The FIFA World Cup is the pinnacle of football. The world’s best players on the biggest stage showcasing the best football from across the globe. The most talented footballers competing for sport’s most coveted trophy. The 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup has broken every record for a Women’s sporting event in this country and for the past month there has been a buzz around Australia like we have never seen before. Almost half the country tuned in to watch the Tillie’s semi-final against England and in almost every café, restaurant and grocery store the topic of conversation was the Tillies! The groundswell this Matilda’s team has created and the pride they have instilled in an entire nation has simply been incredible.
The 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup culminated last night with Spain winning their first ever Women’s World Cup over England. Given the greatest Women’s World Cup ever is now behind us it is a great opportunity to look back at the past month of football and shine a light on some of the college soccer stars that were on show this World Cup. The USA college soccer pathway is a proven route to the professional game and the FIFA WWC is the greatest example of where the college soccer journey can take you.
There were a total of 144 players at this FIFA WWC 23 that have experience playing college soccer in the USA and an incredible 21 players are still student-athletes at college in the USA. That is almost 1 in 5 of the best women’s soccer players from around the world have progressed through the college system. Further to this, 21 of the 32 teams at the World Cup featured at least one player from the college system. The impact of the college soccer was felt from the very first goal of this world cup with New Zealand’s Jacqui Hand (Colorado College alum) providing the assist for Hannah Wilkinson (University of Tennessee alum) to score the decisive goal in New Zealand’s historic victory over Norway in the opening game.
"There were a total of 144 players at this FIFA WWC 23 that have experience playing college soccer in the USA and an incredible 21 players are still student-athletes at college in the USA."
New Zealand’s rostered featured 12 players with college soccer experience including current Arizona State student-athlete Gabi Rennie. Canada had the most college soccer players with 22 of their 23 roster with prior college soccer experience, USA’s team had 21 ex-college soccer players and Jamaica had 18 players. Runners-up England had four players on their team who progressed through the college soccer pathway with Alessio Russo, Lotte Wubben-Moy and Lucy Bronze all competing for University of North Carolina and Rachel Daly playing for St John’s University.
Lucy Bronze won the NCAA Championship with the UNC Tar Heels in 2009
Florida State featured the most college soccer players with 7, closely followed by University of North Carolina and Stanford both with 6 ex-college soccer players at the World Cup. However, it wasn't just the brand name colleges on show at the World Cup with student-athletes from 92 colleges across 4 college divisions featuring at the World Cup testifying to the breadth and depth of talent the college soccer system in America fosters. Beyond the players there were 3 coaches; Randy Waldrum, Lorne Donaldson and England’s coach Sarina Wiegman with experience in the college soccer system. Australia’s roster itself featured two college soccer players in Teagan Micah (UCLA) and Aivi Luik (Nevada).
The Women's World Cup serves as a platform for showcasing the immense talent of women soccer players worldwide. Among the stars gracing this prestigious event we were lucky to host are individuals who started their journey on the fields of college soccer. These college soccer players exemplify the significance of college programs in nurturing and elevating talent to the international stage. As they continue to shine and inspire, their achievements will undoubtedly motivate generations to come, solidifying the growth and prominence of women's soccer globally.