The 50 finest gamers within the sport proper now


Whereas 2020 may need thrown all the things it might in the best way of ladies’s soccer, leagues and golf equipment fought to get gamers again on the pitch and provides us enthralling matches whereas we have been all caught at house. In 2021, international pleasure across the sport is at an all-time excessive. The Nationwide Girls’s Soccer League within the U.S. is on the cusp of returning in all its glory — starting on April 9 — whereas in Europe, there are some nail-biting league races in addition to massive ties forward within the latter phases of the Champions League.

What extra might you need? Properly, we right here at ESPN FC and espnW wished to get in on the enjoyable and rejoice a few of our favorite gamers with our inaugural High 50 ladies’s rank.

Is it troublesome to try to rank the world’s finest gamers after a 12 months as topsy-turvy because the final? Perhaps. However we felt it was essential to mark the achievements of the leagues, golf equipment and gamers who labored exhausting and sacrificed to get again on the pitch. Even with the impression of the COVID-19 pandemic, it was a record-breaking 12 months for girls’s soccer.

The NWSL was the primary skilled sports activities league to return in america, with a brand new competitors (The Problem Cup) so profitable that it has been added to the 2021 schedule, whereas the Frauen Bundesliga (with some assist from its male counterparts) bucked the pattern of leagues being curtailed and accomplished the 2019-20 season final summer season.

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Julie Foudy expects the NWSL to wrestle energy again from the WSL after a wave of gamers switching to the UK.

In England, there was pleasure throughout the summer season when not one, however 5 United States ladies’s nationwide staff (USWNT) World Cup winners determined to ply their commerce within the Girls’s Tremendous League. They weren’t even the highest-profile signings of the summer season, although, with Chelsea smashing the ladies’s switch report to convey Pernille More durable (spoiler alert: she’s ranked extremely on this listing) to London from Wolfsburg.

Within the Champions League, Lyon proved why they’re nonetheless the staff to beat with their fourth consecutive title final August. Their dominance in France, nonetheless, already seems on shaky floor with Paris Saint-Germain snapping their 80-game unbeaten run within the league this season, sending them probably on target for his or her first home title (and ending Lyon’s run of 12 straight).

To compile our first version, consultants from the world over of ladies’s soccer forged ballots. With authoritative voices from each inside and outdoors ESPN, we then took everybody’s votes and tallied them collectively to offer us the High 50 gamers, which you may see beneath.

And a phrase on the rating itself: a few of the stars on the listing performed a full season in 2020, whereas others are simply getting again into the swing of issues after leagues have been suspended. It was essential to our panel that particular person achievement and expertise have been acknowledged outdoors of successful cups and trophies. A few of the rankings you may disagree with, and that is cool. We had a couple of debates about them across the (digital) workplace too. — Kathleen McNamee


50. Ellen White

Membership/nation: Manchester Metropolis/England
Age: 31
Place: Ahead

Even at 31, White is inevitable in the case of scoring objectives. She’s fifth within the Girls’s Tremendous League (WSL) this season with eight, however is without doubt one of the finest at turning any half probability right into a aim — full with that goggles celebration. She was joint high scorer within the 2019 World Cup (with Alex Morgan and Megan Rapinoe) and continues to be simply as medical: she scored a hat trick for England in opposition to Northern Eire in February, their first worldwide in 11 months.

At membership stage, she helped Metropolis to the 2020 FA Cup, and is locked in an attention-grabbing battle with Arsenal’s Miedema for the all-time WSL goal-scoring report. Miedema sits on 56, whereas White is one behind on 55. “She’s a frontrunner and he or she all the time desires to attain objectives,” England interim boss Hege Riise mentioned after her hat trick in opposition to Northern Eire. “She’s all the time in search of runs into the field.” — Tom Hamilton

Extra: Girls’s Tremendous League strike landmark multi-million pound TV deal


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Julie Foudy says it’s a “disservice” to Manchester Metropolis’s Ellen White to have her ranked at 50.

49. Jackie Groenen

Membership/nation: Manchester United/Netherlands
Age: 26
Place: Midfielder

Dutch followers name Groenen the “vacuum cleaner” as a result of she does the job nobody actually likes to do: in central midfield, meaning placing within the graft, tackling something that strikes and logging the miles wanted to offer her groups a platform for fulfillment. However don’t underestimate Groenen. She is a mastermind on the pitch and, at 26, has the soccer world at her toes. She was the lacking hyperlink for Manchester United and since her arrival in Might, 2019, she’s contributed in each approach, together with on the scoresheet. Plus, who might neglect her 99th-minute strike within the 2019 World Cup semifinal? Like her playmaking, it was the stuff of legend. — Sjors Grol, ESPN Netherlands


48. Danielle van de Donk

Membership/nation: Arsenal/Netherlands
Age: 29
Place: Midfielder

Not many gamers are made harder than the Arsenal playmaker, who hardly ever ever lets her coach, staff or herself down. The 29-year-old midfielder performs with ardour, works exhausting and covers tons of floor. She is a participant each coach desires to have, not solely due to her many assists, however as a result of her groups operate higher as a unit when she’s on the pitch. Whereas she has performed a extra defensive function for Arsenal, her duties with the Netherlands go away her a lot freer to assault — one thing she has mentioned she prefers. Even at 5-foot-3, Van de Donk can win a header in opposition to even the tallest defender. — Sjors Grol, ESPN Netherlands


47. Kosovare Asllani

Membership/nation: Actual Madrid/Sweden
Age: 31
Place: Ahead

Kosovare Asllani arrived in Spain as a part of Actual Madrid’s spending spree in the summertime of 2019 as they ready to take over the newly promoted Tacon (since rebranded as Actual Madrid Femenino) in 2020. The star of David Aznar’s aspect, the silky, inventive midfielder has scored 12 objectives up to now this season to assist Los Blancos climb from tenth final 12 months into the battle for second this season. Madrid’s subsequent problem is to compete with Barcelona and Atletico Madrid, who’ve been Spain’s dominant ladies’s groups for over a decade; Asllani, whose Kosovan heritage has made her a task mannequin for Sweden’s immigrant communities, is central to that mission. — Sam Marsden


