ORLANDO - There will be a significant UCF representation at the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup in Australia and New Zealand this summer, as three Knights are set to embark on the world's biggest stage. Two former athletes, Kathellen Sousa (Brazil) and Konya Palmer (Jamaica) will make their second World Cup appearance, while freshman Genesis Perez-Watson (Costa Rica) becomes the second player in program history to compete in the World Cup during her Knights tenure.
The United States will look to become the first nation in Women’s World Cup history to win three consecutive titles. The federations staff will have a familiar face as former National Team player and current UCF women’s soccer head coach, Tiffany Roberts Sahaydak, will serve as an assistant with the squad.
It will mark the second consecutive tournament with at least three or more former or current Knights to feature, as Sousa and Plummer were joined by Sophie Howard (Scotland) and Aline Reis (Brazil) in 2019 in France.
The tournament will run from July 20 to August 20, with Australia and New Zealand set to become the first dual hosts. Thirty-two nations will be split into eight groups and the 2023 edition will be the first to adopt a similar format as the men’s tournament. With 10 venues in nine host cities, it’s shaping up to be one of the strongest tournaments since its inception in 1991.
FOX Sports will cover all 64 matches on its family of networks.
KONYA PLUMMER (Jamaica): Years (2018-19) | Team (Unattached) | WC Appearance (Second)
- Sunday (7/23): France | 6 a.m. | TV (FOX) | Sydney, Australia (Sydney Football Stadium)
- Saturday (7/29): Panama | 8:30 a.m. | TV (FOX) | Perth, Australia (Perth Rectangular Stadium)
- Wednesday (8/2): Brazil | 6 a.m. | TV (FS1) | Melbourne, Australia (AAMI Park)
*All Times in EST*
After becoming the youngest captain at the 2019 FIFA World Cup as she led a Jamaican squad that had become the first Caribbean nation to qualify for the women’s tournament, Konya Plummer returns to the fold following an eventful four years.
With her selection by the Orlando Pride in 2020 as the 10th overall pick, Plummer became the first Jamaican-born player drafted in NWSL history. After her transfer from Southeastern University (NAIA) to UCF ahead of the 2018 campaign, Plummer became an integral part of the Knights backline. While recording nine appearances in her junior year, she was in the process of anchoring the Reggae Girlz to qualification for the 2019 World Cup.
Following her historic occasion, Plummer returned to UCF prior to her final collegiate season with added experience. She was tabbed the American Athletic Conference Defender of the Year along with an inclusion on the All-Conference First Team as the season propelled her to be one of the higher-regarded names entering the 2020 NWSL Draft.
Appearing in seven matches for the Pride from 2020-2021, Plummer was eventually loaned to AIK in Sweden where she would go on to start six matches, notching four clean sheets. In 2022, she announced her pregnancy as she temporarily stepped away from the game. After the birth of her child, Plummer has been working to get back to full fitness, with her selection to the national team this year serving as a nod to her reputation and work ethic to battle back into contention.
Jamaica (Group F) will travel a total distance of 4,565 miles, the most of anyone in their group, as the Caribbean nation looks to become the first to gain a point at the World Cup after serving as the first representative to make an appearance on the big stage four years prior.
The Reggae Girlz will have their sights set on victory against Panama, as just one point against group favorites France and Brazil, paired with a victory on the July 29, could see Jamaica be the breakout team. Their final group stage match against Brazil will be a monumental occasion for many reasons; for UCF fans this will see two former Knights battle in Melbourne, Australia.
Brazilian Kathellen Sousa and Plummer will both potentially have a qualification to the knockout round on the line, with added attention to the match as soccer legend, Marta, could potentially be playing in her final international match.
KATHELLEN SOUSA (Brazil): Years (2017) | Team (Real Madrid) | WC Appearance (Second)
- Monday (7/24): Panama | 7 am | TV (FS1) | Adelaide, Australia (Hindmarsh Stadium)
- Saturday (7/29): France | 6 am | TV (FOX) | Brisbane, Australia (Lang Park)
- Wednesday (8/2): Jamaica | 6 am | TV (FS1) | Melbourne, Australia (AAMI Park)
*All Times in EST*
Earning her spot on one of the world’s strongest teams has been a constant reaffirmation of the talent former Knight Kethellen Sousa possesses. Set to embark on her second World Cup with the Brazilian squad, the Real Madrid star will look to advance past the round of 16 and into the final days of the tournament.
After two seasons with the 2014 NJCAA National Champions, Monroe College, and a year stint at Louisville, Sousa transferred to UCF for her final collegiate season in 2017. She made an instant impact with the Knights, transitioning into a center-back role as she was named the American Athletic Conference Co-Defensive Player of the Year and garnered a nod to the All-Conference First Team. The United Soccer Coaches Association All-Southeast Region First Team honoree played all 18 matches for the Black and Gold en route to the program's third AAC regular-season title.
Her first call-up for Brazil came in 2018 following a successful first season with FC Girondins de Bordeaux in France, which netted a two-year contract extension. Though Brazil eventually lost to France in a thrilling round of 16 tie at the 2019 World Cup, Sousa flourished after being tabbed a starter prior to the tournament, becoming the youngest player in the lineup. After a two-year stint at Inter Milan in Italy from 2020-22, she signed with Real Madrid in Spain ahead of the 2022-23 season where she became a regular feature for the European giants, making 26 appearances.
Brazil (Group F) has all the resources to make a deep run in this year’s tournament. Former United States head coach Pia Sundhage, who managed the federation from 2007-12, before then moving on to another successful period with Sweden from 2012-17, will experience her first World Cup leading the national team. As the golden generation of Brazilian soccer is heading toward retirement, this tournament will likely be the squad’s last chance to deliver its legend, Marta, the ultimate prize.
GENESIS PEREZ WATSON (Costa Rica): Years (2023-present) | Team (UCF) | WC Appearance (First)
- Friday (7/21): Spain | 3:30 am | TV (FS1) | Wellington, New Zealand (Wellington Regional Stadium)
- Wednesday (7/26): Japan | 1 am | TV (FS1) | Dunedin, New Zealand (Forsyth Barr Stadium)
- Monday, (7/31): Zambia | 3 am | TV (FS1) | Hamilton, New Zealand (Waikato Stadium)
*All Times in EST*
Though Knight Nation hasn’t received the opportunity to watch Genesis Perez Watson in person, the 19-year-old Costa Rica native is already garnering some incredible achievements. She will be the youngest Knight to compete at the World Cup ahead of the program's inaugural season in the Big 12 Conference. Perez Watson will join a strong goalkeeper room in the fall at UCF, as two-time AAC Goalkeeper of the Year Caroline DeLisle returns for her fifth season. After playing in every match for Costa Rica at the U20 World Cup, along with consistent features in the U17 squad, she will be ready when her number is called for the Central American Nation.
Costa Rica (Group C) has plenty of excitement surrounding the squad as it participates in the Women’s World Cup for only the second time. The team’s qualifying form was perfect, scoring 22 goals and registering a clean sheet in all four of its matches. Their group consists of two World Cup regulars, Spain and Japan, along with Zambia who will be making its first appearance. All four nations have reason to be excited, especially Spain, which boasts one of the best odds to win the tournament.