March 28, 2023

Barcelona and England defender Lucy Bronze says women’s international football is no longer just about the United States women’s national team ahead of next summer’s World Cup in Australia and New Zealand.

The USWNT have won the World Cup four times since 1991, including the last two, in France in 2019 and in Canada four years earlier.

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However, the gap between the U.S. and the rest has closed, in part because of the investment in the women’s game by some of Europe’s top clubs, and Vlatko Andonovski’s side lost friendlies against European champions England and Spain during the October international break.

“Women’s football now is in a different place, it’s not just one team,” Bronze told ESPN when asked about the significance of those defeats for the USWNT.

“[The USWNT] are going through a bit of a change at the minute and they also had a lot of players injured who did not play against England or Spain. But the thing with the U.S. is you can never rule them out. They have that mentality they have developed over a number of years that the likes of England and Germany probably have not had for as long.

“So they have a wealth of experience and they know how to win. They are always going to be up there, but I think there will be many countries backing themselves, thinking they have a good chance. Germany, England… a lot of European teams will be thinking they have a chance.

“Canada [winning] the Olympics, Australia with the home support like England and Netherlands in the last two Euros. So there are plenty of teams in the running, but [England] will just be focused on what we are going to do, what we can achieve. We won the Euros, we have many things we can still improve on. If we can do that, we have a good chance at the World Cup.”

Bronze, 31, was a key part of the England side that won the European Championships in the summer. It was the country’s first international trophy since the men’s team won the World Cup in 1966.

She then joined Spanish champions Barca from Manchester City on a free transfer, turning down the chance to return to the U.S., where she previously played in college with the North Carolina Tar Heels.

“There were teams in America as well,” she added of the list of clubs that expressed an interest in signing her. “But I just told my agent I only want the best and the best was Barca and Lyon.

“Obviously a lot of players go to America, [the National Women’s Soccer League] is a different kind of league to what we have in Europe. It did cross my mind. But I have played at Lyon and was so successful there and the chance to play at another world-class team and live in Barcelona, it was once in a lifetime, I was never going to turn it down.”

The season has started well for Bronze and Barca. They have won all nine games they have played in all competitions and travel to Real Madrid, who are also unbeaten domestically, in a top-of-the-table clash on Sunday.

“I think they have improved a lot and shown they are a top team in Spain,” Bronze said of the rise of Madrid, who have only officially had a team since 2020, when they absorbed top-flight side CD Tacon.

“And in Europe, they compete in Europe consistently now, they finish high in the table in Spain consistently. And the games against Barca, I have never played in them but I have watched them, they are competitive games and they have got some world-class players.

“There is this rivalry starting now with Barca and Real Madrid. I have not been part of it previously, but I can feel this time everyone is excited and up for the game.”

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