The 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup is finally here! The best women’s soccer players from around the globe, representing 32 different countries, are currently kicking off the biggest international sporting event of the year in Australia and New Zealand. Don’t expect to see me for the next month; I’ll be staying up all night every night to watch games in real Down Under time. If you’re as excited as I am about the Women’s World Cup, check out these books about women’s soccer to keep you entertained during halftime. We’ve got memoirs by players, nonfiction histories of women’s sports, soccer-set novels, plus a couple of books coming out after the World Cup to preorder now.
This year marks the ninth FIFA Women’s World Cup; the tournament began in 1991 and takes place every four years. It’s become an enormous international stage for celebrating women’s soccer and fighting for equal rights in sports. During the 2019 World Cup, the U.S. Women’s National Team put a spotlight on gender discrimination at every level of soccer. That year, the total prize money available to be split among all competing teams was $30 million, compared to $400 million in prize money for the 2018 Men’s World Cup. This year, in response to calls for equal pay, the Women’s World Cup prize money has increased to $110 million, one-quarter of the $440 million offered to Men’s World Cup teams in 2022. It’s an improvement, but there’s clearly still a lot of work to be done. Many of the books below can give you a better look at the fight for equal pay in women’s soccer.
Books by Women’s Soccer Players
One Life by Megan Rapinoe
If you want to see the world of soccer through an elite player’s eyes, why not read a memoir by someone currently competing in her fourth Women’s World Cup? Megan Rapinoe is legendary both on and off the field for her goal-scoring prowess, artful corner kicks, activism for equal pay and queer rights, and sense of style. In One Life, Rapinoe shares her journey from kicking her first soccer ball at the age of 4 to competing at the international level in multiple World Cups and Olympics. You’ll also learn about Rapinoe’s road to coming out and advocating for marriage equality, falling in love with basketball star Sue Bird, injuries that have taken her off the pitch, and the determination that brought her back. It’s a moving book by a player whose story is still being written.
My Greatest Save: The Brave, Barrier-Breaking Journey of a World Champion Goalkeeper by Briana Scurry
Briana Scurry is one of the most iconic U.S. Women’s National Team goalkeepers of all time, with two Olympic gold medals and one World Cup win to boast. Her prowess led the U.S. to victory at the unforgettable 1999 World Cup, where she saved a game-winning penalty kick during an overtime shootout with China. But that’s not all. She also changed the future of the sport, both by being the first player to come out as gay and by publicly sharing her struggles in the aftermath of a concussion that took her off the pitch permanently. Today’s concussion and injury protocols are largely thanks to Scurry’s advocacy, and she continues to make her mark as an assistant coach with the Washington Spirit. This memoir follows Scurry’s journey to the top; her mental, emotional, physical, and financial struggles after her injury; and her path to healing. It’s a powerful story with a lot to say about the past and future of the game.
Forward: A Memoir by Abby Wambach
Abby Wambach has a seemingly endless list of recognitions and records, including but not limited to: two Olympic gold medals, one FIFA Women’s World Cup win, being named one of TIME’s most influential people in the world, and holding the record for second most international goals scored across women’s and men’s soccer. But she’s so much more than just a catalog of her successes. In this memoir, Wambach shows the world a more multifaceted and honest version of herself as someone who has struggled even while at the top of her game, and as someone who has been shaped by and harmed by her fame. You’ll see Wambach’s highest highs and lowest lows in Forward, and you’ll learn that soccer is only one element of her story. If you want to learn about the real lives and challenges of the world’s most elite soccer players, you’ll find that and more in this book.
They Don’t Teach This: Lessons From the Game of Life by Eniola Aluko
Eniola Aluko had an impressive career in football, earning over 100 caps on the England Women’s Football team. But that was only the beginning. Since leaving the pitch, Aluko has gone on to earn a law degree, comment on soccer on World Cup broadcasts, serve as sporting director for multiple women’s soccer clubs (hot tip: catch her on the HBO docu-series Angel City), and even become an ambassador to the UN. This inspirational memoir shows Aluko’s journey to such incredible achievements. She also shares some of the wisdom she’s gained along the way, particularly relating to facing prejudice, speaking out against abuse, and dealing with career setbacks. Aluko’s story is a fascinating one, and the lessons she shares with readers have applicability far beyond the field.
How (Not) to Be Strong by Alex Scott
Alex Scott had an impressive career as a footballer, particularly for Arsenal and on the England Women’s Team. She’s now a respected soccer commentator, and depending on where you’re watching the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup, you might hear Scott’s coverage of the games. In this deeply personal and vulnerable memoir, Scott asserts that sometimes the strongest thing you can do is let down your guard and talk openly about your challenges. From her difficult childhood to the sexism she faces as a public figure in sports, she shares the struggles and successes that have gotten her where she is today. If you’re not already a fan of Alex Scott, you will be by the time you finish this inspiring and moving book.
