What to Look Forward to in Sports 2023
We look back at the years through milestones, both personal and those that represent hobbies we are passionate about. This article celebrates the latter for millions of people. Sports can unite the world and provide something to look forward to. Here are some of the storylines I look forward to going into 2023.
Men’s World Cup Aftermath: Messi’s Next Challenge
The 2022 FIFA World Cup culminated with Lionel Messi lifting the trophy following Argentina’s victory over France on penalties. This third World Cup win moves Argentina past France and Uruguay with 2 each into 4th most World Cup wins, trailing Brazil (5), Germany, and Italy (4 each). The World Cup trophy was the last piece of silverware missing in Messi’s impressive collection and now the 35 year old has his sights set on winning PSG’s first Champions League. Whether or not he’ll return for the 2026 World Cup to be held in North America is a mystery, but you can bet on Kylian Mbappe leading France on a revenge mission at that point. Mbappe just turned 24 a week ago, and with 12 World Cup goals to his name already, he is set to break that record at his next attempt. As for the rest of the field, Neymar’s next chance to win something with Brazil will be the 2024 Copa America. England, Netherlands, Spain, Portugal and co. will have Euro Championship qualifiers soon.
Premier League: Arsenal’s Title Charge
Other than Newcastle United, no Premier League club wanted the World Cup break less than Arsenal. The Gunners were stellar through the first 14 games of the season, and now the challenge will be keeping Manchester City at bay. The striker situation is worth monitoring, as Manchester City have a rested and prolific Erling Haaland powered by Kevin de Bruyne’s assists. Arsenal are heavily linked with a striker signing in the January transfer window with Gabriel Jesus out injured, but the rest of their attacking options Martin Odegaard, Gabriel Martinelli, and Bukayo Saka are strong. If Arsenal can survive their tough January schedule, their title challenge can no longer be downplayed. Newcastle United’s surge puts pressure on the other big clubs Tottenham, Manchester United, Liverpool, and Chelsea to push for the Champions League
Women’s World Cup: USWNT’s Toughest Field Yet
Australia and New Zealand will cohost the 2023 World Cup this summer as the field will expand from 24 to 32 teams. This will be a great opportunity for new national teams to showcase their talent, but they will be warned that the top tier opposition are increasing in number and strength. The USA must heed that warning too even if they are two-time defending and four-time overall World Cup champions. Their recent form as well as their Bronze Medal finish at the Tokyo Olympics indicate a team stuck in transition: holding on to some aging stars while some younger players need to step it up. Reigning European champions England, cohosts Australia, and olympic gold medalists Canada are among the top threats. Sweden, Germany, France, Spain, Netherlands, Brazil, and Japan are strong teams as well. This is a great time to follow women’s soccer both at the international level and at the club level (European leagues and NWSL).
Major League Soccer: A New LA Dynasty and Welcome St. Louis!
Carlos Vela and Gareth Bale led LAFC to their first MLS Cup triumph in 2022, a goal that was clearly set when the club began play in 2017. They are well aware though that their neighbors LA Galaxy are the lords of the rings in Major League Soccer, so they won’t be satisfied with just one. While MLS is known for its parity and rosters change a lot over the course of a season, LAFC have strength in depth to set them up for regular season and postseason success. Rivals LA Galaxy as well as challengers from Texas and Cascadia will try to stop a dynasty from happening, but as of now LAFC go into 2023 as the big dogs. MLS will also welcome their 29th club with St. Louis City SC joining the party. St. Louis is one of the most passionate soccer cities in the United States and with some other newcomers finding early success, they’re one to look out for.
UEFA Champions League: The PSG-Manchester City Curse
The Champions League remains the elusive goal for high spending Paris Saint-Germain and Manchester City. Their paths will go through Germany, although Manchester City will be the happier going against RB Leipzig (especially if Croatian World Cup star Josko Gvardiol is sold in January). If PSG are to keep their dreams alive, they’ll have to overcome the mighty Bayern Munich. Other contenders for Europe’s biggest prize are the record title holders Real Madrid followed by Liverpool and Napoli.
