win.

The Pride, led by former EPL player Seb Hines (at Middlesborough) is undefeated and sits atop of the table; they opened with three ties and then won six games in a row, culminating with a 1-0 win at home over Bay FC in front of 7,707 fansa strong crowd for the Pride. Hines has been in charge since June of 2022. He said after the win over Bay FC that: "I think when you say defense you're talking about the whole team because the work that everyone is doing to keep the clean sheet is unbelievable. It starts from the front and having the structure and the organization from the front and reading those triggers.

"Obviously, you talk about midfield, the backline, and the goalkeeper, it's a real togetherness to keep the ball out of the net. Bay FC caused a lot of problems in the second half (and) they started to add more numbers to their attack. I thought our defenders did a terrific job overall. Bay FC created a lot of scoring opportunities, but yeah, it's a full team effort. It's nice to come away with another 1-0 win and three points."

Their defense has been crucial to their undefeated start to the season and path to the top of the table, with only 7 goals allowed in 9 games, tied for the second best total with San Diego and just behind Gotham FC (6 goals allowed), with each of the other two sides only playing eight games thus far.

Second year American forward Summer Yates (23) is second on the team with three goals and Brazilian international Marta (38) has two. With Barbra Banda and Argentinian international forward Mariana Larroquette (31) on the front line along with Adriana of Brazil and Canadian phenom Amanda Allen (19), in her second year coming in off the bench, this team is poised to easily qualify for the playoffs for the second time in their eighth full season (after 2017) in the league (nine including the COVID year of 2020 for which the regular season). For more on Amanda Allen, see our column last year: The Week in Women's Football: NWSL results (PII); Watts buys into Burnley; W-League expansion - Tribal Football). Their offense is fourth best in the league with 15 goals, behind Kansas City (22), Portland (21) and Washington (18).

Unfortunately, Brazilian international midfielder Luana (30) was diagnosed with Hodgkins Lymphoma late in April and was place on the season-ending injury list as she starts chemotherapy treatment. She just joined the club from Corinthians of Sao Paulo for the 2024 season and had played in three matches.

 

Washington Spirit (6-0-3, 18 points; Third)

After opening the season with a 1-0 loss in Seattle, the Spirit have run off four consecutive wins. Rookie Croix Bethune (23) scored the winner in 2-0 home win over Gotham on April 20 in a nationally televised game on CBS in front of 15,004 at Audi Field in D.C. Bethune, the number three selection in the 2024 NWSL Draft out of the University of Georgia after time spent at the University of Southern California, is being raved about as the most likely candidate for Rookie of the Year for 2024 and has four goals, including two game winners, including a 95th minute winner over Bay FC (2-1) on March 23 in D.C.

She then set a team record on May 1 with three assists in a 4-2 win in Chicago in front of only 2,999 fans on a Wednesday evening; she is only the fifth NWSL player to provide three assists in a game. Tied for second on the side is scoring with three tallies are second year French international forward Ouleymata Sarr (28) and American forward Brittany Ratcliff (30)who joined the Spirit after playing the last three seasons with the North Carolina Couragewhile U.S. international Ashley Hatch (28) and rookie midfielder from Clemson University Hal Hershfelt (21) have two goals each.

It is scary to think that Washington has done so well with an interim coach in Adrian Gonzalez, who will step back into an assistant role after fellow Spanish coach Jonatan Giraldez comes to take over after Barcelona's 2023-24 Liga F and UEFA WCL seasons are over (see: The Week in Women's Football: Angel City sale over board fracture; exciitng NWSL/Liga MX Cup; Euro qualifiers - Tribal Football), especially if he is able to finalize the move from Barcelona of striker Mariona Caldentey, as her contract extension talks stalled in Spain. The 2023 WWC winner is also highly valued by WSL sides in England.

Caldentey has been in excellent form this season with nine goals and eight assists in 27 matches in Liga F for Barcelona, who again won the league title and are in the UEFA Women's Champions League Finals. She has won six league titles and four Spanish Cups, four Spanish Super Cups and two UEFA Women's Champions League trophies with the Catalan club.