Books About Women’s Soccer & Sports
A Woman’s Game: The Rise, Fall, and Rise Again of Women’s Soccer by Suzanne Wrack
The popularity of women’s soccer has been growing at a stunning rate, and this year’s Women’s World Cup could earn record-breaking viewership. But don’t let that fool you into thinking women’s soccer is new. In this book, British sports journalist Suzanne Wrack shares 150 years of women’s soccer history, from its boom in the 1920s to later being banned as “unsuitable for females” to its more recent success. Wrack tracks how women’s soccer worked with and against societal trends, as well as how interest in men’s soccer has both helped and harmed the women’s game. This book can help you learn more about the history of the sport as we turn our attention to what it has in store for the future.
Money, Power, Respect: How Women in Sports Are Shaping the Future of Feminism by Macaela MacKenzie
During the last Women’s World Cup in 2019, the U.S. Women’s National Team made headlines — and not just by winning. They brought their demands for equal pay and policies to the pitch, calling on FIFA and other institutions to value women’s sports at the same level as men’s sports. They even got whole crowds chanting “equal pay” during matches. If you want to learn about the strides they made toward gender equality in sports and how they’re still fighting today, check out journalist Macaela MacKenzie’s book Money, Power, Respect. MacKenzie highlights the vast misogynistic landscape of professional sports and takes a look at what women athletes are doing to change it. She interviews soccer legends like Megan Rapinoe and Alex Morgan, as well as stars from other sports like Allyson Felix and Billie Jean King. It’s a hard look at the problems currently facing women athletes and a hopeful testament to the work being done to pave the way for future stars.
Soccer is a challenging and entertaining sport, but learning to play can also teach you a lot about life off the pitch. After leaving her home country of Jordan and looking for a place to belong, Luma Mufleh learned that soccer is a great way to find community. She happened upon a group of refugee kids playing soccer in Georgia one day, asked if she could join, and the rest of her life was changed. Mufleh started a soccer team for refugee kids that turned into a family, a non-profit, a school, and so much more. In this memoir, she shares how soccer became the heart of her work with young refugees, not to develop their athletic prowess, but to help form lifelong connections and build character. It’s a moving story full of hope for a better future, tied together by a love of soccer.
You Don’t Have a Shot by Racquel Marie
This YA romance is the truly queer version of Bend It Like Beckham we’ve all been waiting for. Vale has worked incredibly hard to set herself up for a career in soccer, but that could all go away thanks to a fight she had with Leticia, her biggest rival, during a playoff game at the end of her junior year. A summer at her childhood soccer camp seems like just the way to get herself back on track — until she finds out she’s supposed to co-captain her team with Leticia. They’ll have to put their rivalry behind them if they want to impress the college scouts coming to watch them play. But as they find a way to work together on the field, they discover there’s something between them outside of the game as well. It’s a pitch-perfect (pun intended) enemies-to-lovers romance that’s sure to knock you off your feet.
Upcoming Books About Women’s Soccer and Sports
Fair Play: How Sports Shape the Gender Debates by Katie Barnes (Sept. 19, St. Martin’s Press)
Just as professional women athletes are starting to get a shot at the support and pay they deserve, their world is being rocked by political (AKA transphobic) debates about the inclusion of transgender athletes. Katie Barnes is a journalist who has been reporting on gender in sports and trans athletes for years. Their book Fair Play is an excellent, nuanced exploration of gender and trans identities within the world of sports, from the Olympics to youth leagues and everything in between. Barnes puts today’s hot topics into a historical context and considers the future of gender in sports. They do a fantastic job of shining a light on how nuanced these issues are, despite the fact that both sides try to oversimplify them, and providing thought-provoking suggestions for what a gender-inclusive world of sports might look like. While soccer isn’t the primary focus of the book, it does come into play throughout, including a look at the NWSL’s groundbreaking policies for trans and nonbinary players.
Cleat Cute by Meryl Wilsner (Sept. 19, St. Martin’s Griffin)
The only thing that can make women’s soccer better, in my opinion at least, is a little queer romance. This upcoming romance by Meryl Wilsner is everything I’ve ever wanted in a love story. Grace is one of the most famous soccer players in the U.S. with a long record on the Women’s National Team. Phoebe just got called up to the national team for the first time. They’ve clearly got chemistry, but can they keep their personal entanglements off the pitch? Or even better, is their chemistry just what they need to win? It’s got a great setting in the world of soccer, lots of fun references for soccer fans, excellent neurodiversity representation, and of course, steamy romance. And on top of it all, the title is absolute perfection. Do not miss this book!
We hope this list helped you find some interesting new books about women’s soccer to read during the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup! You might also enjoy: