When compiling a list of the best players competing at the Women’s World Cup over the next four weeks, you must first acknowledge that one of the finest players, if not the finest, in the world will skip the tournament.
Norway’s Ada Hegerberg is not injured; she is taking a stand against what she believes is unfair treatment of the women’s program by the Norwegian soccer federation. Her supreme scoring power will be missed: The 23-year-old striker has 130 goals in five seasons for European champion Olympique Lyonnais to go with 38 goals in 66 appearances for her country.
Despite her absence, the 24-team field offers a large collection of skilled, nuanced and entertaining players who have helped raise the quality of women’s soccer around the globe. Here are 11 of them:
She is the most decorated female player in history, a six-time world player of the year and four-time runner-up with more than 100 goals for Brazil. Her feet are magic — creative tools that mesmerize audiences. Entering her fifth World Cup, all she lacks is a major title after finishing second at a World Cup and two Olympics.
When weighed against the best attackers in U.S. history, Morgan does not have Mia Hamm’s explosiveness or Abby Wambach’s aerial supremacy and strength. But with speed, grace, intelligence and a fine finishing touch, Morgan has joined elite company. Between 2016 and 2018, she recorded 42 goals in 54 U.S. appearances.
Lyonnais’ extraordinary run of success (13 straight league titles, four consecutive European crowns) is largely attributed to Le Sommer, who has averaged 18 goals over nine seasons. With the national team last year, she scored in seven consecutive matches (nine goals overall) as France built momentum for the World Cup.
Three goals short of Abby Wambach’s world record of 184, Sinclair is poised to set the mark before the group stage is complete. The Canadian captain has featured for the national team since she was 16 and, beyond her scoring exploits, she is the program’s all-time leader in appearances and assists.
Since the National Women’s Soccer League launched in 2013, no one has scored more goals (65) than the former Aussie rules football aspirant. This season, before reporting to World Cup training camp, she posted six goals in six matches. The previous two campaigns featured 33 goals and the 2017 MVP trophy.
Despite her age, Miedema is on the cusp of becoming the top scorer in Dutch history. She averages about three goals per four matches, an exceptional rate. At the 2017 Euro Championship, she scored in the quarterfinal against Sweden, again in the semifinal vs. England and twice in the championship victory over Denmark.
The Hungarian-born playmaker is back in fine form after recovering from a career-threatening lung embolism last summer. She returned in the fall and proceeded to orchestrate Lyonnais’ jaunt to domestic and international titles. Despite missing part of the league season, she finished with 10 goals.
In terms of technical ability, few players in the women’s game can match Heath’s repertoire of tight ball control, swift runs and unpredictability. She is flat-out fun to watch. From her preferred position on the right wing, Heath is capable of generating and finishing opportunities. Her pro career included a stint with Paris Saint-Germain.
Widely regarded as the best right back in the world, Bronze aims to help bring gold to an English squad that reached the semifinals four years ago. She starred at Sunderland, Everton, Liverpool and Manchester City before helping the French juggernaut to Champions League titles each of the past two seasons.
Aside from one season with FFC Frankfurt, Yokoyama has thrived in the Japanese league. Her national team career blossomed at the 2018 Asian Cup in Jordan, where she scored twice in a three-minute span in the semifinals against China and posted an 84th-minute marker to beat Australia, 1-0, in the final.
Let’s not forget the last line of defense, and in the women’s game, no one is better than Bouhaddi. Since American Hope Solo won four consecutive world goalkeeper of the year awards, Bouhaddi has won three straight. She debuted with the national team at 17 and has been Lyonnais’ first choice for most of the past 10 seasons.