 

Portland Thorns (5-1-3, 16 points; Tied for Fourth)

The Portland Thorns moved head coach Mike Norris into a technical director role and promoted assistant coach Rob Gale to the head coaching role after only four regular season games in 2024, after posting one tie and three losses in four games and sitting in last place with only one standing point. Norris had replaced Rhian Wilkinsonnow the head coach of Wales WNT (see: The Week in Women's Football: Imports talk up Saudi Pro League; Canada hopes for Project 8 - Tribal Football)following the 2022 season when the Thorns won the league title. Wilkinson resigned after an investigation of a self-reported incident regarding the player-coach fraternization policy, which she was cleared of. Under Norris in 2023, the Thorns were second in the NWSL with a 10-5-7 (W-D-L) record and lost in the semifinals at home to eventual champion Gotham FC (1-0, after extra time). Gale, like Norris, is a native of England and was coaching in Canada for years.

Gale then led Portland to its first win of the season at home on April 20 with a 4-1 win over Houston, with goals from Canadian internationals Christine Sinclair and Janine Beckie and current U.S. internationals Sophia Smith and Olivia Moultrie. During the win, Smith became the youngest player to reach a combined 50 goals/assists (goal contribution) in the league with 40 goals and 10 assists, breaking the previous record held by Australian international and now Chelsea FC of the WSL forward Sam Kerr, who played with the Western New York Flash, Sky Blue FC (now Gotham FC) and the Chicago Red Stars; Kerr entered the league in 2013 and left for the WSL after the 2019 season.

Portland then won their next four games in a row (for five straight) under Rob Gale to bolt up the table, including 2-1 defeat of Washington on May 6, with goals by Sam Coffey and evergreen former Canadian international Christine Sinclair. The Thorn's move shows that a NWSL head coaching job can indeed have a quite short shelf life, though Norris did last two more games than Matt Potter, was lost his job after only two games into the 2023 season with the Kansas City Current (his second as well), after a dispute with team management, even though in his first full season in 2022 he took his side to the league title game, losing to the Thorns (2-0).

Gale's side looked very good in their most recent game, a 4-0 home win on May 11 against Seattle Reign in the Cascadia rivalry in front of a sell-out gate of 20,229, with Sophia Smith scoring once (from the penalty spot) and assisting on the other three goals. Sophia Smith was named by the NWSL media as a member of the Best XI for March/April.

Sophia Smith's fantastic start to the season has yielded eight goals and six assists to lead the league in both measures. Unfortunately, fourth year American forward Morgan Weaver (who has scored 16 times in her NWSL career) underwent successful arthroscopic surgery of her right knee after sustaining an injury in the May 1match against Bay FC. As a result, Weaver was placed on the 45-day injury list

 On April 19, the Thorns acquired Mexico National Team goalkeeper Emily Alvarado (25) from the Houston Dash in exchange for $35,000 in Allocation Money as well as up to $50,000 in Intra-League Transfer Funds, if certain performance metrics are met. Last season she was a backup to the Dash's League Goalkeeper of the Year and U.S. international, Jane Campbell. Alvarado did not play in any regular season games but did play in two Challenge Cup games. Prior to joining the NWSL, Alvarado played two seasons in France with Stade de Reims, posting nine clean sheets in 39 starts. She grew up in the States and played collegiately at Texas Christian University. Alvarado made her senior Mexico National Team debut on May 26, 2019 against the United States. Since then, Alvarado has appeared in 12 additional matches for Mexico. Alvardo was also a U-17 and U-20 international for Mexico.

 

Chicago Red Stars (5-1-3, 16 points, Tied for Fourth)

Chicago, like Kansas City, has a new head coach and one who joined after leading a women's national team at last summer's WWC FinalsLorne Donaldson of Jamaicawith his team also falling at the same stage in Round of 16 but, unlike the U.S., where it was perceived as a huge failure, after knocking Brazil out of the group stage Jamaica's performance was highly acclaimed. The Red Stars were undefeated in their first three games to start the season (two wins and a tie), defeating Utah away 2-0, Seattle at home 2-1 and tying Orlando 1-1 in Florida. They have scored 14 goals in nine games for fifth best in the league after a 3-1 home win over Utah on May 12 and their defense is the sixth best in the league (tied with Kansas City and Washington), allowing 12 goals.

