Soccer’s 2023 Year in Review: World Cup chaos for Spain & USWNT, NWSL’s big-name retirements

The IX: Soccer Monday with Annie M. Peterson, Dec. 18, 2023

(Editor’s note: This is the last edition of Soccer Monday for 2023. The IX will still be in your inbox all this week, but will take a holiday break starting next week and return on Jan. 2, 2024. Soccer Monday will return on Jan. 8, 2024.)

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Welcome to The IX’s Soccer Monday 2023 Year In Review edition! As is tradition, we run down the significant moments in women’s soccer month-by-month.

JANUARY

Alyssa Thompson became the first player drafted by a National Women’s Soccer League team right out of high school, going to Angel City.

Haley Carter was named VP and GM of the Orlando Pride.

FEBRUARY

The Canadian women threatened a “job action” at the SheBelieves Cup. The team revealed that players had not been paid for 2022. Canada soccer said the action amounted to an unlawful strike and threatened legal action. Canada’s players wore purple warmup jerseys emblazoned with the words “Enough is Enough.” Other players across the globe wore purple armbands in solidarity.

Alexia Putellas was named FIFA Player of the Year, Sarina Wiegman was named Coach of the Year and Mary Earps was named Goalkeeper of the Year.

UNWNT won the SheBelieves Cup.


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MARCH

The Utah Royals became the NWSL’s 13th team, set to start play in 2024.

The NWSL season started.

FIFA President Gianni Infantino announced that prize money for the upcoming Women’s World Cup would be $110 million, an increase of more than double compared to what was awarded in France, out of a total pool of $152 million earmarked for the participating teams.

APRIL

Bay FC announced at the NWSL’s 14th team, set to start play in 2024.

Tierna Davidson was named VP and Treasurer of the USWNT Players Association.

New U.S. national team uniforms dropped.

Julie Ertz was named to the USWNT roster for a pair of friendlies against Ireland, marking her first call-up since the Tokyo Olympics.

The USWNT suffers a significant blow when Mallory Swanson ruptures her patellar tendon during the first match against Ireland in Austin. Swanson was the team’s leading scorer this year with seven total goals and a six-game scoring streak, tied for fourth longest in team history.


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MAY

Lauren Holiday, Kate Markgraf and Jill Ellis were among those enshrined in the National Soccer Hall of Fame.

The Washington Spirit moved to the top of the table after going undefeated in the first seven games to start the season.

JUNE

FIFA announced that every player at the Women’s World Cup will be paid $30,000 for playing in the tournament. That amount rose the further teams progressed in the tournament.

The World Cup rosters began to trickle out. England announced that Beth Mead, Leah Williamson and Fran Kirby were not going to play for the Lionesses because of injuries. It would come back to hurt them.

JULY

Megan Rapinoe announced that the upcoming World Cup would be her last and that she planned to retire after the tournament. She also said she planned to retire from OL Reign at the end of the season.

The United States embarked on the World Cup, seeking a third straight title. The team opened with an underwhelming victory over Vietnam, followed by draws against the Netherlands and Portugal, to fall to second in the group.


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AUGUST

The United States was eliminated from the World Cup in the Round of 16, falling on penalties after a scoreless draw with Sweden. Megan Rapinoe, who skied her attempt, cried following the game, calling her miss a “sick joke.”

Spain went on to win the World Cup, led by a talented roster that included Aitana Bonmatí, Salma Paralluelo and Putellas. But the team was without many of the 15 players who earlier complained about what they said were poor working conditions under coach Jorge Vilda that impacted their mental and physical health.

Vilda faced questions throughout the tournament about the 15 players. He played victim, talking about how it was very hard for his family.

Then the kiss happened.

It led to upheaval within the federation, but change eventually came. Spanish federation President Luis Rubiales was forced to step down and FIFA banned him from soccer for three years. Vilda is no longer with the team, although he’s now head coach of Morocco’s women.

It was called Spanish soccer’s MeToo moment, but in the end it put the world on notice. Women athletes are professionals, and should be treated as such.

Vlatko Andonovski resigned as coach of the USWNT. He is now coach of the Kansas City Current.

SEPTEMBER

Julie Ertz played her final match with the USWNT, retiring from soccer after a 10-year career that included back-to-back Women’s World Cup titles. She also retired from her pro career.

Ertz finished her national team career with 20 goals in 122 appearances. She played in 17 World Cup matches, starting all of them. She scored six goals in 95 games with the NWSL’s Chicago Red Stars from 2014-2021. She played in three games for Angel City this season with one goal.

Megan Rapinoe retired from the USWNT, too, although she would finish out the season with OL Reign. Her national team career included two World Cup titles, an Olympic gold medal and an Olympic bronze. She claimed the 2019 Women’s World Cup Golden Boot and the Golden Ball for the best overall player, and later that year was named the Best FIFA Women’s Player and won the prestigious Ballon d’Or.


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OCTOBER

The NWSL’s first-ever Decision Day saw all 12 teams playing at the same time, bringing all sorts of drama and intrigue.

Gotham snuck as the sixth seed, something that set up…

NOVEMBER

Gotham won the NWSL title. And we were gifted with this iconic image.

Gotham’s Ali Krieger played her final professional game. Her club career stretched some 16 years, with stops in Germany and Sweden. She won a Champions League title with Frankfurt. On home soil, she played for the Washington Spirit before a lengthy stint with the Orlando Pride from 2016-2021. Krieger was honored by the USWNT in December.

Megan Rapinoe’s club career ended with a torn Achilles, less than five minutes into the title game against Gotham. Another cruel joke, but a legendary career. Rapinoe was one of just five NWSL players who had been with the same team since the league’s first season in 2013.

Chelsea coach Emma Hayes was named new head coach of the USWNT. One catch: She can’t join the team until next May. Interim coach Twila Kilgore will lead the team until then and then join Hayes’ staff.

DECEMBER

The United States won a pair of games against China. Kilgore brings in a younger roster, giving Alex Morgan, Becky Sauerbrunn, Crystal Dunn and Alyssa Naeher some time off. Jaedyn Shaw shines, Sam Coffey scores and the year ends on a positive note.

Florida State caps off a dominant run through the NCAA Tournament with a 5-1 win over Stanford to clinch the College Cup, the program’s second national title in three years and fourth in the last decade.

Happy Holidays everyone and Happy New Year! See you in 2024. It’s an Olympic year!

Mondays: Soccer
By: Annie Peterson, @AnnieMPeterson, AP Women’s Soccer
Tuesdays: Tennis
By: Joey Dillon, @JoeyDillon, Freelance Tennis Writer
Wednesdays: Basketball
By: Howard Megdal, @HowardMegdal, The Next
Thursdays: Golf
By: Addie Parker, @addie_parker, The IX
Fridays: Hockey
By: @TheIceGarden, The Ice Garden
Saturdays: Gymnastics
By: Lela Moore, @runlelarun, Freelance Writer

Written by Annie Peterson