Intriguing personalities to look for at the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup

One of the realities of the Women’s World Cup is that many of these competitors will be looked upon as sex symbols. Although it may present a point of tension among some, the number of web pages devoted to the most attractive female footballers is in significant abundance. Perhaps it is not so wrong to celebrate the beauty of these women, but it is essential to recognize and acknowledge their sporting abilities. Beauty aside, these are truly some of the world’s most talented footballers and could easily hold their own against several men’s teams. Their opportunity to compete on a global scale may lead to a much greater appreciation of their contributions to the Beautiful Game.

Megan Rapinoe

Appearing in the 2014 edition of the ESPN Body Issue

Appearing in the 2014 edition of the ESPN Body Issue

A member of the Seattle Reign, Rapinoe’s soccer resume also includes stints with the Chicago Red Stars, Philadelphia Independence and France’s Olympique Lionnaise. Her breakthrough moment occurred at the 2011 edition of the FIFA Women’s World Cup. Trailing against Brazil, her cross to Abby Wambach tied the game, sparking the greatest comeback in US soccer history.

The following year, she would accumulate seven points (including a Goal Olimpico) in a gold medal effort at the 2012 London Summer Games. Such momentum led to a pair of remarkable milestones in 2013. Not only was she recognized as the Best Player of the Algarve Cup, she earned an assist on Abby Wambach’s record-breaking goal in international play with 159. Said assist occurred in a friendly against South Korea on June 20.

Considering that Rapinoe is a strong supporter of several LGBT organizations, having come out in July 2012, she may become the focus of attention for several members of the media looking to write positive pieces about players with same-sex preferences. An ambassador for Athlete Ally, an organization determined to end homophobia in sport, her status as world-class soccer player may help increase awareness. Currently in a relationship with musician Sera Cahoone, a World Cup title would be the perfect complement to an outstanding career.

Anouk Hoodendijk (Netherlands)

Taking part in a photoshoot for Nike

Taking part in a photoshoot for Nike

An 11-year veteran of the Dutch national women’s team, her presence shall be one based on leadership. In her international career, scoring the game-winning kick in the penalty shootout against France may have stood as a career highlight. Of note, it helped the Netherlands advance to the semi-finals of the Women’s Euro 2009.

A lifelong supporter of the Dutch powerhouse Ajax Vrouwen, the club established a female team in May 2012. The opportunity to compete for the squad in their inaugural season was a cherished moment in her career. Having also been signed by the Arsenal Ladies (England), she never suited up for the squad.

Julia Simic (Germany)

Julia Simic

Julia Simic

Simic is a product of Germany’s player development, having competed with their U18 and U23 teams. From both German and Crotian descent, she is a competitor with VfL Wolfsburg, a championship team from the Women’s Bundesliga, she is signed through 2017. In anticipation of the 2011 FIFA Women’s World Cup, Simic was among five female soccer players that appeared in a partial state of undress in the pages of German Playboy.

Jessica Landstrom (Sweden)

Having scored a goal in her debut for the Swedish national team (November 8, 2007), Landstrom is aiming for another podium finish in Canada. At the 2011 edition of the FIFA Women’s World Cup, Sweden earned a bronze medal, one of the highlights in her proud career. Influenced by elite strikers such as Lotta Schelin and Victoria Sandell Svensoon, Landstrom wants to stake her claim as the next of the elites.

Currently, a member of Sky Blue FC, Landstrom has also played in Germany. Ironically, she holds a unique connection with a current member of the US national team. Having established herself as a star in the Swedish league, American-born Christen
Press departed Goteborg FC, only to be replaced by Landstrom.

Back in 2008, Landstrom also came out, expressing her same-sex preference. At a time when many athletes were not comfortable disclosing such information, she helped open the door for other athletes to do so. Also a highly educated individual, Landstrom possesses a master’s degree in mechanical engineering.