Chicago Red Stars defender and Orland Park, Illinois, native, Tatumn Milazzo, earned National Women's Soccer League (NWSL) Deloitte Impact Save of the Week honors in a 1-0 loss to Angel City on April 14 at home and then again the next week on April 21 for a 2-1 win away in Seattle, while defender Sam Stabb and goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher both made the NWSL Media Top 11 for March/April. Finnish international defender Natalia Kuikka has been playing center back for the Red Stars, next to Sam Stabb, who came to the club in the off-season from the Washington Spirit in a trade. She said that her role was new for her in the NWSL but she has been playing center back for six years for Finland's WNT. She told TribalFootball.com that after two games, Finland have one win and one loss and have double home and away matches against the Netherlands during the next international window in June. She explained that Finland had moved up to League A through the League B playoffs last year: "It's tough but we have to be brave and see what happens."

Ahead of the Week 6 game against the Portland Thorns on April 27, TribalFootball.com asked Head Coach Lorne Donaldson if he was pleased about after such a strong start to the season and what he would like to improve on. Donaldson said: "Improve in every area, midfielders, back, up front. We defend from the front and want to be at a good position at certain times." He wasn't satisfied with the season describing it as a decent start, but that: "There still is a long way to go."

American forward Allison Schlegel (24), who played at Penn State University and has experience with multiple U.S. national youth teams, leads the team in goals with four in nine games, which is double to what she scored in 2023 in 14 games, and one ahead of U.S. international Mal Swanson (26). American forward Penelope Hocking (24), in her second season with the club, and Jenna Bike (26), also in her second season with the Red Stars and third in the league after one season with Gotham FC, both scored their first goals of the season in the Red Stars 3-1 home win over the Utah Royals on May 12. With one goal is American Ava Cook (see below) and imports Julia Bianchi (26) of Brazil and German import and Frauen Bundesliga veteran Maxi Rall (30).

The Red Stars's 2024 first round draft choice (number 10 overall) Leilanni Nesbeth (22) of Bermuda played with Brighton and Hove Albion in England as a teenager. She has been capped by Bermuda at the youth and senior level and won two College Cup titles at Florida State University (2021 and 2023), where she scored 15 goals in 96 matches. She has played in four games thus far this season, with one goal.

A downside for the club is that forward Ava Cook was lost for the season with an ACL injury. Cook was drafted 18th overall in the 2022 NWSL Draft by the Red Stars in 2022 from Michigan State University. In her first season in 18 appearances, she had two goals and two assists. In 2023, she played in 20 games and scored three times.

Another top international, either domestic or from abroad, would help consolidate the season for the Red Stars, with the front line being the priority.

Off the field, the team announced that they will hold a home game this summer at historic Wrigley Field in North Chicagothe home of the Chicago Cubs baseball team and where once the two time NWSL Champions Chicago Sting played some games in the late 70's and early 80's. The first ever match for the Red Stars at the Cub's homethe new Red Stars owners have strong links to the baseball clubwill be on June 8 against Bay FC. Chicago Red Stars President Karen Leetzow said: "Playing at Wrigley Field will be the event that fans of the Red Stars, Cubs and Chicago sports won't want to miss. On behalf of the Red Stars, I'd like to thank the Cubs for inviting us to Wrigley Field and giving these elite athletes the stage they deserve. We look forward to representing our great city and showing Chicago fans and the country how talented this club is and the intense level of competition that exists on the pitch every week in the NWSL and in Chicago's backyard."

Red Stars goalkeeper and team captain, Alyssa Naeher said: "Wrigley Field is one of the most iconic sports venues in the country. This is a unique opportunity for us to bring further visibility to our team and women's soccer. Chicago has always been an incredible sports town with such a rich history; I can't wait to compete on the field, under the lights, in front of our dedicated Chicago fans from every part of the city!"The game should help publicize the team which has played for years in far southern suburbs of first Lisle and now in Bridgeview, and last year averaged only 4,848 fans, the worst average in the league. The Chicago Fire, the original tenant at Bridgeview when the field opened in 2006, fled downtown after 2019 to Soldier Field. This initial match this summer could see the Red Stars play at Wrigley permanently or stage more games there and perhaps at Soldier Field as well or at another more central location.