46. Steph Houghton

Membership/nation: Manchester Metropolis/England
Age: 32
Place: Defender

Houghton will go down in historical past as certainly one of England’s biggest captains (121 appearances and counting). At Metropolis, she has captained them to the 2016 WSL title and three FA Cup triumphs and whereas management qualities are by no means doubtful, she’s additionally growing her sport. This season, via March 19, Houghton has the best passing distance within the WSL (a complete of 8,582 yards, with Alex Greenwood in second on 7,828), has had probably the most touches of the ball (1,457) and by far probably the most carries of the ball (1,075). Put these collectively and also you’re getting the image of a whole defender, the catalyst for all the things Metropolis do. Mentioned Metropolis boss Gareth Taylor: “She’s proper up there for what she has dropped at the sport. She’s carried the staff in good moments and troublesome moments.” — Tom Hamilton


45. Becky Sauerbrunn

Membership/nation: Portland Thorns/United States
Age: 35
Place: Defender

“Regular” and “reliable” aren’t often phrases related to greatness, however for Sauerbrunn, they’re as apt an outline as any for her play and her presence on the listing. The middle-back’s positioning and studying of the sport have lengthy been her major strengths, permitting her to remain two or three steps forward of the opposition, though she will nonetheless interact what she as soon as known as her “Oh crap” pace when the necessity arises. She did not cement her spot within the beginning lineup for the U.S. till the 2015 World Cup cycle. However Sauerbrunn has been a mainstay ever since, and as captain, she’ll be trying to guide her staff to the primary World Cup/Olympic double within the historical past of the ladies’s sport. — Jeff Carlisle


44. Lena Goessling

Membership/nation: Wolfsburg/Germany
Age: 35
Place: Midfielder

Lena Goessling has been on the forefront of German soccer for the most effective a part of a decade, so it got here as a shock to many when Wolfsburg introduced in February that they might not be renewing her contract previous the summer season. The 36-year-old had simply received her sixth Frauen Bundesliga title, performed in her fifth UWCL last in eight seasons and received a seventh German Cup. She was provided an off-pitch teaching function this 12 months as a part of Wolfburg’s “restructuring,” however she says she has no less than two years of sport time left in her. – Kathleen McNamee


43. Ewa Pajor

Membership/nation: Wolfsburg/Poland
Age: 24
Place: Ahead

Ewa Pajor began her profession when she was 15, making her the youngest participant ever in Poland’s high flight. Whereas her younger expertise was shortly evident when she joined Wolfsburg in 2015, her ascent hasn’t been simple. Wolfsburg’s sporting director Ralf Kellermann has mentioned that the slower, extra cautious path to the first-team has been essential to her success, including “she’s but to unlock her full potential.” She ended the 2018-19 season on a excessive with 24 objectives — high scorer within the Frauen Bundesliga — and was averaging a aim each 79 minutes.

The pandemic and a knee damage made for a disjointed 2020, but when her comeback shot in opposition to SV Meppen — 267 days since she final scored within the league — on March 7 is something to go by, she can be again to high kind very quickly. – Kathleen McNamee


42. Beth England

Membership/nation: Chelsea/England
Age: 26
Place: Ahead

England is without doubt one of the WSL’s most prolific finishers, and that is saying one thing given the standard within the league. Her drive is outstanding — she describes herself as a “grafter” — and within the house of six years, she’s gone from being an inexpensive left-back to probably the greatest strikers in world soccer. She sits third for assists per 90 minutes (0.63) and third for xG per 90 minutes (0.62) and all that when she’s competing with all-world forwards like Fran Kirby, Sam Kerr, Pernille More durable and Erin Cuthbert for a spot in Chelsea’s assault. She’s contributed key objectives, scoring the winner within the Conti Cup last in 2020, and firing Chelsea to the WSL title final season, together with the winner in opposition to Manchester Metropolis in December 2019 (their first win over Metropolis in 5 years), which led to her being topped WSL Participant of the Season in June 2020 after which PFA Participant of the Yr in September. — Tom Hamilton

Extra: Girls’s sports activities combatting a stunning barrier to entry: gear designed with males in thoughts


41. Cristiana Girelli

Membership/nation: Juventus/Italy
Age: 30
Place: Ahead

Since her hat trick in opposition to Jamaica within the 2019 Girls’s World Cup, Juventus striker Cristiana Girelli has not stopped scoring. The 30-year-old completed the 2019-20 season as a champion with Juventus and led Italy to the 2022 European Championships as finest runners-up, all of it capped by her prolific scoring fee: Girelli topped Serie A with 16 objectives in 16 video games, and eight objectives for the Azzurri over 10 qualifiers. Girelli additionally units the instance off the pitch, enjoying a big function as Italian ladies’s soccer continues to work in the direction of full skilled standing. — Kathleen McNamee


40. Megan Rapinoe

Membership/nation: OL Reign/United States
Age: 35
Place: Ahead

At this stage of Rapinoe’s profession, there seem like few worlds left to beat. She’s received two World Cups (2015, 2019) and an Olympic gold medal (2012), however Rapinoe continues to be craving extra {hardware}. There was a time when she was recognized primarily for her crossing capacity — who can neglect her supply to Abby Wambach in opposition to Brazil on the 2011 World Cup? — despite the fact that there has lengthy been a artful, inventive aspect to her sport. Rapinoe’s profile off the sector has skyrocketed given her management within the U.S. gamers’ equal-pay battle in addition to her assist of social-justice points. On the pitch, regardless of sitting out most of 2020 amid the coronavirus pandemic, she scored three objectives on the 2021 SheBelieves Cup and can be hoping so as to add extra at this summer season’s Tokyo Olympics. — Jeff Carlisle

Extra: How athletes like Rapinoe are inspiring long-term motion


39. Kim Little

Membership/nation: Arsenal/Scotland
Age: 30
Place: Midfielder

Little is your full midfielder, as prolific in assault — making late runs towards aim, contributing key objectives and assists — as she is when her groups do not have the ball. She was named within the 2020 PFA Staff of the Season — certainly one of three Arsenal gamers to make the lower alongside Leah Williamson and Vivianne Miedema — and continues to be one of the influential gamers within the WSL. She was the one WSL participant to make the UWCL’s staff of the event, inserting herself amongst Europe’s elite. USWNT nice Hope Solo charges Little because the “most proficient participant [she has] ever performed with,” with “her passing and imaginative and prescient and technical talent [the] finest on this planet.” Little has additionally received 5 top-flight titles at Arsenal and three FA Cups. — Tom Hamilton