Érika Cristiano dos Santos (Brazil)

CALENDÁRIO DO CENTENÁRIO DO SANTOS FC - Érika,  jogadora do Santos FC, durante lançamento do calendário do centenário e da coleção moda praia do clube. O calendário é um ensaio sensual das jogadoras santistas e é datado de abril de 2011 até abril de 2012, quando o Santos FC completará 100 anos. - Estádio Urbano Caldeira (Vila Belmiro) - Santos - SP - Brasil - 13/04/2011 - Foto: Ricardo Saibun/Gazeta Press

CALENDÁRIO DO CENTENÁRIO DO SANTOS FC – Érika, jogadora do Santos FC, durante lançamento do calendário do centenário e da coleção moda praia do clube. O calendário é um ensaio sensual das jogadoras santistas e é datado de abril de 2011 até abril de 2012, quando o Santos FC completará 100 anos. – Estádio Urbano Caldeira (Vila Belmiro) – Santos – SP – Brasil – 13/04/2011 – Foto: Ricardo Saibun/Gazeta Press

Providing the Brazilian contingent with a talent that can complement those of Marta, de los Santos is a rising star in the game. Competing with Centro Olímpico, she contributed to Brazil capturing the silver medal at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

Possessing the versatility to play both forward and defense, de los Santos will likely log a significant amount of playing time. Her sex appeal with fans may raise her to an unforeseen level of popularity or media interest. A few seasons ago, her club team in Brazil donned a fashion runway wearing tiny swimsuits. With a confidence that could be interpreted as empowering, de los Santos captured the imaginations of those in attendance with her stunning appearance in a black and white number.

Of note, this year’s World Cup does not mark the first time that dos Santos competes in North America. During 2009, she competed in the now-defunct Women’s Professional Soccer with FC Gold Pride.

In World Cup play, dos Santos is looking for redemption. Having faked an injury during an emotional quarterfinal loss against the United States, she was shown the yellow card. It led to a downward spiral in her career, where she missed two years with the Brazilian national team due to injury.

Corine Franco (France)

Featured in the French version of Self Magazine (Photo credit: Getty Images)

Featured in the French version of Self Magazine (Photo credit: Getty Images)

As the veteran leader of the French national team, Corine Franco wants to ensure that France does not endure another fourth place finish which befell them in a loss to Canada at the 2012 London Summer Games. Compounding such a loss was the fact that France also finished in fourth at the 2011 FIFA Women’s World Cup.

The team captain of Olympic Lyon, she has competed in almost 90 international games for the French national team. Serving as the captain for France’s entry into the 2015 World Cup, the determination for a podium finish is stronger than ever. As a side note, she was one of three footballers from the French national team to appear in a complete state of undress for Self Magazine. Photographed by Getty Images, the images showcased the confidence of these athletic women to appear in such a manner.

Sydney Leroux and Lauren Sesselmann
Considering the rivalry that exists between Canada and the United States in women’s soccer, it is an anomaly of sorts to see a pair of players competing for the opposite country. Should these two countries cross paths in the elimination matches at this year’s World Cup, there is no question that their allegiances shall make for an interesting story with members of the media.

Born in British Columbia, Leroux is a competitor for the United States national team. Having captured the gold medal at the 2012 London Summer Games, it only added to the bitter taste that Canadians felt after a controversial loss to the US in the semi-finals. When Nike revealed the new uniforms for the US team a few weeks ago, Leroux was one of the players who modeled them.

Having been ranked by many sports websites as one of the most beautiful competitors at the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup, Sesselman’s popularity is bound to increase. With a very strong following on social media, the irony of her career with Canada’s national team is that she was born in Wisconsin. Canadian sports fans who were not familiar with soccer quickly became interested after seeing her and fellow teammates Emily Zurrer looking stunning in swimsuits in Sportsnet Magazine’s Beauty of Sport edition.

Hope Solo

Despite a brilliant career complemented by so many remarkable achievements, the great tragedy of Hope Solo’s career is the controversy that has defined it. Although some criticisms may not be fair comment, the sad reality is that Solo will likely have to tolerate it for the remainder of her career. Considered one of the world’s most beautiful female soccer players, Solo has graced the cover of popular magazines such as ESPN, Newsweek and Vogue. There is no question that the media spotlight shall shine brightly on Solo, who is looking to help the US avenge its second place finish at the 2011 edition of the World Cup.

