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5 things we learned at the SheBelieves Cup: NWSL Edition

With roughly a month before the season gets underway, a lot of players are looking to be hitting peak form at just the right time for their clubs

2023 SheBelieves Cup - Brazil v United States Photo by Sam Hodde/Getty Images

From a NWSL perspective, the SheBelieves Cup gave us a the ability to see how many of the current players are finding form and which of the newcomers will be ones to watch. Here are five things I learned from watching the tournament this past week.

Mal Swanson is hitting top form, and she’s still in pre-season

Yes, you read that correctly. Every player who plays in the NWSL and participated in the SheBelieves Cup is still in pre-season but it’s Mal Swanson who seems to be finding her feet faster than anyone else. After sterling performances against New Zealand in January, Swanson continued her red hot streak in the SheBelieves Cup, scoring four goals in three games and picking up MVP honours as well.

Chicago fans, get hype. It being still pre-season means that Mal Swanson has another gear in her and every team in the league should be wary if this is how she’s performing with only national team training camps and matches under her belt.

Jun Endo (and Japan) are thrilling to watch

Jun Endo was one of the best players Angel City FC had in their ranks last season but she didn’t always get to shine in her more preferred position, as a forward. With Japan, she played as a wing-back but a wing-back that had licence to stay up high and cause as much havoc as she could. Against the USWNT and Brazil, Japan just couldn’t find their footing in front of goal but against Canada, they did and Endo in particular, played a starring role.

2023 SheBelieves Cup - Canada v Japan Photo by Sam Hodde/Getty Images

She showed guile, quick feet and an even quicker mind as she won a penalty and scored in Japan’s 3-0 win over Canada. Japan spent most of the tournament playing some great stuff but unable to convert the chances they created. With the floodgates now open, they may have finally unlocked their true potential and Jun Endo seems to be benefiting greatly from it.

Kailen Sheridan continues to prove her status as one of the best around

The NWSL is known for having top-tier goalkeepers and you can’t get into that discussion without mentioning San Diego Wave’s shot-stopper. Kailen Sheridan was remarkable last season for the expansion side and was a key reason why they made the playoffs, a first in league history as the first expansion to make the playoffs in their first season. With Canada, Sheridan showed that she has barely any cobwebs left to shake off (the majority were thrown out with that mishap against the USWNT) and she seems ready to go for the NWSL season.

San Diego will be looking to make another run to the playoffs and if Sheridan maintains her form, they’ll probably do it again.

The Brazilian contingent are going to light up the league

Brazil featured current and newly minted NWSL players in their roster at the SheBelieves Cup and every one of them got to strut their stuff at some point. Debinha, Marta and Kerolin are known quantities but it was the sightings we got of Bruninha and Adriana that were the most eye-catching for me.

Both players are new to the league (so to speak) with Bruninha signing late last year for NJ/NY Gotham FC and Adriana joining the Orlando Pride this year. Adriana saw more time on the pitch and produced some great moments for her highlight reel while Bruninha, in her limited time, also made sure to leave her mark on any NWSL fan watching Brazil.

The NWSL is set to have another enthralling season

With all the various trades and signings that have happened (and potentially may still happen) so far before the league has started, anyone who’s been paying attention will see that so many teams within the league are primed to make a strong case for themselves this year.

Many of those teams have players who featured at the SheBelieves Cup for every one of the four teams that participated and none of the players didn’t perform at an acceptable level at the very least. What the tournament showed is not only the growth of the game and the national teams involved, but also the growth and the potential of the players who will be showcasing themselves in the NWSL to make sure their managers pick them for their World Cup rosters. It’s going to be a fun season y’all!