The priority for the long-term viability and growth of the franchise is to move closer to or into the city since the bought the team last August. Drawing 2,999 fans for a midweek game against Washington Spirit on May 1albeit a mid-week gamewas disappointing and indicates that this franchise needs a better stadium solution in a hurry. As of May 4, the club had already sold 16,000 tickets to the Wrigley match. I saw a few Chicago Sting matches at Wrigley Field and it is a historic and special setting (though you want to watch the game from the elevated outfield seats for the best view). This is a positive step for a franchise that has had a nice start to the 2024 season under highly respected head coach Lorne Donaldson.

 

North Carolina Courage (4-0-5, 12 points; Tied for Sixth)

The Courage has had a good start to the season with even scoring up front from American veteran Tyler Lussi (29) with three goals, Canadian international Bianca St. Georges (26), and Haley Hopkins (25)in her second season with the club after playing at Vanderbilt University and the University of Virginiawith two goals and Ashley Sanchez (25)who moved over from the Washington Spirit in the offseasonhas one tally.

Irish international Denise O'Sullivan (30) is still the fulcrum of the side in midfield and has played in all nine regular season games this season. The club recently reinstated midfielder Meredith Speck to the active roster from the 2023 season-ending injury list. Speck tore her ACL during the Courage match against Racing Louisville FC on June 24, 2023. The Courage did go through a three game scoreless run to end the first third of the season, losing to Orlando Pride (4-1), NJ/NY Gotham FC (1-0) and Kansas City Current (1-0), but all the matches were on the road and they are undefeated in four home matches.

 

NJ/NY Gotham FC (3-3-2, 12 points; Tied for Sixth)

2023 WWC Winner Esther Gonzalez and U.S. international Lynn Williams lead the side with two goals each but as a team, they need to score more as their six goals in eight games is tied with Utah (from nine games) for the fewest scored in the league. In contrast, the reigning league champions have allowed only six teams goalsthe fewest in the league this season. Gotham and North Carolina are tied for sixth and the last playoff spot, but the Courage has a +1 goal differential to 0 for Gotham.

Gotham is unbeaten in their last four matches (with two deadlocks) and a 1-0 win in Houston on May 8 came from a Lynn Williams goal, who tied Australian international Sam Kerr (now Chelsea FC in the WSL) for most NWSL career goals in all competitions, with 78 total goals.

Midfielder Sinead Farrelly of Ireland, who was capped last year under FIFA's family rules and played at the 2023 Women's World Cup Finals, has only played in one game due to a thigh injury. On April 29, Farrelly announced that she was retiring from international duty, after only eight games. She missed three of Ireland's six Nations League matches last fall, as back spasms prevented her from flying from New Jersey to Europe. A concussion suffered against Hungary in December in Dublin further impacted her decision. She explained her decision by saying: "To play for Ireland was a dream that came true and it is an experience that I will cherish forever. I got to play in a World Cup but more than that I got to play for this country and I'm just so grateful for having that opportunity because it is one of the greatest honors of my career."

Unfortunately, U.S. international forward Midge Purce was lost for the season after suffering an anterior cruciate ligament injury against the Thorns on March 24.

Gotham acquired German international goalkeeper Ann-Katrin Berger (33) on April 19 from Chelsea of the WSL for an undisclosed transfer fee. She was signed to a one-year contract with an option for 2025. She said: "I am incredibly excited to join Gotham FC for this season. The NWSL is one of the top leagues in the world right now, and I am very excited to compete and be a part of this league." Berger has been with Chelsea since 2019 and had posted 35 shutouts, with a 0.67 goals-against average. She won four straight league titles for Chelsea in the WSL. Before Chelsea, Berger played for Birmingham City from 2016-19. In 2017, she was named the WSL 1 Players' Player of the Year. Prior to joining the WSL, Berger played with Paris Saint-Germain from 2014-16.

