There are only a handful of European clubs -- perhaps a dozen in total -- that rival NWSL clubs in ambition and resources.
For the time being, the NWSL's threat doesn't come from the
various European leagues but the Women's Champions League, backed by UEFA, to become a competitive and commercial force.
Like with the men's competition, the UEFA Women's Champions
League's 2019-20 season began with qualifying. It kicked off on Wednesday with the first of three matches in 10 groups involving small clubs scattered across Europe.
Clubs often use
qualifying to bring in Americans out of college on short-term deals with the hope that they can help them move into the knockout phase. On Wednesday, 24 Americans appeared for 10 different clubs.
The stars included Krystyna Freda
(Winthrop) and Myra Delgadillo
(Fresno State) with hat tricks for Apollon Nicosia (Cyprus) and Spartak Subotica (Serbia), respectively.
(Freda's production should come as no surprise. In her last two seasons in Cyprus, she scored 69 and 90 goals.)
The recent college graduates included former Cal star Miranda
, who represented Thailand at the Women's World Cup. She made a brief first-half appearance for Lithuania's Gintra-Universitetas in its 1-0 win over Malta's Birkirkara.
Americans in Women's Champions Legaue qualifying:
Apollon Nicosia (10-0 vs. Rigas
Krystyna Freda (90 minutes, 3 goals), Carissa Miller (90), Victoria Bruce (73) ASA Tel Aviv (1-4 vs. Breidablik)
Connell (sub-29 minutes). BIIK Kazygurt (9-0 vs. EBS/Skala)
Arden Holden (90
minutes), Madeleine Kaplan (90), Kennedy Rose (45). Cardiff Metropolitan (1-0 vs.
Alexis Rienks (90 minutes), Madison Schupbach (90). Flora (2-3 vs. PK-35 Vantaa)
Kira Laurento-Falcoff (75
minutes). Gintra-Universitetas (1-0 vs. Birkirkara)
Miranda Nild (sub-14 minutes) Spartak Subotica (12-0 vs. Anenii Noi)
Myra Delgadillo (90 minutes, 3 goals), Haley Lukas (90), Molly Fiedler (90), Taylor Porter (82), Mariah Williams (sub-32, 1 goal).
Sporting Braga (2-1 vs. Sturm Graz)
Hannah Keane (90 minutes), Denali Murnan (83), Shade Pratt (sub-13, 1 goal). Sturm Graz (1-2 at Sporting Braga)
Emily Cancienne (90 minutes). Vllaznia (3-1 at
Cassidy Blanchard (90 minutes), Hannah Dauzat (79, 1 goal), Amanda Doyle (90), Danielle Etzel (90).