Connect with us

Analysis

10 players who could define women’s soccer in 2024

Photo Copyright John Jones for USA TODAY Sports

From the Olympics in France to the inaugural Gold Cup in the United States, it is setting up to be a banner year for international women’s soccer. Plus, domestically, we’ll have a bigger and better National Women’s Soccer League and an increasingly competitive Champions League.

Here at The Equalizer, we looked at 10 players – some familiar names and some rising stars – who could define the year ahead.

Superstars

Khadija Shaw

Manchester City have underwhelmed in recent seasons, missing out on Champions League soccer and falling to fourth in the Women’s Super League table. This year, however, they are hot on the tails of reigning champions Chelsea, and Shaw will be essential to their title hopes. Jamaican sharp-shooter Khadija Shaw scored 20 last term and already has nine this campaign, with her unselfishness, technical excellence and hold-up play pivotal to her team’s attack. She is on course to top-score in the WSL, and her all-round play could help fire City back to the top of the league. Increasingly, Shaw looks like the best striker in the world.

Glodis Perla Viggosdottir

At 28 years old, Glodis Perla Viggosdottir is at the peak of her powers. She was named captain of Bayern Munich at the start of this season, a just reward for her consistency over the last few years. Combining speed, toughness, aerial strength and ball-playing quality, Viggosdottir continues to marshal the Bayern defense brilliantly. Right now, there is a strong argument to be made that she is the finest center-back around. And in 2024, she has a vital role for club and country—with Bayern as they look to retain their German title, and with Iceland as they aim to reach EURO 2025.


Up your game with Stathead from FBref

Stathead FBref offers in-depth coverage of eight major women’s competitions including the NWSL, English Women’s Super League, and Champions League, with stats ranging from goals and assists to cutting-edge advanced data like xG and SCA. Learn more and sign up today!


Key players

Emily Sonnett

In a post-Julie Ertz world, the defensive midfield position has been a question mark for the United States national team. The good news now is that it seems there are several valid answers, one being Emily Sonnett. Renowned as the ultimate squad player, the versatile Sonnett started in defensive midfield for last year’s World Cup second-round match against Sweden. While that ended in a heartbreaking defeat, she put in a strong individual performance. Since then, she has started every single friendly, featuring alongside a number of different partners. Now established as a No. 6 for club and country, Sonnett could be the USWNT’s steadying midfield influence come this summer’s Olympics.

Mackenzie Arnold

Mackenzie Arnold came into her own with Australia in 2023, establishing herself as her country’s first-choice goalkeeper and enjoying a solid World Cup. Her saves in the penalty shoot-out victory over France made history, securing Australia’s first-ever trip to the semi-finals. Her club form has never been in doubt, and she was named captain of West Ham United at the start of this season, though her future is uncertain. Her contract is up in the summer, and there will be several clubs keen on the 29-year-old. Meanwhile, on the international scene, her national team will be hoping for more goalkeeping heroics at this year’s Olympics, assuming Australia do indeed beat Uzbekistan in the final qualifier.

New beginnings

Kadidiatou Diani

In 2023, Kadidiatou Diani was forced into a center-forward role with Paris Saint-Germain, covering for the injured Marie-Antoinette Katoto. She performed admirably, hitting 17 goals in as many league games, before signing for French champions Lyon. Now she is back in her best role, on the right flank, running at defenders. She can’t stop setting up teammates, either, recording eight assists before the winter break. Diani could be a game-changer in Lyon’s quest to dethrone Barcelona in the Champions League, while the prospect of her and Katoto partnering up once again for France at the Olympics is enough to turn neutrals into Les Bleues supporters.

Maria Sanchez

The Houston Dash never really got going in 2023, ending the National Women’s Soccer League season in 10th place. Scoring goals was the problem—they found the net just 16 times in 22 games, by far the lowest total in the league. Maria Sanchez was directly involved in half of that total, scoring four and assisting four, and her combination of trickery and creativity will be even more important in 2024. Houston has a new head coach in Fran Alonso, who has promised “brave, exciting, dynamic and dominant” soccer. Sanchez, who reportedly became the highest-paid player in NWSL history last year, should be at the heart of that style.

Recoveries

Catarina Macario

Chelsea’s dreams of a first-ever Champions League success were dampened by the recent news that Sam Kerr had suffered an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury during a mid-season training camp. Kerr’s goals and attacking presence will be missed, particularly in the big games. Still, on a more positive note, Catarina Macario is back in training and set to return to the field after a long layoff of her own. The 24-year-old will need time to get back to full speed, but at her best, her creativity and finishing ability can change games. Chelsea could do with that as they plot their way through the rest of the season without their star striker.

Alexia Putellas

Where next for Alexia Putellas? Sidelined for most of last season with an ACL injury, she watched on as a new midfield dynamic formed at Barcelona. Keira Walsh became the team’s playmaker; Patri Guijarro pushed further forward to score two goals in a stunning win over Wolfsburg in the Champions League final; Aitana Bonmati went on to win the Ballon d’Or. There are now valid questions over how Alexia fits in, leading to her being trialed in a false nine role. With unresolved injury issues and her contract up in the summer, this could be a year of change for Alexia. Whether it’s a different position or a different club, it feels like a significant juncture in a glittering career.


Want even more women’s sports coverage?

Subscribers to The Equalizer save 50% on their subscription to our partner publication, The IX. This newsletter has experts covering the latest news in women’s soccer, tennis, basketball, golf, hockey and gymnastics. Each sport has its own day, which means you’ll receive The IX in your inbox six days a week.


Stars on the rise

Racheal Kundananji

Racheal Kundananji just keeps on scoring. Last season, with Madrid CFF, she bagged 25 goals in the Spanish league, including one against Real Madrid and two in a surprise victory over Barcelona. So far this term she has eight goals to her name. At the international level, she scored for Zambia in friendlies against both Germany and Switzerland and sealed her national team’s first World Cup victory with the third in a 3-1 win over Costa Rica. A precise finisher off either foot, with a blistering change of pace and the versatility to play up front or off the wing, it can’t be long before the prolific 23-year-old gets a big move.

Priscila

At 19 years old, Priscila was the top scorer in last year’s Copa Libertadores, hitting eight goals as Internacional reached the semi-finals. Along the way, she showcased a series of opportunistic strikes, the penalty box instincts of a born finisher, not to mention the cool swagger of a far more experienced player. Her club form led to international recognition, too, as she made her senior debut for Brazil against Japan in November. Right on cue, she scored the winning goal, looping the ball over the Japanese goalkeeper from outside the box. Brazil will be aiming to reach the latter stages of the inaugural Gold Cup, not to mention this year’s Olympics. Priscila is one to watch for the long-term future, but she could well play a part in her national team’s rejuvenation in 2024.

Your account

MORE EXTRA

More in Analysis