Berger began her professional career at German second-tier side Sindelfingen before joining Turbine Potsdam in the summer of 2011. She played five league games as they won the Frauen-Bundesliga for the 2011-12 season. She went to the 2023 Women's World Cup last summer in Australia/New Zealand, but Germany bombed out of the competition at the group stage.

Early in the season, American international defender Kelley O'Hara announced that 2024 would be her last professional season. O'Hara (35) is an iconic leader from the back and guided Washington Spirit to the 2021 league title and then last season did the same with Gotham FC. She won a WPS title with FC Gold Pride in 2010 and, in the NWSL, also played for Sky Blue FC and Utah Royals before moving to the Spirit in 2021.

For the U.S., she won the Olympic Gold Medal in 2012, and two WWC's in 2015 and 2019, winning 160 caps (21st all-time for the Americans) over 14 years, scoring three goals and adding 21 assists. O'Hara played in four Women's World Cups, the first in 2011, and was a three-time Olympian. She played two matches in last year's Women's World Cup and appeared in her final USA match last August against Sweden in San Diego. She won the 2009 MAC Hermann Trophy at Stanford University in California as a forward, scoring 26 goals with 13 assists. She was named to the Pac-12 Women's Soccer All-Century Team in 2015.

She scored twice at the 2006 FIFA U-20 Women's World Cup in Russia. She is still one of the all-time leading scorers for the U.S. U-20s, ending her career with 24 goals in 35 U-20 caps.

Off the field, in a creative marketing move to continue to tie the New Jersey club with the New York Metropolitan area, the club had American Ballet Theater Principal Dancer Misty Copeland light a ceremonial torch on April 28 for the home game against Racing Louisville at Red Bull Arena (a 1-1 tie) in suburban Harrison, New Jersey, across the river from New York City. Gotham FC has a home tradition in which special guests and members of the community light an eight-foot tall torch that ignites a flame before kickoff. Copeland is the first Black woman ever in the role of the ABT. Copeland has performed some of the most iconic classical ballet roles, including Odette/Odile in Swan Lake, Juliet in Romeo & Juliet, Giselle, Manon, Coppelia, Kitri in Don Quixote, and Firebird, among countless others. She debuted on Broadway in "On The Town" in 2015 and made her major motion picture debut in Disney's The Nutcracker and the Four Realms in 2018.

 

2027 Women's World Cup Bid Award Brazil brings the tournament to South America for the first time

Last week's column looked in depth at the 2027 Women's World Cup Bid Books (see: The Week in Women's Football: Examing USL comps; reviewing each 2027 bid book - Tribal Football). On March 17 in Bangkok, Thailand at the FIFA Congress, Brazil was selected as the 2027 WWC Finals host, defeating the tri-nation bid of Belgium/Netherlands/Germany by a total national affiliate vote of 119 to 78. As we reported last week, FIFA's evaluation rated Brazil slightly higher than the UEFA bid. This is a huge victory for the development of women's football in not only Brazil but throughout CONMEBOL and even in Central America. Brazil is a standard bearer in the international game on the men's side and Marta for so long has led a talented team at Women's World Cups and Olympic Games Finals.

Unfortunately, in 2027, she will most likely be past her national team days as she will be 41 years of age; however, always a class act, the Football Federation, local organizing committees and broadcasters should utilize her to the upmost, to help sell the game to young girls and their parents in a region where there is still some prejudice against women's involvement in the sport.

FIFA also avoided having three nations involved in hosting the tournament, which they will have in 2030 for the men's World Cup in Spain, Portugal and Morocco (really six including a first round game each in Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay to celebrate 100 years since the 1930 World Cup was held in Uruguay). There were also reports that CONMEBOL agreed to just the three games in 2030 and to not bid for the 2034 men's finals that were recently awarded to Saudi Arabia, with the understanding that the 2027 WWC would go to Brazil. Brazil's tournament may not be as profitable as a UEFA staged event but there will be fewer governmental and logistic headaches across three countries, and Brazil will celebrate this event as only they can with their passion and joy for the beautiful game. With the 2027 tournament only three years away (something that FIFA should change in the future to provide a 4-5 year window for hosts), Brazil provided a secure sense of competency, one host nation and a wonderful country for fans from other nations to visit.

