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Canada one of two World Cup teams without a women's league

Canada Soccer logo Canada Soccer - The Canadian Press

MELBOURNE, Australia — Canada may be Olympic champion but it trails Vietnam, the Philippines and the rest of the field at the FIFA Women's World Cup in one important category: Canada does not have a women's pro league.

A report by FIFPro, the global union representing professional soccer players, notes 30 of the 32 competing nations have domestic women's leagues.

Diana Matheson's Project 8 group is working on bringing an eight-franchise pro league to Canada in 2025. The FIFPro report said Haiti data wasn't available. According to a report by The Athletic, the Haiti national team has been training in the Dominican Republic the last two years because of security concerns back home.

Fourteen of Canada's 23-woman roster play their club football in Europe with nine of those in England, including Chelsea's Kadeisha Buchanan, Jessie Fleming and Ashley Lawrence and Arsenal's Sabrina D'Angelo and Cloe Lacasse.

Canadian skipper Christine Sinclair, who also captains the Portland Thorns, is one of eight NWSL players. Midfielder Simi Awujo is a junior at the University of Southern California.

In contrast, 22 of the 23 American players at the tournament play club football at home in the NWSL. Lindsey Horan, who plays in France for Lyon, is the exception.

"Experience within the national team setting is important, but players — usually — spend most of their time at their clubs," the FIFPro report says. "In an ideal scenario, proper playing time and growth opportunities found in domestic football competitions provide the foundation for player progression.

"Even though in our globalized world, the best players often sign for top teams concentrated in a few markets, the overall structure and relative strength of domestic leagues are still good indicators of the state of women’s football in a particular country."

According to the study, the number of domestic clubs ranges from 20 in Argentina to seven in Vietnam.

The average number of teams in these countries’ top women’s leagues currently stands at around 12. That compares to an average of more than 16 in the corresponding men’s leagues.


The two-time defending champion Americans really are a blench of experience and youth at this tournament.

The top-ranked U.S. squad features nine veterans from the team that lifted the trophy four years ago in France, including Megan Rapinoe who came off the bench in Saturday's 3-0 victory over Vietnam in Auckland, New Zealand, to earn her 200th cap.

The win over Vietnam also saw eight Americans make their World Cup debuts: Savannah DeMelo, Naomi Girma, Emily Fox, Andi Sullivan, Sophia Smith, Trinity Rodman, Alyssa Thompson and Sofia Huerta.

That's the most in a single match since the Americans' first-ever World Cup match in 1991 (all 12), according to Opta.

Still, the average age of the U.S. squad is 28.3, third-oldest at the tournament.

South Korea is the greybeard team at the competition with an average age of 28.9. Haiti is the youngest at 22.3.

At 27.0, Canada is tied for eighth-oldest with Portugal, South Africa and Switzerland.

The win over Vietnam was the American women's 13th straight at the World Cup, the longest winning streak in tournament history (men's or women's), ahead of the Brazilian men's 11 straight in 2002-06.

Rapinoe and American teammates Julie Ertz, Alex Morgan, Alyssa Naeher and Kelley O'Hara are looking to join Brazil's Pele as the only players to win three FIFA World Cups.


In coming off the bench in the scoreless draw with Nigeria, Canadian midfielder Sophie Schmidt moves into sole possession of second place for appearances by a Canadian at Women’s World Cup at 16. Captain Christine Sinclair, in her sixth appearance at the tournament, leads at 22.

Schmidt, at her fifth World Cup, had been tied with the retired Rhian Wilkinson at 15 … Sinclair becomes the second-oldest player to appear at the Women’s World Cup at the age of 40 years 39 days. The oldest player in tournament history is Brazil’s Formiga (41 years 112 days against France in 2019).

Swiss defender Julia Stierli played 117 passes in the 2-0 win over the Philippines, setting a Women's World Cup record (since Opta began detailed data collection in 2011) … Spain set tournament records (also since 2011) for shots (46), possession (80 per cent) and touches in the opposition box (117) in its 3-0 opening victory over Costa Rica.


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This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 23, 2023.