There’s no better showcase of the passion football can inspire than a World Cup, and this summer it’s the women’s turn. This year’s tournament is the eight edition of the FIFA Women’s World Cup and it’s set to be the most exciting yet. There are recognized world stars across multiple teams, and even though the defending champion U.S. Women’s team remain ranked No.1 by FIFA, they’re by no means expected to walk the final (or even be in it). Increased parity in women’s football is here, and it’s going to be so much fun.
Chelsea FC Women have followed up an historic Double-winning 2017-18 by reaching the semifinals of the Champions League this season (losing to eventual champions Lyon). Naturally many of those players will be lacing up their boots for various national teams as they chase a World Cup trophy in France this summer.
The FIFA Women’s World Cup kicks off this Friday, June 7, as the host nation France take on South Korea. The final will be in Lyon on July 7.
THE WORLD CUP IS ALMOST HERE— SB Nation (@SBNation) June 5, 2019
Women's soccer has never been more competitive, and the Golden Ball race has never been more wide open.
Here are the top 50 players to watch this summer.
(Presented by @POWERADE)https://t.co/f0odqSrEhn
England are taking the most players from Chelsea, as midfielder and club captain Karen Carney, center back Millie Bright, goalkeeper Carly Telford, and 2017-18 FWA and PFA Women’s Footballer of the Year and inaugural Ballon d’Or Féminin nominee Fran Kirby are all headed to France with The Lionesses.
SB Nation’s Kim McCauley released her Top-50 Players at the Women’s World Cup, and England’s (Super) Fran Kirby is 29th on the list. Though Kirby dropped off a bit from her prolific 2017-18 season, she’s still England’s best chance at causing problems for the opposition. Kirby’s close control, quick feet and acceleration make her a difficult match-up for any defense, and she can also curl them in from long range. Look for her to terrorize those half-spaces in front of the back line as England’s No.10.
June 9: vs. Scotland
June 14: vs. Argentina
June 19: vs. Japan
Chelsea left back Ali Riley debuted for the Football Ferns in 2007 and will be playing in her fourth World Cup. She signed from FC Rosengård in the Swedish League to the Blues in June of 2018. While in Sweden she was consistently one the league’s best defenders, making the First XI every year from 2013-2017. Look for her with the captain’s armband when the Ferns take the pitch.
June 11: vs. Netherlands
June 15: vs. Canada
June 20: vs. Cameroon
Blues defender Maria Thorisdottir and midfielder Maren Mjelde will both be heading to the World Cup. Though Mjelde plays mostly as a central midfielder for the Blues, her best position, with the occasional appearance on the right flank, Norway’s struggles in defense will likely see them use her versatility by playing her in central defense next to Chelsea teammate Thorisdottir.
Maren Mjelde, who had spent most of the season out with a debilitating injury that prevented her from even walking, is No.46 on the Top-50 Women’s Players list because of her top-notch passing ability. Combined with her tenacity and knowledge of multiple positions, Mjelde is a uniquely talented player capable of playing line-breaking passes from anywhere on the pitch ... or score game-winning goals in Paris.
June 8: vs. Nigeria
June 12: vs. France
June 17: vs. South Korea
Erin Cuthbert didn’t make it on the Top-50 list but she might just be one of the most fun players to watch at the World Cup (I asked McCauley who’s likely to score the goal of the tournament, you’ll never guess who she said).
At just 20, Cuthbert is already a prolific striker for both club and country. This season, she set a career high with 13 goals across 32 appearances, including 4 in 7 in the Champions League, and was named Chelsea’s Player of the Year.
Though capable of being just a traditional striker and pouncing on chances in the box (7 of her 8 WSL goals this season came from inside the box), she’s gaining quite the reputation for her ability to rip shots from anywhere. BANGERS ONLY is a lifestyle.
June 9: vs. England
June 14: vs. Japan
June 19: vs. Argentina
Since her arrival in 2014, Ji So-Yun has been one of Chelsea’s most important and most talented players. A complete midfielder, Ji’s vision, touch, passing range, and eye for goal make her invaluable.
Ji was chosen at No.21 on the Top-50 list. She’s South Korea’s all-time leading goalscorer (54 goals in 115 caps) but her ability to read the play and pick apart defenses with her crafty passing is even more impressive. Oh, and a little pro-tip: Ji lining up free kicks is no time to run to the fridge.
June 7: vs. France
June 12: vs. Nigeria
June 17: vs. Norway
The Blue and Yellow will be taking Chelsea left back Jonna Andersson, versatile defender Magdalena Eriksson, and departing star goalkeeper Hedvig Lindahl.
Lindahl had been a stalwart for the Blues ever since joining in 2015, playing a key role during this impressive trophy-collecting era for Chelsea Women. Her positioning, ability to read danger and organize the defenders in front of her made Hedvig Lindahl No.35 on the Top-50 list. Though we’re sad to see her go, we might get to see her flash the gloves once more when she faces a talented U.S. Women’s National Team in the group stage.
Thank you, Hedvig!
June 11: vs. Chile
June 16: vs. Thailand
June 20: vs. USA