Marta Vieira da Silva (Brazil)

Photo credit: Paulo Fridman / Corbis. Soccer

Photo credit: Paulo Fridman / Corbis. Soccer

Quite possibly the world’s greatest female soccer player, a World Cup championship would cement Marta’s sterling legacy. Taking into account that Brazil is one of the world superpowers in soccer, fans have been disappointed that its female stars have not been able to emulate their male counterparts on the world’s biggest soccer stages. Having won a champion with the Western New York Flash in WPS play, Marta is accustomed to big game situations. With a much improved supporting cast on the Brazilian squad, it would come as no surprise to see Marta competing in Vancouver.

Abby Wambach

Abby Wambach on 1 of 4 variant covers for Sports Illustrated's 2015 World Cup coverage

Abby Wambach on 1 of 4 variant covers for Sports Illustrated’s 2015 World Cup coverage

If any player may be considered the villain of the World Cup, it might be Abby Wambach. In criticizing the use of artificial turf at all of the Canadian venues for the event, it struck a media firestorm.

Faking into account the rivalry between Canada and the United States, Wambach may be booed in the preliminary matches. The tensions were understandable as the upcoming World Cup shall be the first (including the men’s edition) that shall be played exclusively on artificial turf.

Having scored more goals than any other player in the history of the US women’s program (178), a Women’s World Cup title is the only accolade eluding her. Possessing two Summer Games gold medals, she has also won an ESPY Award for Best Play. This past April, she appeared on American Idol, offering Ryan Seacrest a US jersey and the chance to be a waterboy for the women’s team.

Controversy aside, Wambach is definitely the veteran leader of this United States team and her goal is to lead the US to its first World Cup title since hosting the event in 1999.

Christine Sinclair

A jubilant Sinclair inducted into Canada's Walk of Fame in 2013 (Photo credit: Michelle Siu, Canadian Press)

A jubilant Sinclair inducted into Canada’s Walk of Fame in 2013 (Photo credit: Michelle Siu, Canadian Press)

If the 2012 London Summer Games were Christine Sinclair’s coming out party, then the 2015 edition of the FIFA Women’s World Cup is a remarkable appreciation tour. With the event being hosted in her native Canada, Sinclair has become one of the most influential athletes, male or female, in Canada’s sporting conversation. Since the London Summer Games, female soccer players have started to garner the attention and celebrity status once reserved for Canada’s female hockey heroes. Should Canada claim the World Cup, it would be safe to assume that Sinclair’s strong leadership would make her the choice to claim the Lou Marsh Trophy, honoring the Canadian athlete of the year.

Lauren Sesselmann earning superstar status with Canadian national soccer team

As euphoria builds in Canada towards the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup of Soccer, the true victory is the growing recognition of its female soccer stars. While team captain Christine Sinclair is a household name, akin to Canadian women’s hockey legend Hayley Wickenheiser, the remainder of the roster is earning its well-deserved time in the spotlight.

Among the players who star status is rising rapidly is the stunning Lauren Sesselmann. Having won gold with Canada at the 2011 Pan-Am Games and a bronze medal at the 2012 London Summer Games, she has been part of a golden era in Canadian women’s soccer. With a captivating personality and girl next door looks, she continues to capture the imagination of soccer fans, both novice and familiar.

Image obtained from

Image obtained from

The most unique aspect about Sesselmann is the fact that she is an American-born player. Raised in Wisconsin, her father was born on a military base in Newfoundland, Canada. Of note, Sesselmann would only acquire her Canadian citizenship in 2010 earning her first cap for the Canadian national team on September 17, 2011. Ironically, the rival American soccer team features Sidney Leroux, a Canadian-born player from British Columbia.

Having played at the NCAA level with the Purdue Boilermakers, Sesselmann would compete at the professional level with six different teams. Selected 44th overall in the 2009 WPS Draft by the Chicago Red Stars, she would also be claimed by the Houston Dash in the 2014 NWSL Expansion Draft.

