Lloyd signing shows strength of WSL

Lloyd signing shows strength of WSL

Manchester City’s capture of superstar Carli Lloyd from Houston Dash is an excellent example of how the Women’s Super League has progressed since its revamp in 2014. The American, one of the best players in the world, has signed a short term deal for last season’s league winners. After playing an astonishing 232 times for her country, scoring nearly a century of international goals and having two gold medals and a World Cup winner’s medal to her name, she thus brings a wealth of experience to the English top-flight as well as her clear quality. 

Alongside Lucy Bronze, Steph Houghton and Toni Duggan, Lloyd will feature in a side which is not only hoping to defend their league title, but also will be aiming to progress in the Champions League. They are currently in the quarter-finals of the European competition, facing German side Fortuna, with the first leg to be played on the 23rd March. Lloyd will be hoping to help City go far in Europe’s premier tournament, not least because Arsenal are the only English side to have won this competition since it was founded in 2001. 

However, Lloyd’s addition does not just bode well for Manchester City’s chances, both in Europe and domestically, it also demonstrates the clear progression being made by women’s football in this country. Indeed, since the rebranding of the top flight, the league has become more competitive, exciting and gathered more exposure, both in attendances and TV audiences. Arsenal were the victors of seven championships in a row in the early 2000s, but have struggled in recent years, and despite finishing third in three out of the last four championships, and thus showing that they are still a quality side, they have not won a league title since 2012. Manchester City, Chelsea and Liverpool are the last three winners of the WSL. 

Nationally, also, the English team has also gone from strength to strength. After famously finishing third in the 2015 World Cup, thanks to the stewardship of Mark Sampson, and brilliant performances from the likes of Duggan, Fara Williams and Lucy Bronze, the English side are genuinely able to compete on the global stage. The 2017 SheBelieves Cup will be a good tournament to gauge the progress made by the national side.  This tournament takes place over the first week in March, with England, France, Germany and the USA each playing each other once.

Ahead of the new domestic season, which begins in April, Manchester City have plenty of time to prepare, and, at this stage, all eyes are currently fixed on Europe’s premier competition. With three different winners in the last three championships, and Arsenal’s hegemony over the country no longer there, it is certainly an exciting time for the Women’s Super League. Kelly Smith’s retirement does mean that this is the end of an era, but it is also the start of a new one, with more televised coverage, press reports and general exposure, the women’s game is in an exciting place. Let’s hope it stays like this. 

James Felton

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