The Missing Squad
Updated: Jul 14
There are three letters that every soccer player and fan dreads hearing: ACL. In the past few years, anyone plugged into women's soccer would tell you that there seems to be an increase in the number of players who are getting sidelined with injuries, the most common one being an Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) tear. As the 2023 FIFA Women's World Cup looms near, we take a look at all of the players we will not see there due to injury, and what their losses mean to their country.
Vivianne Miedema on the ground after tearing her ACL with Arsenal in December 2022 / Photo courtesy of David Price, Getty Images
This squad of injuries features 23 players and one honorary coach from 12 of the 32 countries competing in the 2023 World Cup. 70% of the missing players have suffered an ACL tear, and 20 out of the 24 are recovering from various knee injuries. Listed alphabetically, here are the players that make up the Missing Squad, those who we won't be seeing in the World Cup.
Janine Beckie (Canda), ACL: In March 2023, Janine Beckie tore her ACL in a preseason match for her club team, the Portland Thorns. With over 100 caps and netting 36 goals for the Canadian National Team, the 28-year-old striker was set to have a big year helping Canada in her first World Cup.
Delphine Cascarino (France), ACL: Delphine Cascarino partially tore her ACL in May of this year while playing for Olympique Lyonnais (OL). The winger, who has led both country and club in the attack, will leave a big hole in France's attack, where she has scored 14 goals in 56 appearances.
Delphine Cascarino in action for OL / Photo courtesy of Getty Images
Ludmila da Silva (Brazil), ACL: Brazil forward Ludmila Da Silva went down during a club match against Réal Madrid in March 2023. The 28-year-old, who scored against the United States in February's SheBelieves Cup, has 5 goals in 39 appearances for Brazil. Her poise and prowess on the ball will be missed.
Svenja Fölmli (Switzerland), ACL: The young Swiss striker, Svenja Fölmli, who plays in the German Bundesliga, also suffered an ACL tear. While she's only had 16 caps, her first one came at age 17 and she's scored in 25% of the games she's played in; the World Cup could have given her valuable experience.
Marie-Antoinette Katoto (France), ACL: 24-year-old Marie-Antoinette Katoto tore her ACL nearly a year ago during the Euros tournament. Without her, the French attack fell short, and France will continue to miss her scoring abilities on the field this World Cup. In 32 appearances for country, she's scored 26 times, which is 12 more goals than any other French player during that time.
Marie-Antoinette Katoto (#9 in blue) on the ground after tearing her ACL playing for France / Photo courtesy of the French National Women's Football Team
Stine Larsen (Denmark), ACL: After suffering an ACL tear in April 2023, Danish national Stine Larsen was ruled out of the World Cup. The forward, who has 68 caps and 21 goals for her country, scored the lone goal in a win against Sweden in April.
Catarina Macario (USA), ACL: Young USWNT star Catarina Macario tore her ACL in June 2022 while playing for club team OL. Her playmaking ability and versatility helped her lead OL to the Champions League title, and the 23-year-old's skill would have fit in well with a strong US attack.
Beth Mead (England), ACL: The Euros 2022 Golden Boot winner and Ballon d'Or runner-up, Beth Mead, tore her ACL in November. With 29 goals in 50 appearances for England, Mead was on fire before her injury, leaving a big hole in their front line.
Vivianne Miedema (Netherlands), ACL: The Dutch women's all-time leading scorer ruptured her ACL in December 2022 with her club team Arsenal. Vivianne Miedema boasts an astounding 95 goals in 115 caps for the Netherlands and 78 goals in 97 appearances for Arsenal. Miedema's pinpoint accuracy and ability to get behind defensive lines makes the Netherlands side playing without her slightly less threatening.
Christen Press (USA), ACL: U.S. Women's National Team veteran and legend Christen Press suffered a ruptured ACL in June 2022 with club side Angel City FC. Press is ninth in all-time goals scored by a USWNT player with 64 in her 155 appearances. Heading into the 2021 Tokyo Olympics, Press was on a goal-scoring tear, contributing to 35 of 36 goals scored by her country- 14 goals and 21 assists. Her experience and vision would have benefited a young US attack.
Christen Press during a match for Angel City in 2022 / Photo courtesy of Getty Images
Katie Rood (New Zealand), ACL: 30-year-old Katie Rood went down with an ACL injury in early July 2023. The forward, who only had 14 caps and 5 goals with the Ferns National Team, was set to make her first World Cup.
Mallory Swanson (USA), Patellar tendon: It seemed that nobody could stop USWNT phenom Mal Swanson until she tore her patellar tendon in April of 2023. Scoring 6 goals in 5 games in 2023, Swanson was in great form at the time of her injury and was a key part of the USWNT attack. Her ability to leave defenders in the dust will certainly be hard to replace.
Forward Mal Swanson (in white) falls to the ground after an injury in April 2023 / Photo courtesy of AP, Eric Gay
Iman Beney (Switzerland), ACL: 16-year-old Iman Beney was named to the Swiss World Cup roster and unfortunately tore her ACL in a training session just one day later. Beney had only one appearance for the Swiss team, but played well, and the tournament would have been good experience for her.
Linda Dallmann (Germany), Ankle: German midfielder Linda Dallmann tore a ligament in her ankle in early March and will miss the World Cup roster. Dallmann featured in all games of the 2022 Euros, and would have likely been a strong sub for a talented German side. For club, Dallmann was Bayern Munich's second-leading scorer.
Amandine Henry (France), Calf: Amandine Henry, an experienced French national team midfielder, was officially ruled out of the World Cup in early July with a calf injury. The 33-year-old has scored 13 goals in 93 caps for France, but was left off the roster for 2.5 years under manager Corinne Diacre. Her injury is a big loss for a French side mired with injuries.
France's Amandine Henry (left) in training in July 2023 / Photo courtesy of Getty Images
Fran Kirby (England), Knee: Fran Kirby, 29-year-old English midfielder, will undergo knee surgery for an unspecified injury sustained in February of this year. Kirby, who scored 2 goals during the 2022 Euros, has netted 17 goals in 65 appearances and is currently club team Chelsea's all time leading scorer.
Sam Mewis (USA), Knee: The USWNT's "Tower of Power" hasn't seen the field since 2021, when Sam Mewis announced a knee injury following the Tokyo Olympics. Mewis was written in marker as a starter for the U.S. Women, and the team's midfield continues to miss her strong, steady presence. The 2020 U.S. Women's Soccer player of the year has scored 24 goals in 83 caps for the red, white, and blue.
Hanna Glas (Sweden), ACL: Swedish stalwart defender Hanna Glas will miss the 2023 World Cup after tearing her ACL in September 2022. Glas, who has great speed and vision as a wingback, featured in both the 2019 World Cup and 2021 Olympic campaigns for Sweden.
Giulia Gwinn (Germany), ACL: Young Bayern Munich and German defender Giulia Gwinn ruptured her ACL in October 2022. The 24-year-old had torn her ACL just over two years prior in 2020.
Giulia Gwinn (in white) on the ground after an injury in a match against Ireland in October 2022 / Photo courtesy of Max Mawaild/De Fodi Images via Getty Images
Jade Rose (Canada), Undisclosed: The Canadian National Team announced just a few days ago that defender Jade Rose had been ruled out of the World Cup roster due to an undisclosed injury. With only 8 caps to her name, Rose was set to get more experience under her belt.
Carolin Simon (Germany), ACL: The German left-back suffered an ACL tear earlier this month during a friendly with Zambia, ruling her out of the World Cup. Carolin Simon had played for Bayern Munich and had 22 appearances for country.
Leah Williamson (England), ACL: The English WNT captain will also miss out on the 2023 World Cup. Leading her team to a 2022 Euros victory, Williamson was in top form with England and club team Arsenal until her ACL tear in April 2023. Her leadership and ball delivery from the backline will certainly be missed.
Hazel Nali (Zambia), ACL: Announced on July 12th, just one week before the World Cup was set to kick off, Zambia's top goalie was ruled out of competition with an ACL and partial MCL tear. The 25-year-old has the most caps of the three keepers on Zambia's World Cup roster at 18 appearances. Nali started all three games at the 2021 Tokyo Olympics for Zambia, and she plays for Turkish club Fatih Vatan Spor.
Becky Sauerbrunn (USA), Foot: In a statement that united nearly all women's soccer fans, longtime veteran and USWNT captain Becky Sauerbrunn announced that she would not recover from a foot injury in time to make the 2023 World Cup. Two-time World Cup and Olympic Champion Sauerbrunn had been a strong and experienced force in the backline for the U.S. With 216 caps to her name, it's hard to imagine the USWNT without captain Becky. Her knowledge and leadership have led us to name her our coach for this 23-player squad.
Becky Sauerbrunn, USWNT captain, in action during a national team game / Photo courtesy of Jeff Roberson / AP
Just for fun, here is a starting XI, as well as five subs. In a list of 12 attackers, it was extremely hard to narrow down who starts and who doesn't see the field at all. Honestly, the attacking subs could just as easily be starters, and with Euro 2022 Golden Boot winner Beth Mead on the bench, it's clear how much talent is on this team.
The ACL Club
If the sheer size of this team of players shocks you, you are not alone. For all of the players listed here, there are even more who have recovered from similar injuries in time to make the World Cup or who have suffered these injuries at other points during their career. Numerous studies have stated that women are 4-6x more likely to rupture their ACL than men in cutting sports such as soccer or basketball, and are overall 8x more likely than men to do so.
The Yale School of Medicine revealed that the female anatomy puts women at more risk of an ACL tear due to their wider pelvis. The pelvis width affects how the bones of the leg are lined up and it puts more strain on the ligaments of the leg. Additionally, women have less musculature in the knee area than men do. Finally, changes in hormone levels due to the menstrual cycle can also play a part in the likelihood of tearing an ACL. In fact, increased estrogen may cause ligaments and tendons to be more loose, thus putting them at a greater risk of being strained or torn.
There are a few possible explanations as to why it seems that this pandemic of knee injuries has gotten worse. Firstly, with the boom in popularity of women's soccer worldwide, women are getting a chance to play more matches for both club and country. Overuse and greater minute accumulation certainly put any player at a greater risk for injury. Another theory is that there is simply more coverage of women's soccer, with fans more aware of when their favorite player goes down. Finally, it's no secret that training facilities, pitches, and funding for things like trainers and sports scientists are not equal to the men's teams. Dangerous conditions and improper training put more stress on the body.
No matter the reason, it's clear that this affects women's teams and players indiscriminately. Many have called for an increase in research and studies on how to prevent these injuries, with players speaking up about their concern for safety. The English club team Arsenal lost four total players to ACL injuries over the course of their 2022-2023 season, three of whom will miss the World Cup. Canadian striker Janine Beckie said, "If the same thing happened with Arsenal's men's side with probably their three best players, that should be enough for a: 'Why is this happening? Look into this.'" Christen Press echoed her statement, saying, "If this happened on the men's side, we would have immediately seen a reaction of 'how are we going to solve this and figure this out, and make sure that these players are going to be available at the biggest moments of their career?'"
Stine Larsen on the ground after injuring her ACL in April 2023 / Photo courtesy of BK Häcken
While we will mourn the World Cup that could have been with this missing squad of 23 players and one coach, this is still bound to be the most exciting World Cup yet. 2023 marks the first time a FIFA Women's World Cup will feature 32 teams, and with competition tighter than ever, there are no shoe-ins or easy games. We'll all be seated and ready to see who earns their star, with the opening match on July 20th.