As the sun goes down on the 2023 WWC in Australia and New Zealand, we take a look at the players who have made the most appearances at the Women’s World Cup.
Since the inaugural Women’s World Cup in 1991, almost all of the game’s greatest players have graced the tournament at some point.
Some players have featured more than others though, appearing in numerous World Cups and cementing their legacies in the process.
Here, we take a look at those who have played more World Cup games than anyone else.
Kristine Lilly: USA, 30 Appearances (World Cups: 1991, 1995, 1999, 2003, 2007)
It’s not a surprise to see USA’s Kristine Lilly as the player with the most appearances at the Women’s World Cup. The “Queen of Caps” is currently the most-capped player in the history of football, with 354 games for her national team. Lilly has won the World Cup trophy with the USA twice, in 1991 and 1999, and in 2007 became the first female player to take part in five editions of the tournament.
She has started in 29 of her 30 games at the Women’s World Cup, only coming off the bench against Japan in 1991, and she still holds the record for the most consecutive starts in the tournament (27). In 2007, Lilly became the first player aged 36+ years old to score at the Women’s World Cup, scoring the last of her eight goals in the competition at the age of 36 years and 62 days.
In total, Lilly has won 24 of her 30 games at the Women’s World Cup and she still remains the only player with at least 20 wins in the competition.
Formiga: Brazil, 27 Appearances (World Cups: 1995, 1999, 2003, 2007, 2011, 2015, 2019)
The most capped Brazilian player in football history (234 games), Formiga is the only player, male or female, to have taken part in seven different editions of the Women’s World Cup (from 1995 to 2019).
Formiga played her first game at the Women’s World Cup against Japan in 1995 at the age of 17 years and 96 days, and her last game at the age of 41 years and 112 days against France in 2019, the oldest appearance for a player in the history of the competition. She is also the oldest player to have scored a goal at the Women’s World Cup, aged 37 years and 99 days when she scored against South Korea in the group stage of the 2015 edition, only her second goal in the competition after finding the back of the net against Australia in 2007.
Even if she has never managed to win the Women’s World Cup, Formiga has still wontwo medals in the competition, claiming the bronze medal in 1999 and the silver medal in 2007, losing to Germany in the final.
Abby Wambach: USA, 25 Appearances (World Cups: 2003, 2007, 2011, 2015)
Former USA striker Abby Wambach played 25 games at the Women’s World Cup between 2003 and 2015, the joint-third most among all players in the history of the competition. She scored 14 goals across that span, with only Brazil legend Marta having a better tally (17), but Wambach shares a joint-high with Marta after having scored in 12 different games.
The highest all-time goal scorer for the USA (184 goals) has lifted the World Cup trophy once, during her last appearance in the tournament in 2019.
Wambach is also the only player to have scored multiple goals in extra-time at the Women’s World Cup, both in 2011 when she hit the winning goal against Germany in the quarter-final after the 120th minute – the latest goal in the history of the competition – and then scoring in the 104th minute against Japan in a thrilling final, which USA lost on penalties after the equaliser from Homare Sawa in the 117th minute.
Carli Lloyd: USA, 25 Appearances (World Cups: 2007, 2011, 2015, 2019)
The second-most capped player in the US Women’s national team history (316), Carli Lloyd made 25 appearances at the Women’s World Cup, tied for third with former teammate Wambach, while picking up four medals in four World Cups (two gold, one silver, one bronze).
Undoubtedly her best World Cup was in 2015 where she was named player of the tournament despite failing to score in the three group stage games. Lloyd, then captain, became stronger in the knockout stage for the USA, scoring in each of their four games from the round of 16 onwards, and finishing in the best way possible with a hat-trick in the final against Japan, the only treble in a Women’s World Cup final to date.
She scored those three goals in the opening 16 minutes, making it the only hat-trick scored in the opening 30 minutes of a game at a Women’s World Cup. The last of her three goals in Vancouver was a masterpiece that won the goal of the tournament award, lobbing the Japanese goalkeeper Ayumi Kaihori from the halfway line.
Lloyd extended that run of scoring in 2019, finding the back of the net in each of her first two games in the tournament, becoming the first player aged over 35 to score a brace in a Women’s World Cup game (two vs Chile at 36 years, 335 days). Her run of scoring in six consecutive games remains a tournament record.
Birgit Prinz: Germany, 24 Appearances (World Cups: 1995, 1999, 2003, 2007, 2011)
The German superstar Birgit Prinz made 24 appearances at the Women’s World Cup and ranks joint-fifth in the most games played in the tournament. She helped Germany to win back-to-back titles in 2003 and 2007 and was named player of the tournament in 2003.
The seven-time FIFA World Player of the Year is in fact the only non-US player to have taken part in three Women’s World Cup finals (1995, 2003 and 2007) and scored the opening goal of the 2007 final against Brazil, her last goal in the competition.
In total, Prinz scored 14 goals in her 24 appearances at the Women’s World Cup, a total only beaten by Marta, and 10 of those goals came during the group stages, one of the only two players to have scored 10+ goals in the opening round along with Marta (11).
However, Prinz is still the only player to have scored at least five goals in multiple editions of the tournament (seven in 2003 and five in 2007).
Homare Sawa: Japan, 24 Appearances (World Cups: 1995, 1999, 2003, 2007, 2011, 2015)
Japan’s former midfielder and captain Homare Sawa ranks joint-fifth in the most games played at the Women’s World Cup (24). Sawa is one of only two players, alongside Brazil’s Formiga (seven) to have taken part in more than five editions of the tournament, with six played in a 20-year span between 1995 and 2015.
Among those six editions, 2011 was undoubtedly Sawa’s and Japan’s best World Cup. Japan arrived in Germany in 2011 after progressing further than the group stage only once before in the first five editions of the Women’s World Cup (quarter-final in 1995).
Sawa and her team finished second in the group stage behind England and faced hosts and World Cup holders Germany in the quarter-final. Japan managed to keep Germany scoreless in 90 minutes and surprisingly took the lead during extra-time, via a goal from Karina Maruyama assisted by a through ball from Sawa, who scored herself in the semi-final against Sweden and also against the USA during extra-time in the final. This led to a victorious penalty shootout to give Japan their first title at the Women’s World Cup.
Sawa was named player of the tournament, scoring a tournament-high five goals while she scored a total of three goals in her other five World Cups combined. No wonder she became the first Asian player, female or male, to receive the award of FIFA World Player of the Year in 2011.
Most Appearances at the Women’s World Cup
- Kristine Lilly: USA, 30
- Formiga: Brazil, 27
- Abby Wambach: USA, 25
- Carli Lloyd: USA, 25
- Birgit Prinz: Germany, 24
- Homare Sawa: Japan, 24
- Christine Sinclair: Canada, 24
- Marta: Brazil, 23
- Mia Hamm: USA, 23
- Joy Fawcett: USA, 23
- Julie Foudy: USA, 23
- Bettina Wiegmann: Germany, 22
- Bente Nordby: Norway, 22
- Hege Riise: Norway, 22
- Alex Morgan: USA, 22