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Women’s World Cup will highlight how far other countries have closed the gap with US – but that isn’t the only yardstick to measure growth of global game

The 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup begins on July 20, 2023, in Australia and New Zealand, and the U.S. enters the soccer tournament in a familiar position: favorites.

The U.S. Women’s National Team, or USWNT, is the reigning back-to-back champion, and many pundits are expecting it to make history by securing a third successive title.

Certainly, the team is built on solid foundations – it has a tournament history like no other, having reached the podium in all eight editions of the tournament stretching back to 1991 – and lifted the winner’s trophy four times. And it still possesses some of the game’s most recognizable and decorated players, Megan Rapinoe and Alex Morgan among them.

Yet the U.S. players are not certain to win the World Cup this time around. No USWNT has experienced more turnover between World Cups than the current squad – it will be sporting a new head coach, and the team will be missing several mainstay players because of retirement and a spate of injuries. And its form heading into the tournament has been patchy.

Moreover, there are external currents that are also pushing against U.S. dominance. A commitment by governing body FIFA to growing the women’s game globally has contributed to nations around the world narrowing the gap with the U.S. on the pitch.

All of those factors should lead to a more competitive tournament in New Zealand and Australia. But having more teams challenging the U.S. is not the only yardstick for success in the women’s game.

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F‌or the full article by Loughborough University's Dr Verity Postlethwaite, Julie E. Brice (California State University, Fullerton), Adam Beissel (Miami University), and Andrew Grainger (Western Sydney University) visit The Conversation

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