38. Alex Morgan

Membership/nation: Orlando Satisfaction/United States
Age: 31
Place: Ahead

Given Morgan’s distinctive play over the past decade, seeing her at No. 38 is a shock at first look. However in 2020, Morgan needed to step away from the sport for a spell because of being pregnant after which the next beginning of her daughter, Charlie, final Might. Within the interim, the coronavirus pandemic hit, with Morgan contracting COVID-19 late final 12 months. A knee damage additionally restricted her time in 2020, however 11 years after making her U.S. debut, Morgan’s pace and scoring fee nonetheless put her among the many sport’s greats. Her 108 worldwide objectives is nice for fifth on the U.S. listing and ninth worldwide. Her legend was solely extra cemented this 12 months as she crossed the globe, child Charlie in tow, to hitch Tottenham and construct up her sport time after giving beginning.

It wasn’t an easy route again to her finest for Morgan, however given her historical past of delivering in essential moments, be it the 2012 Olympics or within the 2019 World Cup semifinal win over England, Morgan can be given each alternative to attempt to win a second gold medal on the Olympics.— Jeff Carlisle

Extra: U.S. nationwide staff classes from SheBelieves Cup: Morgan prepared for Olympics?


37. Melanie Leupolz

Membership/nation: Chelsea/Germany
Age: 26
Place: Midfielder

The timing of Melanie Leupolz’s arrival at Chelsea couldn’t have been worse. The previous Bayern Munich captain and two-time Frauen Bundesliga winner signed with the London aspect on March 23, 2020 — 10 days after the suspension of the WSL amid the coronavirus pandemic. It was August earlier than she bought her aggressive debut, however she has slipped into the Chelsea midfield as if she was customized made for the function. In a staff stuffed with attackers, her robust passing and constant defensive work have been a quiet asset. “Her requirements on the coaching pitch every single day are simply with out compromise,” mentioned Chelsea supervisor Emma Hayes to the Instances of London. “Her consideration to element off the pitch in her restoration and all the things else; second to none.” — Kathleen McNamee


36. Kadidiatou Diani

Membership/nation: Paris Saint-Germain/France
Age: 25
Place: Ahead

Lyon have dominated the scene in France for a number of seasons, however the willingness of Paris Saint-Germain to splash massive cash on gamers like Diani exhibits precisely why Lyon’s hegemony may not final for much longer. Regardless of curiosity from Lyon, she opted to stay with Paris and renewed her contract in Might 2020, reportedly making her the second-highest paid ladies’s footballer on this planet on the time. (Her deal, value almost $400,000 per season, was solely bettered by Norway’s Ada Hegerberg.) The 25-year-old celebrated her one hundredth sport for PSG in March with a brace, remarking afterward that the staff was “decided” to push Lyon to the very limits, one thing they’d did not do in earlier years. She has greater than contributed to that problem this season with 12 objectives and a league-leading 9 assists.

Her versatility between up entrance and midfield, in addition to her tempo and dribbling capacity, have made her an important participant for France, along with her XX objectives throughout a profitable qualification for the 2022 European Championships. — Kathleen McNamee


35. Marta

Membership/nation: Orlando Satisfaction/Brazil
Age: 35
Place: Ahead

Marta, like Beyonce or Pele, is recognisable by her first identify alone. Considered one of solely 4 energetic feminine gamers to attain greater than 100 worldwide objectives (the others are Alex Morgan, Carli Lloyd and Christine Sinclair), the Brazil striker is the GOAT in yellow and blue. Her fast toes have triggered havoc within the varied leagues she performed in, from Sweden to Brazil to the USA’s WUSA and NWSL. The 35-year-old has an inventory of accolades to rival anybody to play the sport. Most notably, she’s the general high scorer in FIFA World Cups (17), having performed in 4 editions, and has six FIFA World Participant of the Yr gongs.

Brazil teammate Cristiane mentioned in February final 12 months of Marta: “She’s no doubt the best within the historical past of soccer. It offers us immense happiness to have a Brazilian having achieved all of this.” Whereas she’s had little sport time up to now 12 months due to COVID-19, she led Brazil to second place within the 2021 SheBelieves Cup, scoring a penalty in opposition to Argentina and a aim in opposition to Canada. The perennially struggling Satisfaction will hope Marta can construct on her club-leading aim tally in her fifth season there, whereas Brazil are set handy her the armband as soon as once more as she heads to her fifth Olympic Video games. — Lindsay du Plessis


34. Magdalena Eriksson

Membership/nation: Chelsea/Sweden
Age: 27
Place: Defender

The Chelsea captain is without doubt one of the most interesting defenders, although each bit as a lot for her management as her kind. “Magda and I are united in our ambitions for this membership,” Chelsea supervisor Emma Hayes says of Eriksson, whom she has tipped to be a profitable coach when she hangs up her boots. “She’s a beautiful chief and we each perceive that to win successive trophies it’s important to drive a tradition of each day dressing room requirements. We do all the things we are able to to not get complacent.”

Her ascent at Chelsea has been all of the extra spectacular contemplating she solely arrived in 2017. She is second within the WSL (behind Steph Houghton) for her whole passing distance (5,889 yards) and for progressive passes (105, behind Chloe Kelly’s 117). On the subject of transitional play, she is the third most passed-to participant within the WSL and has had the fifth-most touches of the ball (1,269), with the bulk coming within the center third of the sector. She’s the glue participant, the reliable possibility who begins off each transfer after which drives the staff on. Eriksson was the heartbeat of Sweden’s journey to the 2019 World Cup semifinals, and off the sector, she can also be a vocal champion of variety and equality. In November she was requested to explain herself in three phrases by the iPaper, she answered: “On the pitch, a frontrunner, reliable, a winner. Off the pitch I might say all the way down to earth, democratic, loyal.” — Tom Hamilton


