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Friday Roundup: USWNT closes out 2017 with top world ranking

Also in today’s roundup, Norway signs historic equal pay agreement, Buchanan wins second Canada Player of the Year honor, and Foord returns to Sydney FC. 

(graphic courtesy FIFA)

USWNT closes out 2017 atop of FIFA Women’s World Rankings

The USWNT finished out the year of 2017 sitting in the first position atop the FIFA Women’s World Rankings. Following the United States, Germany, England, Australia, and Canada obtain the next four positions to close out the top five.

The USWNT, who finished the year on a high note, began the year with a few poor performances coupled with intense criticism. In March, the USWNT fell to both France and England in the She Believes Cup on U.S. soil and ultimately finished in fourth place, of four teams, in that tournament. In April, they bounced back with two wins over Russia in Texas by a score of 4-0 and 5-1 respectively. A few months later, the USWNT traveled to Sweden and Norway where they, again, captured two wins, 1-0 against Sweden and 1-0 against Norway. With a chance to battle back from the She Believes disappointment in March, the USWNT hosted the Tournament of Nations towards the end of July. There, they opened with a 1-0 loss to Australia, but then went on beat Brazil and Japan and claim second place in the tournament, as the Matildas took home the trophy. In September and October, the USWNT carried through momentum and toppled New Zealand and Korea Republic both times in two-game friendly series. To round out the year, two strong performance against Canada led to a 1-1 draw followed by a 3-1 win in November.

The Matildas, who sit in the fourth position, have reached an all-time high as they jumped up from sixth place to fourth on the heels of a seven-game winning streak and a year of remarkable results. They secured key wins over the United States, Japan, Brazil and China this year. With Australia gaining the fourth position, France dropped to sixth.

The next FIFA Women’s World Rankings are set to be released at the end of March.

Norway WNT and MNT sign historic equal pay agreement

Today, Norway’s men’s and women’s captains, Stefan Johansen and Maren Mjelde, and representatives from both the Norwegian Football Association and the Norway’s players’ association signed a historic agreement for equal pay. The agreement is a major step in the fight for equality in sport as well as a strong step forward in the international conversation around equality in international soccer.

The agreement includes a significant pay rise of 2.5 million kroner ($302,750) in 2018 for the women’s team with both men’s and women’s teams receiving six million kroner ($726,900) each next year. Significantly, the 550,000 kroner ($60,000) that the Norway men’s players receive for commercial activities was re-routed to the women’s team to help achieve equality on that front.

“I am proud to be a Norwegian football player,” said Norway captian Maren Mjelde said in a statement. Johansen chimed in as well saying that he think it’s “very good that the women’s national team get the same salary as [them] to play on the national team,” according to the FA’s official statement.

Not only is the agreement significant for Norway, it’s also going to be an instrumental piece in the larger international conversation around equality. “It’s very positive that Norway is a pioneer. At the same time, this is a recognition for women’s football in general, and it’s amazing to see how much this means to the players and what enormous attention the issue has gained internally,” said Pal Bjerketvedt, NFF’s Secretary General, according to a write up in CNN.

The women’s side, who’s historically been a top contender on the world stage, failed to move out of their group most recently at the 2017 European Championships, despite winning two European Championships and one World Cup in the past. The men’s side, on the other hand, has not qualified for a major tournament since 2000 where they competed in the European Championships.

Norway’s national team captains @MarenMjelde and @stefanjohansen signed the first agreement that guarantees equal pay for national teams. “Today I’m proud to be a Norwegian football player,” says a delighted national team captain, @MarenMjelde. pic.twitter.com/OjTfVCaQe8

— NorgesFotballforbund (@NFF_info) December 13, 2017

Kadeisha Buchanan wins Canadian Player of the Year Award

Canadian center back Kadeisha Buchanan wins Canadian Player of the Year for the second time in three years. (Photo: Canada Soccer)

For the second time in three years, Canadian women’s national team defender  Kadeisha Buchanan was named Canadian Player of the Year. Her success in 2017 with both Canada and Olympique Lyonnais notably led to her vote which was shared by Canadian coaches and the media.

The 22-year old won three trophies with Lyon this past season as they were named League winners, Cup Winners and UEFA Champions League winners for the 2016-2017 season. The West Virginia alum is the first-ever Canadian to win a UEFA Champions League title as she played in five UWCL games helping Lyon to the final where they tied 1-1 against Paris St-Germain before taking the trophy in penalty kicks.

Buchanan also made nine appearances for Canada, seven of those, were wins for the Canadian side who saw key victories against Costa Rica, Sweden, and Norway this year. According to Canada head coach John Herdman, Buchanan had yet another stellar year and continues to grow as one of the game’s most dominant center backs. “It has been an amazing year for Kadeisha with the club treble as she has achieved in her first year in France what many players wait a lifetime to achieve,” he said. “She also was a key player for Canada in two home matches against Costa Rica in which she played very well in June and then again in November as Canada beat Norway for the first time. It was another great year for Kadeisha.”

So far this year, she’s seen time in eight French League games for Lyon and four appearances in the UEFA Women’s Champions League 2017-2018 where Lyon is positioned to take on FC Barcelona in the quarterfinals when action returns in March 2018.

Foord re-signs with Sydney FC

Foord returns home as she signs with Sydney FC of the W-League (Photo Copyright Mike Gridley/Boston Breakers)

Yesterday, Sydney FC announced the re-signing of one of the Matilda’s top stars, Caitlin Foord. The 2016 AFC Women’s Footballer of the Year left Vegalta Sendai in Japan after 10 months to join Sydney FC for the remainder of the W-League Season.

Foord returns for her fourth stint with Sydney FC. She played with the club last season as well as in 2010 and 2014. She’s made 57 W-league appearances, as recently as yesterday in her 2017-2018 season debut for Sydney FC, and has scored 13 goals for the club to date.

“I’m extremely excited to return to Sydney FC and believe that we can be very successful again,” said Foord in the club’s official release. “I loved my time playing football in Japan but now my focus is firmly on helping Sydney FC win games.”

Head coach Ante Juric is equally excited to get the 23-year old back into the mix. “Signing Caitlin is a magnificent coup for the club given the domestic and international success she has enjoyed throughout her career,” he said. “She has a magnificent relationship with Sydney FC so it was an absolute no-brainer to re-sign her when it became clear that she was keen to return to the W-League.”

Foord, who was the youngest Australian to ever play at a World Cup when they represented the Matildas in the 2011 FIFA Women’s World Cup at age 16, has made 60 appearances for the Matildas, scoring 11 goals.

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