Cast your mind back to early July, 2019. It was post-Women’s World Cup for the Matildas and a significant part of the squad was back in the United States playing for their NWSL club teams.
On Saturday July 5 2019, Ellie Carpenter, Caitlin Foord and Hayley Raso’s Portland Thorns went head to head with Steph Catley’s Reign. Lydia Williams watched her Reign win from the bench.
The very next day, July 6, Alanna Kennedy and Emily Van Egmond’s Orlando Pride which faced off against Chloe Logarzo’s Washington Spirit.
Amy Harrison was an unused substitute for Washington, Elise Kellond-Knight was also with the Spirit but injured at the time. The Pride got the better of that meeting.
A week later it was Sam Kerr’s turn to confront Clare Polkinghorne and Kyah Simon in Chicago versus the Houston Dash. The Red Stars won it.
For any Matildas’ fan this was an embarrassment of riches. The NWSL was the best league in the world.
Not only did US soccer - followed by the W-League - allow fans to watch Matildas year-round, it also allowed fans to watch them regularly go head to head in incredible battles, often in front of packed stadiums and a significant television audience.
In 2019, a total of 14 Matildas were signed to NWSL teams, Makenzie Arnold having joined the 13 listed above in August. A whopping two-thirds of NWSL clubs had Australians on their rosters.
Flash forward a few months, however, and the probability is that less than half that amount of Matildas will be playing Stateside. There are several factors for this, but the first is foreign league competition.
A shifting football landscape
Sam Kerr’s move to Chelsea FC was the first catalyst, not just for Australians, but world football.
Despite the tremendous following she has in the US, the Chicago Red Stars' capacity to win a championship in the next season or two, and having the ability to come back every Australian summer to live in her hometown and play for Perth Glory, Kerr chose to leave.
Kerr stated that the want of a new challenge and the ability to evolve was a significant factor.
The easier travel and the setup of the FAWSL, partnered with English Premier League teams and facilities, were also major factors.
She'll also likely be playing in one league instead of two, where she'll be guaranteed time off in the northern hemisphere summer will also help in the long run.
Oh, and there's the money.