33. Kadeisha Buchanan

Membership/nation: Lyon/Canada
Age: 25
Place: Defender

Lyon’s resolution to not launch Kadeisha Buchanan for the SheBelieves Cup meant we missed out on seeing certainly one of Canada’s largest stars on the worldwide stage, but it surely’s hardly stunning that the French aspect wished to maintain her shut. The three-time Canada Participant of the Yr was named within the Finest XI on the 2020 CONCACAF Girls’s Olympic qualifying championship and has continued her success with Lyon in successful her fourth UWCL title, her fourth league title and her third French Cup. The 25-year-old has risen to the problem of constructing a reputation for herself in Lyon’s star-studded aspect, too, with accidents to key gamers giving her the chance to point out simply how efficient she is. The no-nonsense defender has already hit 100 caps for her nation and can be essential if Canada wish to win gold on the Olympics this summer season. — Kathleen McNamee


32. Amel Majri

Membership/nation: Lyon/France
Age: 28
Place: Midfielder

Amel Majri’s outstanding run with Lyon began when she was recruited by the membership’s academy at 12. She now has seven UWCL titles, 10 league titles and eight French Cups to her identify. Not dangerous for a 28-year-old. Like so many stars throughout Europe, she noticed her 2019-20 league season lower brief however she nonetheless managed to rack up 5 objectives and 6 assists in 14 video games. She watches all her video games again to evaluate what she might have executed in a different way and counts her selflessness with the ball as certainly one of her high qualities. This self-awareness has allowed her to develop her precision crossing and passing that makes her so worthwhile for membership and nation. — Kathleen McNamee


31. Khadija Shaw

Membership/nation: Bordeaux/Jamaica
Age: 24
Place: Ahead

Shaw was a star on the College of Tennessee, successful SEC Participant of the Yr as a senior in 2018, however spurned the NWSL Draft to attempt her luck abroad, becoming a member of French aspect Bordeaux in 2019. Shaw bagged 10 objectives final season and is the league’s main aim scorer this 12 months. Former France defender Aline Riera mentioned of Shaw final December: “She has a uncommon profile… athletic and really highly effective with distinctive ball protection, but additionally able to unbelievable issues along with her toes as a result of she has an excellent approach and goes quick.” Her story is certainly one of excessive psychological power, although, as she’s reached Europe and worldwide acclaim within the face of nice private tragedy. Shedding 4 brothers and two nephews whereas in school examined her resolve to remain within the U.S, and even proceed with soccer, however the sport gave her focus and supplied a refuge. — Lindsay du Plessis


30. Christiane Endler

Membership/nation: Paris Saint-Germain/Chile
Age: 29
Place: Goalkeeper

Few goalkeepers in soccer intimidate and awe fairly like Endler. Not solely is she 6-foot-1, however she’s completely fearless. (Simply ask the U.S. ladies: Endler was named participant of the sport of their World Cup conflict regardless of the USWNT successful 3-0.) It hasn’t all the time been straightforward for Endler, who solely reached her first World Cup in 2019. There, she acquired excessive reward from the hard-to-impress Hope Solo, who wrote within the Guardian: “Christiane is the kind of spectacular athlete that each nation ought to be in search of to have a tendency the online. There have been feedback made … that girls’s objectives ought to be smaller as a result of we’re typically shorter than males however I maintain telling individuals we’re not in search of common goalkeepers. We’re in search of one in one million. For me, Christiane Endler is that one in one million.” It took almost a decade into her profession for her to make her identify on the membership stage with PSG. Now she’s one of many high stoppers on this planet by any reckoning. — Lindsay du Plessis


29. Abby Dahlkemper

Membership/nation: Manchester Metropolis/United States
Age: 27
Place: Defender

There have been a couple of defenders which have had lengthy careers within the U.S. ladies’s nationwide staff, from Pleasure Fawcett to Christie Pearce Rampone to Sauerbrunn. All of the extra cause to credit score Dahlkemper for breaking into the aspect the place her vary of passing — former U.S. supervisor Jill Ellis as soon as known as right here “a pure playmaker within the again” — and dominance in duels put her among the many world’s finest. A battle with sepsis in 2016 almost halted her worldwide profession earlier than it had began, however she’s all the time been a battler; it is a testomony to her capacity that although Manchester Metropolis has a few of the finest defenders on this planet, she walked straight into the beginning lineup upon arrival in January, 2021. — Jeff Carlisle


28. Lieke Martens

Membership/nation: Barcelona/Netherlands
Age: 28
Place: Ahead

Topped FIFA’s The Finest in 2017, Martens nonetheless has way more to offer. Gifted with approach, she loved a 2020 during which each little bit of contact she had with the ball gave the impression to be good. Damage has hampered the Barcelona ahead up to now, however her elegant strikes nonetheless bewilder opponents; her specialty is to sneak in from vast positions and curl the ball into the highest nook along with her magnificent taking pictures expertise. Martens has talked up to now about how she struggled with enjoying soccer away from house from a younger age, however her early difficulties have solely led to a fair stronger mentality. With that in thoughts, do not be stunned to see her climb up the rankings over the subsequent few years. — Sjors Grol, ESPN Netherlands


27. Asisat Oshoala

Membership/nation: Barcelona/Nigeria
Age: 26
Place: Ahead

Oshoala might be Africa’s most completed feminine footballer, having received the CAF Girls’s Participant of the Yr award 4 occasions, the newest in 2019. That was the 12 months she signed with Barcelona, the place she’s since received 4 titles and a UEFA Girls’s Champions League runners-up medal. Oshoala is exceedingly correct contained in the penalty space and is all the time the teammate you need taking the ultimate contact. Oshoala has continued to impress for the Catalan giants, averaging a aim per sport since arriving in Spain, and now that Nigeria have reiterated their standing because the premier ladies’s aspect on the continent, Oshoala is undeniably their premier participant. — Lindsay du Plessis