MLB: The Curious Case of Carlos Correa
Former Minnesota Twin Carlos Correa was one of the highest profile free agents this off-season, and all signs pointed to him signing with the San Francisco Giants. Due to a failed medical, that deal fell through in shocking fashion. The New York Mets swooped him and splashed the cash, but his fitness concerns arose again. The frequency and quality of Correa’s contributions in the 2023 season will determine who rises and falls in the National League.
NHL: Ovechkin Passed Howe, Eyes Gretzky
Washington Capital Alex Ovechkin scored his career goals 801 and 802 in a win over the Winnipeg Jets earlier this month, passing Gordie Howe for second on the all time list. The Great One Wayne Gretzky is the final boss sitting at 894, one of the toughest hills to climb in all of sports. If anyone can do it, Ovi can. Might take more than 2023 but it’s shaping up to be a fruitful calendar year at the rate he’s still going.
NCAA Basketball: South Carolina’s Reign and an Open Men’s Field
Dawn Staley’s South Carolina remains undefeated at the time of writing, and the chase pack of Stanford, Ohio State, Indiana, and Notre Dame will have their work cut out for them to challenge their dominance. South Carolina’s high power offense is led by likely 2023 WNBA number 1 draft pick Aaliyah Boston. On the men’s side, you can make an argument for Purdue, UConn, and Kansas as the front runners (the former two are undefeated) but Houston, Arizona, Texas, Arkansas, and Gonzaga are strong contenders as well. In years past there was one or two teams that stood out above the rest, but it’s going to be an epic battle come March.
NBA: Slow Start for the Golden State Warriors
The Boston Celtics had a rough first half to the 2021–22 season and then went on to reach the NBA Finals. With those memories in mind, the Golden State Warriors cannot be counted out. Klay Thompson, Draymond Green, and Jordan Poole have to keep things afloat while Stephen Curry and Andrew Wiggins recover from their injuries. If they can bottle up whatever powered their statement Christmas Day win over the Memphis Grizzlies and do that on a consistent basis, they’ll be back in business. In the meantime, the Nuggets, Suns, Pelicans, and Mavs are among the bigger threats in the West while the East’s heavyweights boast a strong lineup of Celtics, Bucks, 76ers, Nets, and Cavs.
NFL: AFC Bloodbath, NFC Eagles-49ers Collison Course
The Playoff Picture is taking shape as a chaotic and entertaining (except for most Prime Time games) regular season nears its conclusion. Questions of the Vikings and Cowboys’ playoff credentials persist, leading many to believe the NFC representative in the Super Bowl will be either the Eagles or 49ers. Both teams boast high powered offenses (despite the latter relying on third string QB Brock Purdy) and incredible defenses featuring elite players on all three levels. The Eagles could feature MVP Jalen Hurts and 49ers DPOY Nick Bosa if projections hold, which would set up an intriguing clash. But perhaps those predictions are premature. The AFC looks to be a more challenging proposition. The elite trio of Chiefs, Bills, and Bengals are the biggest threats, but the Chargers and Jaguars are getting hot at the right time. The Ravens can reinsert themselves into the conversation with a healthy Lamar Jackson.
College Football: And Then There Were Four
Defending champions Georgia Bulldogs join the Ohio State Buckeyes, Michigan Wolverines, and TCU Horned Frogs in what is a stacked field for the National Championship. Whichever way it plays out, we’ll have a good matchup for the final.
Retiring Legends Watch
Having said goodbye to Albert Pujols last season and JJ Watt announcing his retirement this week, that serves as a reminder that Lionel Messi, LeBron James, Tom Brady, and Alex Ovechkin are at the tail end of their careers. I am fortunate to be in my 20s and still have so many great athletes I grew up watching going at it, and hopefully 2023 won’t be the end for them. You get the feeling that the next few years will be a changing of the guard though. Time will tell…
I hope this article got you as excited for sports in 2023 as I am!