Appearing in Sportsnet Magazine's Beauty of Sport edition

Appearing in Sportsnet Magazine’s Beauty of Sport edition

Her first experience in Canadian popular culture stemmed from an appearance in Sportsnet Magazine’s Beauty of Sport edition. Along with national team member Kaylyn Kyle and Emily Zurrer, this beautiful trio were featured in a swimsuit photo shoot in Las Vegas. Although the photo shoot gained a new legion of fans and admirers, the upcoming World Cup is a chance to appreciate her talents on the field.

Testament to her growing popularity and celebrity status in Canada is a promising acting career. Appearing in The X-Species, a Canadian-produced film directed by Neko Sparks to be released later this year, it stands as her second acting credit. Last year, she played the role of Faith in the film Dark Awakening, which starred Jason Cook and Lance Henriksen. There is no question that the camera loves Sesselmann and vice-versa.

Complementing her budding acting career is an exercise DVD that can be purchased from her website Fit As A Pro. Conceived in the aftermath of the 2012 London Summer Games, she shares her own innovative training program. Titled Five 10-Minute Full Body Workouts for SMALL SPACES, she looks to provide guidance and consult individuals looking to get fit without any equipment needed.

Taking into account that the 20th Century saw male athletes such as Jim Brown, Chuck Connors, Frank Gifford and Joe Namath make the transition from actor to athlete, Sesselmann is setting a precedent. Over the years, several female athletes have balanced modeling careers; therefore, Sesselmann may launch a new trend that sees other female athletes consider an acting career.

Considering the hypnotic impact that hockey holds over Canadian culture, women like Sesselmann are making a strong case for soccer to be part of such inclusion. While a victory in the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup would represent a remarkable milestone for Sesselmann and her teammates, her growing impact as a role model, sex symbol and pop culture icon are raising the awareness of women’s soccer in Canada.

Members of Canada’s bronze medal winning soccer team turn heads in Sportsnet Magazine

After making history with the Canadian women’s soccer team at the London 2012 Summer Games, Kaylyn Klye, Lauren Sesselmann and Emily Zurrer are ready for their close-up. The trio was featured in Sportsnet Magazine’s Beauty of Sports issue. With the soccer contingent winning Canada’s first medal in a Summer Games team sport this century, Canadian sports fans have a new group of heroes to cheer for.

Kaylyn Klye, Emily Zurrer and Lauren Sesselmann

Kaylyn Klye, Emily Zurrer and Lauren Sesselmann

Flown to Las Vegas, photographer Matt Barnes captured their captivating beauty throughout various Vegas venues. Kaylyn Klye, a 24-year old from Saskatoon was part of the Canadian team that also captured the gold medal at the 2011 Pan Am Games. Photographed at the Moorea Beach Club, Mandalay Bay and the Dolphin Habitat at The Mirage, Kyle modeled swimsuits from BCBGMAXAZRIA, Victoria’s Secret and Under Armour.

Originally hailing from Green Bay, Wisconsin, Lauren Sesselmann is a member of the red and white. At 29, she brings a veteran presence to the pitch. Like Kyle, she was also part of the 2011 Pan Am gold medalists. Like Kyle, some of her shots were taken at the Moorea Beach Club and the Dolphin Habitat at The Mirage, while the remainder was at Siegfried and Roy’s Secret Garden. In addition to swimsuits from Victoria’s Secret and Cascata, she modeled accessories from H&M, along with Target.

Emily Zurrer brings a Pacific flavor to the trio. Hailing from Crofton, British Columbia, the 26 year-old was adorned in Victoria’s Secret at the Moorea, while featuring accessories from Ray-Ban and H&M. She is also a teammate of Kyle’s with the Seattle Reign. Professionally, her career also included stops in Sweden (Dalsjofors GoIF), Germany (SG Essen-Schonebeck) and with Vancouver Whitecaps.

As a student at the University of Illinois, she was a three-time All-America selection, along with three nods to the All-Big Ten team. Like Kyle, she also has a charitable side which was evident in her involvement with Illinois’ Hometown Heroes program.

With a career that has included 50 caps with the Canadian National Team; she made her debut on July 3, 2004 at the tender age of 16. In a friendly against the United States, she played with legendary Canadian player Charmaine Hooper.

It would take another seven years before Zurrer would score her first goal for Canada. As part of a first place performance at the 2011 Cyprus Cup, it would prove to be an event to remember. Said goal was scored in a 1-0 triumph over Scotland. She would follow it up with the game-winning goal against Netherlands to clinch first place.

Born in Wisconsin, Lauren Sesselmann is a versatile player that can handle the forward and defender positions. As her father was born in Newfoundland (her mother was born in Michigan), she would claim Canadian citizenship in 2010. Although her first cap for Canada came at the age of 28, her veteran presence showed as she competed in the full 90 minutes.

Growing up, she admired Michelle Akers and Mia Hamm and would help her high school to a state championship. From 2001 to 2005, she would compete for Purdue University Boilermakers. After her collegiate career, she would hold six program records. Like Zurrer, she was also selected to the First Team All-Big Ten.

Professionally, she would compete with various franchises in the United States while accumulating 14 goals. Starring with FC Indiana in the W-League, she later moved on to the Atlanta Beat (where Hope Solo was a teammate) in Women’s Professional Soccer. This year, she is a member of FC Kansas City in the newly formed National Women’s Soccer League.

While she was also selected as the Sports Babe of the Day on the popular female sports site Babes Dig Balls, Kaylyn Kyle has a compassion that encompasses her inner beauty.

Serving as a Right To Play Ambassador, Kyle’s commitment in ensuring that the values of the best practices of sport and play can reach those in less fortunate parts of the world is a strong passion. In 2009, she was part of a fund raising effort with the National Team in which every goal scored and every shutout earned would result in a donation to Right to Play.

As a teenager, she competed with the University of Saskatchewan and made her debut for the national team in 2008 as a 19 year-old. Professionally, Kyle has competed with the Vancouver Whitecaps of the W-League (where Zurrer was a teammate in 2010), Pieta IF in Sweden’s Damallsvenskan and is a current member of the Seattle Reign in the NWSL.

While the 2012 London Summer Games was the coming-out party for Kyle, she paid her dues by representing Canada in two Under-20 World Cups. In 2008, FIFA’s Under-20 Technical Study Group noted she had excellent awareness of defensive duties, good timing of passes and composure in possession. She is one of only 26 women that have played in at least 50 games for Canada.

Looking as comfortable in a swimsuit as she does in a soccer jersey, it may come as no surprise that fashion is another of her great interests. With ambitions to be involved in the fashion industry once she hangs up her jersey for good, there is no question that the camera loves Kyle.

Photo credit to Matt Barnes

Sportsnet Magazine’s Beauty in Sport Issue captures the essence with several captivating athletes

With photo shoots ranging throughout Canada and a rigorous five day shoot in Las Vegas, Sportsnet Magazine released its second annual Beauty in Sport issue. Although some critics could dismiss the publication as competition for the ESPN Body Issue, the reality is that both give the opportunity to spotlight female athletes who toil in anonymity for little recognition.

As Sportsnet is a Canadian periodical published by Rogers, the athletes featured between the covers are all Canadian. With 28 athletes featured, 19 are female. While even the most dedicated sports fan would have difficulty identifying the names of the female athletes (and the sport they compete in), their beauty and sex appeal is only part of the package.

The one common factor among all athletes is injuries, and bumps and bruises were evident with some of the athletes. X-Games world champion Kelsey Serwa arrived with a swollen knee due to surgery. Canadian soccer sweethearts Kaylyn Klye and Emily Zurrer both had scrapes up to their thighs.

In being an athlete, the commitment involved takes great desire, and the discipline and dedication required is a unique quality. Their hard work and character displays a very strong, rugged yet admirable inner beauty that makes them role models for all athletes, male or female.

While publisher Steve Maich acknowledged that it was different working with athletes because they were not models, he was also quick to acknowledge that all the athletes were likeable people. Although many of the female athletes are not household names, there was a few that certainly left their mark in the world of sport.

