The 2019 Women’s World Cup kicks off on June 7 in France; and soccer fans all over the globe will get to know players they rarely get to see.
Unlike the men who play in the World Cup, the women don’t get massive media coverage or big crowds for their pro leagues. So, every four years is their chance to take the spotlight for a few weeks. Here are 20 players to keep an eye on over the next month...
TOBIN HEATH (UNITED STATES)
The Portland Thorns midfielder doesn’t like doing fashion shoots, and doesn’t get as much attention as some of the other players on the U.S. team, but she is, arguably, the most skillful player on the roster. She is known for her eye-popping ball-juggling, fancy dribbling, nutmegs and backheel passes.
The 31-year-old New Jersey native helped lead the University of North Carolina to three NCAA titles, is a two-time Olympic gold medalist, and played in the 2011 and 2015 World Cups. Enjoys tennis, surfing and skateboarding, and is deeply spiritual.
AMANDINE HENRY (FRANCE)
The 29-year-old team captain has been a key player for European power Lyon for more than a decade, and also played in the United States for the Portland Thorns.
She is one of the world’s top defensive midfielders and can score from anywhere on the field.
Her father and cousin played soccer, and she played for a boys’ team from age 5 to 13. She joined Lyon at 18. At the 2015 World Cup, she won the Silver Ball award, given to the tournament’s second-best player.
FRAN KIRBY (ENGLAND)
At 5-2 and 115 pounds., Kirby is one of the most diminutive players at the World Cup.
She is also one of the most creative, explosive and talented forwards. Kirby, 25, is inspired by the tragic loss of her mother, Denise, who died of a brain hemorrhage when Fran was 14. Overcome with grief, Kirby quit soccer for two years. She returned at age 16 and has dedicated her career to her mother.
She plays for Chelsea, and was named PFA Women’s Player of the Year in 2017-18. With England, she scored in the 2015 World Cup in a first-round match against Mexico, but missed the knockout rounds with injury. Former England coach Mark Sampson nicknamed her “Mini Messi.”
CARLI LLOYD (UNITED STATES)
At 36, the oldest player on the U.S. roster. She won the Golden Boot (top scorer) and Golden Ball (most outstanding player) at the 2015 Women’s World Cup, and this will be her fourth — and almost certainly her last — World Cup.
She scored a hat trick in the 5-2 win over Japan in the 2015 World Cup final, becoming the first woman ever to do so in a final and the second player male or female.
All three goals were scored in the span of 16 minutes. Lloyd was voted FIFA World Player of the Year in 2015 and 2016. She scored the gold-medal-winning goals at the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing and the 2012 Olympics in London. Lloyd plays for Sky Blue FC and has endorsement deals with Nike and Visa.
DZSENIFER MAROZSAN (GERMANY)
The midfielder wears No. 10 for both club (Lyon) and country, and is considered one of the best playmakers in the world.
She appeared in a Bundesliga game at age 15 — youngest player in history — and has twice been voted best player in the French league. Scored 33 goals for Lyon past three seasons and 32 for Germany.
Sat out all of the summer of 2018 after a life-threatening pulmonary embolism. Marozsán scored the winning goal to give Germany the 2016 Olympic gold medal in 2016, and she is determined to help Germany win its first World Cup since 2007.
The six-time FIFA Player of the Year and all-time World Cup leading scorer is desperate to win the one trophy that has eluded her.
Marta plays for the Orlando Pride and is still a threat at 33. Widely considered the best female player in history, she developed her ball skills like young Brazilian boys — kicking around wadded-up socks and plastic bags.
She joined a local boys’ team and was discovered at age 14 by a scout from men’s club Vasco da Gama, which was launching a women’s team.
Marta scored three goals at the 2003 Women’s World Cup, seven at the 2017 World Cup, four in 2011 and one in 2015 on a penalty kick to set the record. She is the first woman to have her footprint on display at the Maracana Stadium in Rio.
ALEX MORGAN (UNITED STATES)
The most marketed American female player since Mia Hamm, Morgan is the face of the defending champions and was the squad’s top scorer in 2018, with 18 goals in 20 games, including a hat-trick against Japan.
The 29-year-old Orlando Pride forward has endorsements with Coca-Cola, Secret, and Nike. She wrote a series of children’s books about girls’ soccer, has appeared on FIFA video games, and has 5.8 million followers on Instagram. She also has been in the forefront of the battle for gender equality in the sport.
MEGAN RAPINOE (UNITED STATES)
She isn’t the biggest player on the U.S. roster, but she always gets noticed — and not just for her platinum-blonde hair.
She is brave on and off the field and the team’s fiercest social justice warrior. She has slammed soccer leadership for its treatment of women, was the first openly gay woman to pose for the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue, and has said she will not visit the White House should the U.S. team win the World Cup.
She says she loves her country, but calls herself “a walking protest” of the Trump administration.
KHADIJA “BUNNY” SHAW, (JAMAICA)
Nobody in the world scored more than “Bunny” during World Cup qualifying.
The 5-11 University of Tennessee forward scored a remarkable 19 goals in 12 matches, including three at the Women’s CONCACAF Championship to lead the Reggae Girlz to their first-ever World Cup.
Jamaica is the first Caribbean team ever to make the Women’s World Cup. She also scored 13 goals in 15 games for the Volunteers, and led them to their first Elite Eight.
Shaw’s success is even more impressive considering the hardships she has overcome. She lost four of her seven brothers — three to gang violence and one in a car accident.
CHRISTINE SINCLAIR (CANADA)
Competing in her fifth World Cup, the 35-year-old remains a force.
She is on pace to reach 300 games and 200 goals for her career. She ranks second all-time in international goals — male and female — with 181 international goals, second behind American Abby Wambach, who scored 184.
Sinclair, who plays for the Portland Thorns, dabbled in basketball and baseball as a kid. She made the U11 local All-Star baseball team as a second baseman. Sinclair’s two uncles played professionally and her father played in college and semi-pro.
10 more who could shine ...
▪ 16-year-old Mary Fowler (Australia, fifth-youngest player in Women’s World Cup history).
▪ 17-year old Jody Brown (Jamaica)
▪ 2017 World Player of the Year Lieke Martens (Netherlands)
▪ Back-flipping Sam Kerr (Australia)
▪ African Football of the Year Thembi Kgatlana (South Africa)
▪ Nikita Paris (England)
▪ Kumi Yokoyama (Japan)
▪ Wnag Shuang (China)
▪ Mal Pugh (USA)
▪ Wendie Renard (France)