There can be little doubt that women's football is on the up and up and, with clubs attracting fans from all over the world and the FIFA Women's World Cup Germany 2011™ on the horizon, the sport is beginning to receive the recognition it deserves.
In this, the second of FIFA.com's new monthly feature with all the latest news from the women's football scene, the focus is on newly crowned UEFA Women's Cup winners FCR 2001 Duisburg and the long-awaited comeback of USA star Abby Wambach.
The club team of the moment are unquestionably German high-fliers Duisburg, who celebrated the biggest success of their short history when crowned queens of Europe last week. A 1-1 home draw in the UEFA Cup final second leg was enough to see off Russian outfit Zvezda-2005 thanks to a sensational 6-0 win in the first leg in Kazan, which featured an impressive hat-trick from German international striker Inka Grings.
On the domestic scene, however, Duisburg have been off the pace somewhat with surprise leaders Bayern Munich in line for the league title. With one matchday remaining, the women's faction of Germany's most successful club are ahead of Turbine Potsdam on goal difference at the top of the table. The Bavarian outfit also crucially have a game in hand, against third-placed Duisburg, which promises to be an absolute thriller. Can Gunter Worle's charges can go one better than Franck Ribery and Co and bring a trophy to the south-east German metropolis this season?
Munich might have missed out on a male-female title celebration, but FC Zurich achieved just such a double, with Susanne Gubler's women's side winning the 14th Swiss championship of their history to emulate the achievements of the club's men.
Meanwhile in England, Arsenal Ladies continue their domination of the Women's Premier League, picking up their sixth title in a row following a 1-0 away victory over Everton. In doing so, the Lady Gunners completed an astonishing treble, having already lifted the FA Cup and the League Cup trophies this season. It was a fitting farewell for coach Vic Akers, who stands down after 22 years at the helm. "We've won ten league titles now, but this one was the most special because we lost so many players at the start of the season," said captain Faye White. Indeed, Arsenal had to reshuffle their tactics significantly after England superstar Kelly Smith's pre-season departure for the USA.
Across the pond, Los Angeles Sol still appear to be in a league of their own. The team built around reigning FIFA Women's World Player Marta have already opened up a six-point gap at the top just eight games into the WPS league season. Having suffered just one defeat so far, which came against Smith's Boston Breakers, the title favourites are looking imperious their quest for glory, including a 2-0 win over fellow Californians FC Gold Pride in their most recent fixture. Meanwhile, at the top of the scorers' charts, Marta and Smith are currently leading the way with four goals apiece.
The United States women's national team are the yardstick by which all other international sides are measured, with the reigning Olympic champions currently atop the FIFA/Coca-Cola Women's World Rankings. Captained by Christie Rampone, the Stars and Stripes proved they will be a force to be reckoned with at Germany 2011 after a thumping 4-0 victory over neighbours Canada.
Shannon Boxx, Megan Rapinoe, Lindsay Tarpley and Lauren Cheney all got on the scoresheet in Toronto, while Abby Wambach made her long-awaited comeback after ten months out injured. The only dampener for the diminutive striker was failing to score her 100th international goal, although the Washington Freedom player will hope to put that right in front of her hometown fans in Rochester (NY) in the forthcoming rematch against the Canucks.
Denmark, meanwhile, suffered a major blow ahead of this summer's UEFA Women's EURO in Finland when Merete Pedersen announced her international retirement with immediate effect. The 35-year-old striker amassed a total of 136 caps and 65 goals in Danish colours during an international career that spanned 16 years. "If she gets her motivation back, then I am only a phone call away," was the response of national team coach Kenneth Heiner-Moller.
With this August/September's continental showpiece in mind, a new exhibition about the women's game has been opened at the Sports Museum of Finland, Helsinki. The exhibition, which showcases the development of the sport in the host nation, will be open until the end of September.
28,112 - The number of fans who packed Duisburg's MSV-Arena for the UEFA Cup final, a new tournament record.
"Vic had a vision for women's football and he worked 24/7 to make his vision a reality." England international Faye White pays tribute to derparting Arsenal manager Vic Akers.