Competing in the cross-country mountain biking competition at London 2012, Brooklin, Ontario’s Emily Batty was the cover girl for the issue. The blonde beauty did not medal at London, but she certainly captured the hearts and minds of many sports fans with her magnetic smile on the cover.

Three females were gold medalists at the 2010 Vancouver Winter Games; Kallie Humphries, Tessa Virtue and Meaghan Mikkelson. While all three come from very different sporting backgrounds – bobsleigh, ice dancing and ice hockey – all three are authentic Canadian heroes.

Mikk Meaghan Mikkelson

Another trio of heroes highlighted the females featured in the Beauty of Sport. A tantalizing trio of members from Canada’s soccer team that gained bronze at the 2012 London Summer Games was photographed in Las Vegas. Featuring Kaylyn Klye, Lauren Sesselmann and Emily Zurrer, all three donned their swimsuits while a dolphin would leap in the background behind them.

Rugby teammates Barbara Mervin and Brittany Waters also exchanged their shorts and jerseys for swimsuits. Mervin, 31 and Waters, 30 are also members of the British Columbia provincial rugby team. The dynamic duo was photographed together at the MGM Grand and the Neon Museum.

Barbara Mervin and Brittany Waters

Barbara Mervin and Brittany Waters

Of note, Mervin is accustomed to the camera. Having played with the national team since 2004, she was also part of a nude calendar in 2012 that featured members of Canada’s women’s rugby team.

While she leaves enough for the imagination, it is important to emphasize that Swervin Mervin (as she is affectionately known) is more than just beautiful. There is an even greater beauty beneath the surface. Having transitioned from 15s to 7s, she spends a remarkable five hours a day in training. She is an empowering woman whose great sense of teamwork, assistance with summer camps and coaching at the University of Victoria comprise makes her a role model for young women looking to get into sport.

Of all the athletes that ventured down to Las Vegas, the most unique may have been Summer Mortimer.
Mortimer Summer Mortimer

After a trampoline accident caused significant damage to the bones in her feet, she displayed great courage by learning to swim again. Having won four medals at the 2012 London Paralympic Games, she was one of Canada’s sweethearts at the event. Along with five world records in para-swimming, she was also named an Athlete Ambassador for the 2015 Toronto Parapan Games. Appropriately, she grew up near Toronto in Burlington. At 20 years old, not only does she conduct herself with a quiet dignity and grace that makes her an admirable athlete, but she was one of the youngest athletes featured in the publication.

While she is the first paralympic athlete to appear in the Beauty of Sport, it is worth noting that the ESPN Body Issue has also featured physically challenged athletes. As Swimming World Magazine stated in a review of Mortimer appearing in the issue, athletes are not only a vision of health, but these kinds of photo shoots promote a healthy lifestyle and set a positive example.

Six other athletes were photographed at Las Vegas. Among the group, it included volleyball player Claire Hanna, a three-time CIS national champion with the UBC Thunderbirds. Forty year-old curler Heather Smith-Dacey and Kelsey Serwa, who competed in the Ski Cross at the 2010 Vancouver Winter Games was photographed at Red Rock Canyon.

World Cup skeleton champion Melissa Hollingsworth, a bronze medalist from the Torino Winter Games was photographed at the MGM Grand. Joining her at the venue was 2012 FIS World Cup gold medal skier Erin Mielzynski.

Four other athletes from this remarkable group of women were photographed in Toronto. A pair of track and field sensations, Brianne Theisen and Phylicia George was photographed at Monarch Park. George finished in the 100 meter hurdles at London 2012, while Theisen competed in the Heptathlon.
Sarah Wells, a competitor in the 400-meter hurdles at London 2012 modeled Nike (like George) for her photo shoot. Taylor Pischke, a beach volleyball player with six Canadian national titles was photographed wearing Miss Jackson swimwear at Ashbridges Bay.

Credit goes to Maich who acknowledged that compared to other countries, Canada needed to do a better job at elevating their athletes to star status. While fans may already be anticipating the 2014 edition, there is no question that the athletes featured are helping to shed a positive light on Canadian sport.

Photos of Summer Mortimer, Barbara Mervin and Brittany Waters and Meaghan Mikkelson by Matt Barnes