26. Christen Press

Membership/nation: Manchester United/United States
Age: 32
Place: Ahead

A 12 months in the past, Press was using a large wave of confidence. With Alex Morgan on being pregnant go away, the Stanford College grad scored 5 objectives on the CONCACAF Olympic qualifying event and one other two on the 2020 SheBelieves Cup. Then the pandemic hit, halting her momentum after she opted out of enjoying for the Utah Royals. However as she’s executed so usually on the sector, Press discovered an alternate path, and engineered a transfer to Manchester United in Sept. 2020 that allowed her to remain sharp. The transfer seems to have paid off past the pair of objectives she’s scored for the Crimson Devils. At this 12 months’s SheBelieves Cup in opposition to Brazil, Press scored on the type of blast from distance that has been her hallmark. Granted, Press has been extra of a super-sub on the previous two World Cups, however given the compressed schedule on the Olympics, her expertise will turn out to be useful. — Jeff Carlisle


25. Caroline Weir

Membership/nation: Manchester Metropolis/Scotland
Age: 25
Place: Midfielder

The ridiculously proficient Scottish attacking midfielder nonetheless surprises her teammates, and maybe herself. Check out her aim in opposition to Manchester United in February. About 25 yards out from United’s aim, Weir sends probably the most gloriously weighted chip over Mary Earps’ head and into the online. The above aim was in comparison with Eric Cantona by Lucy Bronze, after which Glenn Hoddle by her Metropolis boss Gareth Taylor, but it surely’s nothing new for her, particularly when it is Metropolis-United.

“When it comes off, it does look fairly good but when I thought of it, I most likely would not have executed it…” Weir mentioned afterwards. “It was fortunate for me it went in as a result of I might have most likely regarded a bit silly and I might have most likely been shouted at! When it went in although, everybody was buzzing!” — Tom Hamilton


24. Alex Popp

Membership/nation: Wolfsburg/Germany
Age: 29
Place: Ahead

It was solely becoming contemplating her standing as a Germany legend that, on Mar. 3, 2021 vs. LSK Kvinner, it was Popp who scored twice to offer Wolfsburg their fiftieth UWCL win — a feat solely achieved by Lyon and Frankfurt. The 2-time German Footballer of the Yr was additionally the one Wolfsburg participant to search out the online throughout their 2019-20 UWCL last defeat to Lyon and has greater than contributed to her aspect’s dominant home success. She scored 11 objectives in 2019-20 and has 4 objectives within the league up to now this season, however what makes her such a high participant is her presence on the pitch. She captained Germany to a near-perfect European qualification run that noticed them rating 46 objectives and concede simply as soon as over eight video games. With Germany one of the spectacular sides on this planet proper now, a return to their early European dominance can be on the playing cards for her subsequent summer season. — Kathleen McNamee


23. Lindsey Horan

Membership/nation: Portland Thorns/United States
Age: 26
Place: Midfielder

Horan’s capacity as a box-to-box midfielder is so prolific that she simply makes this listing. She will be able to cross, defend and maintain the ball underneath strain, particularly when she receives the ball from protection. Her late runs into the field are a weapon as effectively for each membership and nation, and he or she’s proven a knack for delivering massive objectives, such because the game-winner within the 2017 NWSL last. All of the extra stunning, then, that she was the odd girl out for the U.S. on the 2019 World Cup, shedding her beginning spot within the U.S. midfield to Sam Mewis. It is a testomony to the insane depth that the U.S. staff possesses, and but Horan might nonetheless drive her approach again into the lineup. With Mewis injured throughout the SheBelieves Cup, Horan proved that she nonetheless offers immense worth to the U.S., enjoying in all three matches. She’s going to undoubtedly be on the airplane to Tokyo this summer season. — Jeff Carlisle

22. Alexia Putellas

Membership/nation: Barcelona/Spain
Age: 27
Place: Midfielder

Putellas is a midfielder with a behavior for scoring massive objectives. She’s already written herself into the historical past books at Barcelona by changing into the primary girl to attain objectives on the Johan Cruyff stadium and Camp Nou. She netted the opening aim in opposition to native rivals Espanyol earlier this season when Lluis Cortes’ aspect performed at Camp Nou for the first-ever time in a aggressive match. Putellas has been part of Barca’s first staff since 2012, having beforehand spent a 12 months on the membership’s academy, and has witnessed first-hand the membership’s transition into an expert staff. Throughout that point, she’s received 4 league titles and reached a Champions League last, growing into one of many most interesting midfielders in Spain. — Sam Marsden


21. Delphine Cascarino

Membership/nation: Lyon/France
Age: 24
Place: Midfielder

After being a substitute within the two finals earlier than, Delphine Cascarino began the 2019-20 UWCL last and repaid Lyon supervisor Jean Luc Vasseur’s religion by successful Participant of the Match. France supervisor Corinne Diacre was there, observing, on the day and famous that Cascarino tipped the steadiness by how she managed the sport. It’s outstanding to suppose that this is identical participant who did not even know there was a UWCL when she began enjoying. The 24-year-old is already being talked about as probably the greatest wingers on this planet. Her contract with Lyon ends this summer season and whereas she says she nonetheless has issues she desires to realize there after 11 years, it is exhausting to suppose there will not be curiosity from different high golf equipment. — Kathleen McNamee


20. Eugenie Le Sommer

Membership/nation: Lyon/France
Age: 31
Place: Ahead

The 31-year-old attacker has returned double figures’ value of objectives for Lyon in every of the previous 11 seasons, however has needed to juggle roles on condition that Ada Hegerberg’s absence gave her a extra central half within the French champions’ aspect this time period. Like her France and Lyon teammates Wendie Renard and Amandine Henry, Le Sommer was additionally vocal in her criticism of life within the France camp underneath Corinne Diacre — who was accused of main a French aspect in “whole chaos” throughout the World Cup — however she continues to be one of the influential and essential gamers for membership and nation. She is France’s all-time high aim scorer on 86, 5 forward of the good Marinette Pichon. After clinching a seventh Champions League title with Lyon, she mentioned: “We’re not uninterested in successful. We’re not weary of it. There’s a whole lot of exhausting work and sacrifices day in, day trip, however if you get the reward like that, then it is value it.” — Kathleen McNamee


19. Marie-Antoinette Katoto

Membership/nation: Paris Saint-Germain/France
Age: 22
Place: Ahead

Katoto is a goal-scoring machine with one of many highest tallies (17) of any ahead throughout the European leagues in 2020-21 up to now. She’s been Division 1 Female’s high scorer for the previous two seasons, so her look on our inaugural ladies’s rank isn’t any shock. Katoto, who began out as a defender, watched movies of Cristiano Ronaldo to good her talent and it exhibits when she’s on the pitch. Arguably, her most essential second with PSG got here in November 2020, when she scored the one aim to snap Lyon’s 80-game unbeaten streak within the league. It took her simply 10 minutes to search out the again of the online that day and put her aspect on observe for probably their first league title. Did we point out she’s solely 22? — Kathleen McNamee


18. Ji So-Yun

Membership/nation: Chelsea/South Korea
Age: 30
Place: Midfielder

Ji is a whole midfielder, chipping in with objectives and assists, however then doubling that up with an unrelenting engine in defence alongside her capacity simply to maintain all the things ticking alongside. The South Korean worldwide has been at Chelsea since 2014 and integral of their rise to certainly one of Europe’s high groups. She’s been there via their three WSL title wins (2015, 2018, 2020) and their two FA Cup triumphs (2015 and 2018) and for all their new star signings and varied phases of regeneration, she’s their fixed. “Over the time the WSL has been in existence, she has by far and away been probably the most influential participant,” Chelsea boss Emma Hayes mentioned in January. “She has been a part of the Chelsea journey that is gone from completely nothing, to part-time, to full-time. She can be remembered as a Chelsea legend.” — Tom Hamilton


17. Jennifer Hermoso

Membership/nation: Barcelona/Spain
Age: 30
Place: Ahead

With completed performances for Spain and Barcelona, Hermoso has turn into one of many high strikers on this planet. After spells enjoying for Paris Saint-Germain and Atletico Madrid, the Madrid-born attacker returned to Barca for a second spell two years in the past. She netted 23 occasions in 19 league video games final season as Barca received the title for the primary time since 2015. She’s carried that kind into this marketing campaign, scoring 16 objectives in 16 video games within the Primera Division, and has lately turn into the all-time high scorer for membership (134) and nation (42). On high of the objectives, she usually drops deeper to turn into a playmaker, feeding the likes of Asisat Oshoala and Caroline Graham Hansen forward of her. That capacity to occupy totally different pockets of house relying on what the sport wants makes her virtually not possible to defend in opposition to. — Sam Marsden


16. Amandine Henry

Membership/nation: Lyon/France
Age: 31
Place: Midfielder

Henry is a kind of gamers who makes the fiercely troublesome aspect of soccer look easy. Her imaginative and prescient, positional consciousness and skill to learn and dictate the tempo of a match means she is typically the unsung hero of Lyon’s success.

Like her established Lyon teammates Wendie Renard and Eugenie Le Sommer, she has received all of it on the home stage however continues to be chasing these elusive worldwide honours with France because the nation’s captain. She’s not afraid to rock the boat at that stage, having mentioned the 2019 World Cup was “whole chaos” underneath Corinne Diacre’s management. Regardless of the general public criticism, Diacre included her of their December squad and he or she stays France captain. — Tom Hamilton


15. Rose Lavelle

Membership/nation: Manchester Metropolis/United States
Age: 25
Place: Midfielder

Lavelle is the USWNT’s very personal Euclid, a grasp of geometry, discovering the correct angles to create attacking alternatives for her teammates. Want a option to break down a stingy protection? Lavelle is the participant most probably to discover a resolution. She’s able to popping up for important objectives too. She scored the clincher in 2019 World Cup last in opposition to the Netherlands, and extra lately scored the important aim in a 1-0 victory in opposition to Canada within the SheBelieves Cup. And he or she’s not afraid of recent challenges both, securing a transfer to Manchester Metropolis together with worldwide teammates Sam Mewis and Abby Dahlkemper, the place they’re combating it out with Chelsea atop the WSL desk. About the one factor that has slowed Lavelle down over time is accidents, and U.S. ladies’s nationwide staff coach Vlatko Andonovski has aimed to manage Lavelle’s enjoying time in a bid to maintain her wholesome. However when she’s on the sector, she’s a vital part to the U.S. assault. — Jeff Carlisle


14. Saki Kumagai

Membership/nation: Lyon/Japan
Age: 30
Place: Midfielder

Saki Kumagai is without doubt one of the finest gamers, male or feminine, to ever come out of East Asia. She’s greater than held her personal at Lyon since she joined them in 2013 and her performances final season have been proof. Not solely did she rating for Lyon within the UWCL last, her talent all through the event was a pleasure to behold. Whether or not it was being a commanding presence in midfield or seemingly beating everybody round her to the ball, her work fee was second to none and 2021 might be her finest 12 months but. With the Olympics arising, she has acknowledged her intentions for this 12 months: win the gold medal on house soil. Mentioned Kumagai lately, “nothing extra and nothing much less.” — Kathleen McNamee


13. Tobin Heath

Membership/nation: Manchester United/United States
Age: 32
Place: Midfielder

For a lot of her early profession, Heath established a repute as a maddeningly inconsistent participant, loads of aptitude with little finish product. However beginning in 2016, with the assistance of then-U.S. supervisor Jill Ellis, she put all of it collectively. Within the run to the 2019 World Cup, she was ever current, despite the fact that she did not rating within the event itself. After getting a style of European soccer earlier in her profession with Paris Saint-Germain, in 2020 she moved to Manchester United, and impressed along with her attacking prowess. She gave Casey Stoney’s spectacular, youthful aspect an instantaneous injection of talent and expertise. An ankle damage pressured her to overlook the SheBelieves Cup, and has her in a race in opposition to time to show her kind and health forward of this summer season’s Olympics. — Jeff Carlisle


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Kathleen McNamee is baffled at Chelsea’s Fran Kirby’s place within the ESPN FC Girls’s Rank.

12. Fran Kirby

Membership/nation: Chelsea/England
Age: 27
Place: Ahead

Kirby is without doubt one of the world’s most interesting gamers, but additionally a outstanding, inspirational determine. “In the middle of my 25-year profession, I’ve by no means seen a participant remodel their life as a lot as I’ve seen her … from a spot of problem, disruption, despair, to pleasure, to gratitude, to software,” Chelsea boss Emma Hayes informed ESPN. “So, we should rejoice her however we additionally should take care of her. She’s a particular, particular expertise.”

Kirby has had to deal with, and beat, the center situation pericarditis final 12 months that noticed her miss 9 months of soccer, however within the latter phases of the mentally exhausting course of, she promised Hayes and her Chelsea teammates she’d return higher than ever. If you need proof of this, simply take a look at Chelsea’s 6-0 win over Bristol Metropolis within the latest Conti Cup last, the place she scored two of Chelsea’s objectives, and arrange the opposite 4. She lately signed a brand new deal via to 2023, and is determined for additional silverware there.

“I wish to guarantee that I maintain pushing myself every single day and so long as I maintain doing that, I do know that I will be in an excellent place,” Kirby mentioned. — Tom Hamilton

MORE: How Fran Kirby beat coronary heart illness to get again to the highest


11. Wendie Renard

Membership/nation: Lyon/France
Age: 30
Place: Defender

The towering, 6-foot-2 centre-back is the rock of the all-conquering Olympique Lyonnais aspect as they proceed to comb all earlier than them in Europe. She completed third on the 2020 FIFA Finest Awards — behind winner Lucy Bronze and Pernille More durable — and was named UEFA Champions League defender of the season. Whereas attackers sometimes obtain the accolades, her constant look in myriad soccer awards is a testomony to how integral a task she performs. She’s received a outstanding seven Champions Leagues with Lyon, and 14 straight French top-flight titles, however she brings excess of mere defensive work. She is instrumental in Lyon’s transitional play and has chipped in eight top-flight objectives — she’s a powerful aerial menace in the case of set items — this season. Her Lyon coach Jean-Luc Vasseur describes her as an “distinctive participant” who “can’t be categorised and can’t be changed.” — Tom Hamilton


10. Debinha

Membership/nation: North Carolina Braveness/Brazil
Age: 29
Place: Ahead

Like Marta, Brazil’s Debinha is small in stature (5-foot-2) however immense in expertise. Within the 2020 NWSL Fall Collection, the North Carolina Braveness veteran was the main shot-taker, and second solely to the good Christine Sinclair in objectives scored. Whereas soccer has been uncommon because the NWSL has but to start out, the striker scored twice for Brazil within the SheBelives Cup in February (making her one hundredth worldwide look in addition) and 4 occasions in two video games in opposition to Ecuador in November. However whereas Debinha does rating objectives, her worth is as a whole participant, with each attacking and defensive expertise. Braveness coach Paul Riley defined her growth since 2017: “When she first got here, the primary couple of months she did not fancy enjoying each side of the ball. That wasn’t going to work. She took possession, she took accountability. I feel you [can see] what number of occasions she [comes] again behind a ball and defends for us and closes individuals down. She’s a whole participant.” — Lindsay du Plessis


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Kathleen McNamee is ecstatic to see Barcelona and Norway’s ‘standout participant’ Caroline Hansen within the high 10 of ESPN FC Girls’s Rank.

9. Caroline Graham Hansen

Membership/nation: Barcelona/Norway
Age: 26
Place: Midfielder

On a Barcelona staff filled with expertise, Hansen nonetheless manages to face out. The Norway worldwide hugs the correct touchline and is the supply of most of her aspect’s assaults. She’s fast and skillful, however she appears to beat gamers with out interesting to both of these qualities, gliding previous defenders as in the event that they weren’t there. Signed from German aspect Wolfsburg in 2019, she helped Barca wrestle again the title from Atletico Madrid final season they usually’re unbeaten within the league this season, successful all 19 video games to this point. She netted seven occasions in her debut league marketing campaign in Catalonia, lower brief as a result of pandemic, and has eight this time period, but it surely’s her creativity that makes her one of many sport’s finest gamers. She has registered double figures for assists in each of her seasons at Barca and has emerged as Norway’s point of interest within the absence of Ada Hegerberg. — Sam Marsden


8. Julie Ertz

Membership/nation: Chicago Crimson Stars/United States
Age: 28
Place: Midfielder

Most gamers transfer to extra defensive positions as they grow old. however Ertz is proving an exception to that rule. In the course of the 2015 World Cup she was a mainstay within the centre of protection, a lot in order that she was named to the FIFA FIFPRO World XI for that 12 months. However beginning in 2017 she switched to midfield, the place her tackling and positioning supplied an efficient defend in entrance of the U.S. again line on their option to repeating as World Cup champions. That continues to be the case for her nation and her membership, the Chicago Crimson Stars. She has even performed as an attacking midfielder at occasions at membership stage. However no matter the place Ertz performs, one side of her sport stays fixed: she is an absolute menace on set items, having scored 16 of her 20 worldwide objectives from dead-ball conditions. Regardless of the actual fact she opted out of the Fall Collection, it exhibits simply how worthwhile a participant she was in 2020 that she makes it into the highest 10. — Jeff Carlisle


7. Dzsenifer Marozsan

Membership/nation: Lyon/Germany
Age: 28
Place: Midfielder

When Phil Neville commented throughout the 2019 World Cup that Lucy Bronze was “the world’s finest feminine participant,” his star defender was fast to appropriate him. “The one participant I might actually evaluate her to is Kelly Smith. Dzsenifer has simply bought a lot uncooked expertise. I will by no means be capable to hit a ball like she does. She’s so tough and skillful,” Bronze mentioned. The Germany worldwide’s creativity on the ball has seen her contribute 9 assists to Lyon within the league, placing her on observe to surpass the 12 she created final season.

Whether or not she is with Lyon or Germany, there’s a calmness about her when she’s on the ball and few defenders can match her. — Kathleen McNamee


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Julie Foudy believes Crystal Dunn is greater than deserving of her high 10 place within the ESPN FC Girls’s Rank.

6. Crystal Dunn

Membership/nation: Portland Thorns/United States
Age: 28
Place: Defender

Dunn’s power is her versatility, and never in a “Zoolander” Blue Metal type of approach. On the youth stage for the USWNT, she was deployed as a large defender and a centre-back. As she moved via the collegiate {and professional} ranks, she utilised her pace, talent and discipline consciousness in an attacking function, and in 2015 was the NWSL MVP after bagging 15 objectives. But it surely was on the 2019 World Cup that Dunn confirmed off the total vary of her expertise. Requested by then-manager Jill Ellis to play left-back, Dunn excelled at the same time as groups focused her perceived inexperience within the function.

Might she play a extra attacking function for another staff on this planet? You guess. In reality, she’s penciled in to be an attacking midfielder this season for the Portland Thorns. However for the U.S., Dunn is borderline irreplaceable now on the left aspect of the American defence, with U.S. supervisor Vlatko Andonovski exhibiting no indicators of enjoying her wherever else. Along with her capacity to get ahead a weapon in assault, in addition to her defending, she is firmly among the many world’s finest. — Jeff Carlisle


5. Lucy Bronze

Membership/nation: Manchester Metropolis/England
Age: 29
Place: Defender

Like her former Lyon teammate Wendie Renard, Lucy Bronze bucks the pattern of attackers getting all of the glory. In December, she grew to become the primary English participant (male or feminine) to win FIFA’s The Finest awards. She additionally was the primary defender to obtain the award and mentioned on the time she was “proud” that her “identify can be there for the remainder of historical past now.” It actually will not be the one cause the 29-year-old makes historical past. Her three years with Lyon have been full with trophies, one thing she’ll be hoping to duplicate this 12 months with Manchester Metropolis. Whereas a niggling damage meant it took her awhile to get settled into the season, her impression is just not doubtful. Her passing fee is without doubt one of the highest within the league and with 81% accuracy she’s a driving a part of Metropolis’s engine. In December, the English Soccer Affiliation printed a video with Bronze miked up throughout certainly one of their nationwide coaching video games. It proved a useful perception into the management she exhibits off the ball in addition to on, from shouting gaps she’d noticed to providing encouragement. — Kathleen McNamee


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Kathleen McNamee speaks about why UEFA Girls’s Participant of the Yr Pernille More durable is rightly ranked at 4.

4. Pernille More durable

Membership/nation: Chelsea/Denmark
Age: 28
Place: Ahead

Whether or not receiving private accolades or on the pitch, it appeared like Pernille More durable was in every single place in 2020. The Denmark captain made ladies’s soccer historical past when she grew to become the most costly participant along with her change from Wolfsburg to Chelsea and it is not exhausting to see why Blues supervisor Emma Hayes wished her a lot. She received the German home double all 4 years she was with Wolfsburg and operated in a staff stacked stuffed with attacking prowess, very similar to Chelsea. That did not cease her scoring with 103 objectives in 113 matches. She received her second consecutive Golden Boot on the finish of the 2019-20 season with a mammoth 27 objectives, probably the most for any participant within the league since 2010. She hasn’t fairly hit these heights within the WSL with seven objectives and three assists, however what units her aside is her motion and the way she creates house for others round her. “She offers us choices in a wide range of attacking positions,” Hayes mentioned. “Wherever throughout the frontline, wherever in an attacking-midfield function — she’s versatile.” — Kathleen McNamee


3. Vivianne Miedema

Membership/nation: Arsenal/Netherlands
Age: 24
Place: Ahead

Miedema’s record-breaking 56 objectives within the Girls’s Tremendous League tells you all the things you must find out about her, particularly because it took her simply three seasons to set the league’s all-time scoring report. She is, definitely, probably the greatest finishers on this planet. Nevertheless, to measure Miedema by simply her objectives is just not giving her sufficient credit score. Her soccer intelligence is getting higher with time, and up to now couple of video games she confirmed how unselfish she is in entrance of the aim when a participant is in a greater place. She will be able to present assists with back-heels or a clean chip, which ends up in comparisons to the Netherlands’ biggest males’s strikers reminiscent of Marco van Basten and Dennis Bergkamp.

With 71 objectives in 93 worldwide video games for her nation, she has scored by far probably the most objectives in Dutch historical past. Much more spectacular is that it took her solely six years to achieve this report. As a result of typically it appears to be forgotten, however Miedema continues to be solely 24 years outdated. A phenomenon who’s hungry for extra. — Sjors Grol, ESPN Netherlands


2. Sam Kerr

Membership/nation: Chelsea/Australia
Age: 27
Place: Ahead

As Sam Kerr wheeled and backflipped her option to the nook flag after scoring her second aim within the Continental Cup last, you could not assist however smile. Followers had waited a 12 months to see her celebration, and it felt like the ultimate piece of the puzzle for the striker who had damaged scoring data within the NWSL and W-League. Her partnership with Fran Kirby this season has been second to none, and he or she’s simply two objectives behind Miedema within the WSL high scorer charts.

The Australia captain’s capacity has by no means been doubtful, but it surely’s apparent one thing has clicked for her this season and he or she has gone from appearances off the bench to constructing a partnership to rival Harry Kane and Son Heung-Min. Emma Hayes nonetheless desires extra for her star ahead, although, particularly in the case of her flips: “The second half of the flip was very sloppy. It might’ve been a 4.0 on the Olympics!” — Kathleen McNamee


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Sam Mewis shares her hopes for the way forward for the ladies’s sport because the inaugural ESPN FC Girls’s Rank winner.

1. Sam Mewis

Membership/nation: Manchester Metropolis/United States
Age: 28
Place: Midfielder

Mewis’ transformation from a participant who did not make the 2015 USWNT World Cup or 2016 Rio Olympics squads, to somebody who Vlatko Andonovski calls “a real instance of what the USWNT stands for,” is outstanding. Her arrival to the Girls’s Tremendous League in August 2020 may not have been thought of probably the most star-studded signing of the summer season, but it surely arguably has had probably the most rapid and lasting impression. She slotted straight into Gareth Taylor’s beginning lineup and has contributed a lot of essential objectives, together with in January when she scored the sport winner within the FA Cup last for Manchester Metropolis. She now sleeps with the medal beside her mattress. Add into this her sensational USWNT kind. She scored her first profession hat trick in opposition to Colombia, and whereas an damage stored her off of the SheBelieves squad, she is going to certainly be one of many first names on Andonovski’s Olympic roster. Since Feb. 28, she has scored six objectives — three within the league and three within the UWCL. There is no such thing as a stopping this Tower of Energy, and with Metropolis simply two factors off Chelsea within the league and an thrilling quarterfinal in opposition to Spanish champions Barcelona, she might quickly be sleeping with a couple of extra medals beside her mattress. — Kathleen McNamee



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