Women's Team

'FA WSL exceeding expectations'

The Manchester derby is one of the great dividing lines in the City of Manchester, but the rivalry has been given an American twist ahead of the latest meeting between the two teams.

City and United will boast two World Cup winners apiece when we line up at Leigh Sports Village on Saturday afternoon, where Sam Mewis and Rose Lavelle will make their derby debut for Gareth Taylor’s side.


Tobin Heath and Christen Press will be doing the same for the Reds after all four completed summer switches in order to test themselves in English football for the first time.

Having won each of the last two World Cups, the United States have long been the standard-bearers in the women’s game and the arrival of the quartet has provided a healthy boost to the FA Women’s Super League’s (WSL) global appeal.

But the benefits have worked both ways and the City duo have been particularly impressed with what the WSL has to offer.

Joining Heath, Press and Mewis in speaking to the New York Times ahead of Saturday’s derby encounter, Lavelle expressed her satisfaction with how her English adventure has begun.

“We wanted to be in an environment to challenge us and that’s what we’re getting,” said the midfielder.

“There are so many different things to win and compete for. That’s really exciting. It’s exceeded my expectations, honestly…and I had high expectations before coming here.”

Mewis agrees and feels the WSL and City are providing everything she wanted and expected.

“The soccer side of things is exactly what we came for,” she added.

“Rose and I are so honoured to be at a club like Man City. We are taught Manchester is blue. We have adopted that, and we are learning to honour it.

“We are so honoured to be here and be part of this club, the way we have been treated, we are so excited to represent this club.

“It’s going to be such an exciting game and to be able to play against our American teammates is great and we are lucky to have that opportunity.”

Friendships will be put on hold when City bid to end United’s unbeaten start to the league campaign in what promises to be 90-minutes of intense competition.

However, off the pitch, Manchester’s US contingent have all helped to make the transition to a new country much easier.

1 Manchester United FC Manchester United Man United 17 13 2 2 46 9 37 41 DWWLW
2 Manchester City Manchester City Man City 16 12 2 2 34 14 20 38 WWWWW
3 Chelsea FC Chelsea Chelsea 15 12 1 2 39 14 25 37 DWWWL
Last updated: 1 April 2023

Heath and Press have both played in Europe previously, the former with Paris Saint-German and the latter for two clubs in Sweden, but for Mewis, who is playing outside of the US for the first time, familiar faces have been most welcome.

“When I heard Christen and Tobin were coming, that was exciting. To have friends is great,” the midfielder explained, whilst United forward Heath added: “It made it an easier jump knowing other Americans would be here. It’s a sense of belonging. That sense of security is really nice.”

The arrival of all four, as well as their international colleague Alex Morgan at Tottenham Hotspur, and the return of Lucy Bronze and Alex Greenwood from European superpower Olympique Lyon, has highlighted the continued growth of the WSL.

It was founded in 2011, 11 years after the US' first professional league - the Women's United Soccer Association.

Today, the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) is the top tier of US football, but with the WSL improving all the time, it is inevitable that comparisons are made.

“In the NWSL, it’s aggressive and transitional,” reflected Lavelle. “You cover a lot of ground.

“Here, it’s more tactical, you have to break teams down. I feel bad comparing them.

“It’s great to have two top leagues and options for players to grow and get better."

It is a sentiment shared by United’s Press, who feels having two healthy leagues either side of the Atlantic can have worldwide benefits.

“It’s an oversimplification to say one is transitional and one more organized,” she added.

“It’s more of a puzzle here in how to break down a team and there’s a lot to learn from that.

“But both leagues are very competitive, you get lots of quality games, and that’s the main thing.

“That’s positive, not just for this league but the global game of women’s football.”