It’s a diverse group of voters. The only U.S.-based journalists on the panel are Jennifer Gordon and Jen Cooper, both terrific choices. (You might also include Jordan Angeli, a former player now doing broadcast commentary, in the journalist category as well — a great choice as well, no matter how you classify her.) I don’t see any U.S. managers/coaches on the list — the three from the NWSL are all from Europe, though they’ve certainly been here long enough to know the talent pool. Three former U.S. players, including Angeli, are on the panel. They’ve found voters based in Asia, Africa, Australia, South America, Central America and New Zealand in addition to the usual hotbeds of the USA and Europe.
Fortunately for me, the timing is excellent. I’m writing the women’s soccer portion of my book now, and this data fits perfectly.
I’ve uploaded my spreadsheet to Github if you’d like to dig in for yourself. Here are some highlights …
The USA is still No. 1 in terms of numbers of players on the list. FIFA rankings in parentheses.
- 16 USA (1)
- 11 England (4)
- 11 Germany (2)
- 9 France (3)
- 6 Netherlands (7)
- 5 each for Australia (6) and Sweden (9)
- 4 each for Brazil (10), Japan (8), Norway (13) and Spain (12)
Fifth-ranked Canada had two players on the list. No. 11 North Korea had none.
I also wanted to look not just at the overall depth but in terms of where the top players ranked. To analyze that, I used the same scoring system that cross-country meets use — a sum of the top five. The lower the score, the better.
- 75 USA
- 98 France
- 114 England
- 116 Netherlands
- 151 Germany
- 265 Norway*
- 311 Brazil*
- 334 Australia
- 375 Sweden
- 390 each for Japan* and Spain*
The asterisks are for countries that had four players on the list. I added a hypothetical fifth player ranked 125th — seems likely that those countries would have another player somewhere around that rank if it continued for another 50 or 100.
So by either measure, the USA leads the way despite all the progress made in the rest of the world. The biggest surprise is that England and the Netherlands have raced past Germany.
One caveat here: Players on loan from the NWSL are counted in both of their leagues. That means several players, such as No. 2 Sam Kerr, contribute to the rankings for the NWSL and Australia. No. 28 Jess Fishlock counts for both the NWSL and France. (I filtered out the second reference to each player when I calculated the county rankings.)
I’m a little surprised that the NWSL held onto No. 1.
- 30 NWSL
- 21 France
- 18 Germany
- 16 England
- 6 Australia
- 5 Spain
- 4 Sweden
- 3 China
- 2 Norway
- 1 each for Japan and the NCAA
The cross-country rankings don’t really tell us much. Five players can form the backbone of a very strong team, but they don’t reflect the strength of a league. Still, I was on a roll, so …
- 26 France
- 45 NWSL
- 92 England
- 93 Germany
- 266 Spain
- 331 Australia
- 417 Sweden (again using the hypothetical fifth player ranked 125th)
As expected, France’s success rides mostly on the ridiculous strength of one club …
- 14 Lyon
- 10 Wolfsburg
- 8 North Carolina (Courage, not NCAA)
- 6 Seattle
- 5 each for Arsenal, Chelsea, Manchester City and PSG
- 4 each for Barcelona, Bayern Munich, Chicago, Orlando and Portland
You’re not expecting the cross-country rankings to be close, are you? Asterisks once again mark the four-player teams with a hypothetical 125th-ranked player added.
- 26 Lyon (3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, 8th)
- 93 Wolfsburg
- 145 Arsenal
- 201 Chelsea
- 209 Seattle
- 235 North Carolina
- 243 Portland*
- 276 Manchester City
- 328 Chicago*
- 342 Barcelona*
- 343 Orlando*
- 347 PSG
- 383 Bayern Munich*
As you’d expect, the salary-capped, parity-driven NWSL spread its talent across far more clubs than the other leagues did.
NWSL: 30 players — 8 at North Carolina; 6 at Seattle; 4 each at Portland, Orlando and Chicago; 2 at Utah; 1 each at Washington (Pugh but not Lavelle) and Houston
France: 21 players — 14 at Lyon, 5 at PSG, 2 at Montpellier
Germany: 18 players — 10 at Wolfsburg, 4 at Bayern Munich, 2 at Essen, 1 each at Turbine Potsdam and Frankfurt
England: 16 players — 5 each at Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester City, plus 1 at Birmingham
Australia: 6 players at 5 clubs
Spain: 5 players — 4 at Barcelona, 1 at Atletico Madrid
Sweden: 4 players — 3 at Rosengard, 1 at Linkoping
China: 3 players at 3 clubs
Norway: 2 players at 2 clubs
ODDS AND ENDS
- The players in China’s league are from Brazil, Nigeria and Malawi.
- The five nominees for U.S. Soccer Female Player of the Year rank 7th (Morgan), 10th (Rapinoe), 12th (Horan), 25th (Heath) and 32nd (Ertz). The nominees did not include No. 21 (Dunn).
- The U.S. players who played the most international games in 2018 without being ranked in the top 100 are Lloyd (19), Sonnett (14) and Lavelle (13).
- Adrianna Franch is ranked (65th) despite making no appearances for the USA in 2018.
Again, the full spreadsheet is at Github.