The decisive victory by 41 votes shows the depth of support for Brazil's bid and also provided some justification for the U.S. and Mexico federations withdrawing their bid for 2027 earlier this month and so late in the process, besides the fact that the U.S. is hosting Copa America this year, the expanded FIFA Club World Cup in 2025, joint hosting the 2026 World Cup with Canada and Mexico and the 2028 Olympic Games men's and women's finals in Los Angeles. Delaying the bid four years will allow more focus on the women's tournament and take some of the load off of Mexico and U.S., who possibly would have had to stage two major FIFA World Cups within twelve months.

The downside is thatif the U.S. and Mexico win in 2031, FIFA will have two consecutive Women's World Cup in the Americas. UEFA will not then have hosted since France 2019 while Africa has never hosted the WWCthat will make the 2035 bidding quite interesting. England is likely to bid for 2031 and/or 2035, perhaps with a joint bid with Scotland, Wales Northern Ireland and even the Republic of Ireland, as they are doing for the European Championship in 2028, for which they are the favorites to win against Turkey and Russia (sic). It will be an interesting next few years in future Women's World Cup bidding.

Soccer America's Mike Woitalla was recently in Brazil and assessed the state of the women's game there. He interviewed two local journalists: Renata Mendonca and Julia Belas Trindade, who both cover the women's game in the country. They both talked about why it was so important for Brazil to host the Women's World Cup.

Mendonca said: "I think it's not only important, it's fundamental for the future of women's football in South America to have this edition of FIFA Women's World Cup here. That is because it is a continent where the resistance to women's football development is still huge. And when we compare to what's been happening in Europe in the past 10 years, South America is really in a different, and worse stage."

She added that the South American clubs, federations and even CONMEBOL will start to see women's football as profitable, rather than something that they have to do to meet FIFA rules: "Most of the clubs in Brazil, for example, they only have women's teams because they have to it's the rule in order to be able to compete in the men's league, Srie A. Hosting a World Cup in Brazil will be an opportunity to show them that this is a business, that if they do work for that, if they invest in women's football and if they plan to be successful it is possible to make good money."

She emphasized that more girls will see the games and be inspired, realizing that they can play it as well as boys. She added that what happened so successfully in Australia, elevating the sport which had to compete against other popular football codes, is a roadmap for Brazil: "I saw the transformation the World Cup brought to Australia, a country where football was not among the most popular sports. Here, people are already passionate about football. They just don't know the women's game as much as they know the men's game. And hosting a World Cup here can make this truly the 'nation of football' instead of 'the nation of male football' as it is today."

Belas Trindade added that the Women's World Cup in Brazil will bring more support to the game, not just with girls and women playing the sport, but: "Becoming journalists, working in other areas involved in sports, or even just watching as friends." She felt that Brazil: "still treats the women's game too poorly The women's game needs to be more visible in Brazil, and the World Cup would definitely help with that. Also, for women's football fans, it'll be amazing. Brazilians love football."

A recent example of how a Feminino Serie A1 team has treated their players is when legendary Santos in Sao Paulo State brought back former Brazil women's national team coach (at the 2011 WWC in Germany) Kleiton Lima recently, after he was forced to resign last year following player complaints of harassment from most of those on the squad. When other women's teams and players teams protested his return in April, Lima resigned again. Santos didn't find any evidence in their investigation, but felt that it would be okay to bring Lima backhe had coached the club on multiple occasions since 1999 and is seen as the most successful coach in the history of the club's women's team, with two Copa Libertadores wins (2009 and 2010) and two league titles (2007 and 2009)because most of those who complained had left the club.

Congratulations to Brazil for winning the 2027 Women's World Cup. This seemed so unlikely to happen four years agoit will help immensely to develop the game in South and Central America and it will be a tremendous event in the stands and in the host cities as well.

 

 

Tim Grainey is a contributor to Tribal Football. His latest book Beyond Bend it Like Beckham is on the global game of women's football. Get your copy today.Follow Tim on Twitter: @TimGrainey