While Seattle Reign FC fans had the great fortune of witnessing the skill and immense talent of Kim Little under the lights of Memorial Stadium for three years, it was always with a small ounce of regret. NWSL and women’s soccer supporters, along with the media members who follow the sport, lamented the fact that Little didn’t have any opportunities on the global stage to make a name for herself.
When she transferred to Arsenal in 2017, it was in part to be closer to home during a crucial year for her country. Scotland had qualified for the UEFA Women’s EURO tournament for the first time in the country’s history. Unfortunately, Little tore her ACL just one month before the tournament began — putting her out of that competition and a number of UEFA Women’s World Cup qualifiers later that fall.
However, Little’s teammates — including Scotland captain and former Reign FC defender Rachel Corsie — kept Scotland in the hunt. The UEFA qualifiers span over 18 months, with group-stage matches happening in pairs during FIFA breaks. When Little returned to the squad this April, Scotland had only lost one match, to Switzerland, a team ranked 18th in the world by FIFA.
Last Thursday, with Little as the playmaker, Scotland beat Switzerland 2-1. Little scored that match. Today, thanks to a win over Albania and Switzerland drawing with Poland, Scotland booked their first-ever ticket to the World Cup. Little again scored in this match, propelling a 2-1 win for her country.
This video captures the moment the final whistle blew.
Little now has a chance to show the rest of the world, on the biggest stage in the sport, why she may be one of the best attacking midfielders in women’s soccer. While Reign FC fans certainly miss having her in Seattle, that pain is lessened slightly knowing she will be on TV screens across the globe, introducing her name to millions of other fans.
Seattle and Scotland fans weren’t alone in their excitement. Sam Kerr,
arguably the best forward in the world right now, had something to say about Little’s presence in France.
Ok, even I’m excited to see Kim Little at the World Cup next year. Amazing player..— Sam Kerr (@samkerr1) September 4, 2018
Unfortunately, Little’s midfield partner in Seattle didn’t leave World Cup qualifiers with the same level of excitement — as a loss to England and other unfavorable results put Wales out of contention. That leaves Jess Fishlock as arguably the best midfielder in women’s soccer not to make it to a World Cup.
Despite a heartbreaking end to the qualifiers, Wales — a country whose roster doesn’t even have a full set of professional players — put in an amazing campaign. They drew with England on the road, marking the first time Wales ever got a point against the Lionesses. They were undefeated against all other teams, and nearly made it to the four-team playoff to determine the final European spot in the World Cup. And they united a country behind women’s soccer in unprecedented fashion — selling out their final match against England.
With their win against Wales, Jodie Taylor and England booked their ticket to France in 2019. After Friday’s win, England had one match remaining in qualifiers, but because their spot was secure, they allowed Taylor to return to Seattle to prepare for Reign FC’s important match against the Portland Thorns on Friday, September 7. Fishlock also returned to Seattle over the Labor Day weekend.
One additional Reign FC player has a shot at playing in France. Theresa Nielsen and Denmark didn’t win their group — which would automatically qualify them for the World Cup — but they did earn one of the four remaining spots for a playoff that begins in October. That same month, Megan Rapinoe, Allie Long, and the U.S. will be competing in the CONCACAF qualifying tournament, as will Adriana Leon and Canada.
Aside from some lingering injury concerns, all players should be available for Reign FC’s match in Portland, which is the Lifetime Game of the Week and kicks off at 7 PM PT on Friday. A win or draw in the final game of the regular season would give Seattle a home semifinal match. Fans who would like to travel to Providence Park for the game, and sit with fellow Reign FC supporters, can visit this link and use the promo code REIGN for tickets.