Hello and welcome to a new weekly segment on Backline Soccer. Most of our coverage focuses on the USWNT and the NWSL, but I’m here to give you an insight into soccer, or football as we call it, in Europe.
What is the Euro Roundup?
It’s a weekly segment that informs you about results and news from around Europe’s leagues. Not only that but there will be results and news from international teams–did you know that World Cup Qualifying is already in full swing on this side of the Atlantic?
There is no single schedule for European leagues, with some operating on the traditional fall-to-spring schedule, but others mixing it up a bit and running on the calendar year. Those already in action include many of the bit names–including the English WSL (after a schedule reset this year), Frauen Bundesliga, Division 1 and Primera Division. One league that operates on the calendar year is Scotland, who just announced the fixtures for the new season, with matches scheduled to begin next month, and then running all the way up until 28th October. Glasgow City, who have won 11 league titles in a row, start off the defence of their SWPL1 title against Stirling University FC at home on 11th February. As with many European countries, Scotland has a tiered structure, with leagues running down through SWPL2 to SWFL2.
All that means there is plenty of ground for this column to cover!
The transfer window is currently open in Europe. For those unfamiliar with that system, it means that teams can buy players even when they are contracted to a club. The price is negotiated to buy out the old contract. For example, Fran Kirby was signed by Chelsea from Reading after the World Cup in 2015. Her fee was a British record £40,000-£60,000 (about $53,000-$82,000). It’s possible that has since been broken (unlike the men’s side, transfer fees in women’s football tend to be kept quiet). When a player is out of contract, they’re effectively a free agent. Another way of getting a player to the club is a loan. In this case, the player remains owned by the parent club but is lent to another club for half or a full season. Some clubs enter in a clause whereby they can’t play against their parent club. Some clubs that have these loaned players may look to buy them later on.
These transfers are limited to two windows during the season: one over the summer and the other in January. This is the same as on the men’s side of things, although the timing of the windows is a little different. For example, the WSL opened it’s transfer window on the 29th December and it will close on 25th January.
One league that I’ve been keeping an eye on is the WSL. The most recent big news–likely familiar to NWSL fans–was Nadia Nadim’s transfer from Portland Thorns to Manchester City. She’s already made an impact scoring a header in a 5-2 win over Reading.
There’s also a lot of news associated with the league’s transition to a winter season. Because of the switch, many existing contracts didn’t quite line up well with the new season. That’s produced a lot of renewed contracts, with Birmingham renewing the contracts of Marisa Ewers, Andrine Hegerberg and Aoife Mannion and Reading re-signing Molly Bartrip, Grace Moloney and Rachel Rowe.
But there have also been some moves. Birmingham recently lost Bella Linden to Koln in Germany and Chloe Peplow to Brighton. Reading lost Mandy Van Den Berg who was part of the winning Netherlands squad at the Euros. She and the Royals terminated her contract mutually and she has now joined Valencia in Spain.
There’s still a few weeks til the window closes so expect quite a few more signings and renewed contracts to occur.
World Cup Qualifiers
As previously mentioned, World Cup qualifying is already going on in Europe. Teams recently reached the halfpoint point in the process, meaning that we’re getting close to the in/out line for some teams.
You can look forward to a future article in this series that goes into more detail about the UEFA process. For now, here are a few quick highlights:
As hosts France, France will qualify automatically. In order to keep ticking over and stay prepared, they have a schedule heavy with big friendlies in the various venues for the World Cup in 2019 (as well as the now-annual SheBelieves Cup in the States).
All other countries have to go through the rigours of earning their right to play at the World Cup. There are seven groups, with the winners of each automatically going through.If qualifying concluded now, the following would be through: Wales, Switzerland, Netherlands, Denmark, Germany, Italy and Spain. However, since not all teams have played the same number of matches, there’s some fluidity there.
The past round of qualifying did produce some interesting results with Iceland beating Germany 3-2 in October. This ended Germany’s run of 19 years without losing a World Cup or Euro qualifier. Another interesting result was when the current European champions Netherlands drew 0-0 with the Republic of Ireland. Interestingly, the Republic of Ireland is in the same group as Northern Ireland.
The next round of fixtures starts on 22nd January, with Israel taking on Finland. After that, one interesting set to watch out for is England playing Wales both home and away–with just a point separating them and the Lionesses with a game in hand. You also might want to keep an eye out for the next match between Iceland and Germany, and for the Irish teams playing each other.
That’s a lot to cover, but hopefully this overview whets your appetite for more coverage. You can look out for this segment to go up every Tuesday, bringing you your weekly European fix. Thanks for coming along for the ride.