Women's round-up: April 2009

With club football entering a bright new era and major international tournaments on the horizon, these are exciting times for women's football. Here, in the first instalment of a new monthly round-up, FIFA.com reports on the biggest news from the female scene, from an encouraging start for USA's star-studded new Women's Professional Soccer league to the re-emergence of a former world power.

Club football
On the club scene, all roads once again lead to America. Six years on from the much-mourned collapse of the WUSA, the US are giving professionalism another go - and, typically, they're not doing things by halves.

An illustrious cast including the likes of Cristiane, Kelly Smith, Aya Miyama and Han Duan has been recruited to give the seven-team league some genuine star quality, yet none of these international icons can threaten Marta's role as the WPS's star attraction. The reigning FIFA Women's World Player arrived in a blaze of publicity last month and, though still short of match fitness, has still managed three goals in as many appearances to help Los Angeles Sol to the top of the standings. With compatriot Cristiane's Chicago Red Stars just two points behind and the league's matches already averaging crowds of over 6,000, an exciting future seemingly beckons for America's fledgling top flight.

The picture is not so rosy for the club Marta left behind. Umea, twice European champions and aiming for their fifth successive Swedish title, have endured a miserable month, with an indifferent start to the Damallsvenskan season leaving them in fourth. The low point, however, came with a shock defeat to Zvezda-2005 in the semi-finals of the UEFA Women's Cup, with the Russians now set to face FCR 2001 Duisburg in next month's showpiece.

Their German opponents, who conquered Lyon in the last four, also find themselves embroiled in a thrilling Bundesliga race, one in which reigning champions 1. FFC Frankfurt are in grave danger of being left behind. With only four matchdays left, and Frankfurt having lost talisman Birgit Prinz to a broken rib, it is Bayern Munich - without a title in 33 years - who are the surprise pacesetters, leading Turbine Potsdam and Duisburg by three and four points respectively.

The race for domestic honours is even more closely-run in England, where Everton are offering a sustained challenge to serial champions Arsenal. With the contenders locked together on 55 points, and the Toffees still with a game in hand, the destination of the championship could well be decided when the Gunners - chasing their sixth successive league crown - visit Merseyside on 10 May.

National teams
Fresh from beating Germany and USA en route to glory at last month's Algarve Cup, Sweden confirmed their status as 2009's team to watch with an accomplished 3-1 friendly win over Brazil. Still smarting from their failure to survive the group stage at the 2007 FIFA Women's World Cup, the Swedes appear re-energised ahead of August's UEFA Women's Championship, and came from behind to see off the South Americans in front of 12,257 fans in Gothenburg.

If that attendance was impressive, the near-45,000 crowd that clicked through the turnstiles to watch Germany reprise their China 2007 final against Brazil was positively spectacular. The fans were amply rewarded by a fine, evenly-matched encounter, with the 1-1 draw and remarkable public enthusiasm boding extremely well for the 2011 Women's World Cup.

The road to Germany is already underway in Asia, meanwhile, where Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan have made the early running in AFC's pre-qualifiers. Other 2011 hopefuls have also been stating their intent with resounding friendly wins, among them England, who followed up their victory in the Cyprus Cup with a comprehensive 3-0 win over Norway. The line-up for the UEFA U-19 Women's Championship has also been completed over the past month, with Sweden, Germany, Iceland, Norway, France, England and Switzerland joining hosts Belarus in the 12 May draw.

Development
Asia and Oceania provided the setting for a busy month of FIFA development activity. April's programme began in Jordan, where a women's seminar was quickly followed by a hugely successful course for the region's coaches. The South Pacific island of Vanuatu then played to another well-received coaching course before the focus returned to Asia, with Vietnam welcoming a FIFA team to assess its female grassroots and youth development projects.

The number
44,825 - the record crowd that packed into the Frankfurter Arena to watch Germany and Brazil play out a 1-1 draw.

The quote
"I came here to be one piece of the puzzle. I didn't come to be a star. [Los Angeles] is a wonderful place to live and the climate is great. I hope to be here for a long time," Marta on life at Los Angeles Sol.