Does the USWNT have what it takes to win the 2023 Women’s World Cup?

The United States Women’s National Soccer Team (USWNT) could not have asked for a better SheBelieves Cup. With three solid wins and only one goal conceded, their successful performance was a strong showing for their last international tournament before the upcoming FIFA Women’s World Cup. But even if they came out with a first place win from the SheBelieves cup, do they really have what it takes to win their fifth World Cup title?

Some people say they do, but I’m not so sure.

For a long time the U.S. has been able to dominate the women’s soccer scene by having more resources available. The Title IX ruling in 1972 allowed more girls to get involved in sports at the youth and college level. This ruling gave the U.S. a much larger pool of talent to pull from when the team was formed in 1985. Their first World Cup win in 1991 helped solidify the team’s signature style that has allowed them to continue their reign over the world of women’s soccer. 

The U.S. does not have a large history with soccer, so the USWNT did not have the technique that many European teams did at the time. Instead of trying to conform to the accepted style, they created their own. The technique? Fight as hard as you can to win. By playing to the end to exhaust their opponents, the USWNT came on to the scene as a dominant force in women’s soccer, something that has continued on to this very day.

The problem is, however, that this technique might not be working so well anymore. 

The rest of the women’s soccer world is catching up, especially in Europe. Countries and clubs are putting more resources into women’s soccer programs, at the youth and professional level. As a result of the influx of money, Head Coach Vlatko Andonovski has allegedly been trying to ‘modernize’ the USWNT traditional techniques of playing to the physical advantages that the U.S. players have, and focus more on the technicality that many European players have.

The USWNT is currently in a period of transition. Andonovski has been incorporating many younger players into his rosters. With this change, there have not been many consistent starting line-ups, making it hard for the team to find a groove. The spot on the field where this has been most notable is in the midfield. Coupled with the fact that some of the best USWNT midfielders, like Sam Mewis and Catarina Macario, have been out on injury, nothing in the midfield seems to have clicked. The USWNT likes to play aggressively and press up the field. If they don’t have a strong midfield, that makes them very easy to counter and score on.

The one part of the team that has remained fairly successful is the front line, thanks in no small part to Mallory Swanson. Swanson scored four of the team’s five goals in the SheBelieves Cup, and has most likely guaranteed her spot on the World Cup Roster. Alex Morgan, who was the only other goal scorer in the tournament, has also been looking impressive up front. If the offense can keep it up, then the USWNT probably has a fighting chance at lifting their third trophy in a row.

However, the USWNT has some pretty tough competition in this World Cup. Namely, the English Football Team. Many people have been calling them the favorites for this World Cup as of late, with their recent stellar performances on the pitch and Arnold Clark Cup win. England was the team to finish off the USWNT’s three-game losing streak last October. That was the USWNT’s longest losing streak since 1993. If the English team can keep that energy going, they will certainly be hard to beat.

Some of the other teams favored to win this World Cup are in less favorable positions currently. Canada, who was the Olympic Gold medalists in 2021, is currently in a dispute with their federation and could potentially go on strike during the April international window. 15 of Spain’s best players resigned from international duty last year due to conflict with the team’s head coach. France’s Captain Wendie Renard and two other players recently announced they would not be playing in the World Cup due to mental health reasons. This turmoil among other top teams could pave the way for another USWNT victory, but who knows what will happen five months from now.

The USWNT has never placed below third in a World Cup, and they are still one of the best teams in women’s soccer. But with how they are playing currently, it’s hard to say if they will be able to pull it off. As a long time USWNT fan, I would love to see them hoist the trophy for the third time in a row. No other team, men’s or women’s, has ever accomplished that in World Cup history. However, I just don’t think it’s going to happen this year. Even so, I didn’t think they would win in 2019, so it is extremely possible that they will prove myself and all the other doubters wrong and walk away with the win.