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Chelsea boss Emma Hayes: England better than U.S. for women's game

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LONDON -- England has overtaken the United States as the best place in the world to play women's football, according to Chelsea manager Emma Hayes.

Women's football has traditionally been dominated by the U.S., who have won three of the sport's seven World Cups and will go into the 2019 edition in France as defending champions, while the National Women's Soccer League (NWSL) has regularly attracted some of the world's best players.

But the profile of the Women's Super League, England's top flight, has risen dramatically since its formation in 2011, leading to an influx of top foreign talent. Hayes pointed to this as a sign that England has surpassed the U.S. as the world leader in the growth of the women's game.

"We are setting the tone, the trend, the way in the world. It's always been about America but sorry, they lag behind us now. Yes, there may be a little more equality in terms of the teams they have in their league, the support the players get, but the interest in the game [here] is growing," Hayes said at a news conference to preview Chelsea's clash with Paris Saint-Germain in the Women's Champions League quarterfinals.

"It's a snowball, and I can't see anybody getting in the way of England becoming the best place in the world to play football."

Hayes began her illustrious coaching career in the U.S., spending five years in charge of the Long Island Lady Riders and Iona College before becoming Arsenal assistant manager in 2006, and also enjoyed a two-year spell in charge of NWSL side Chicago Red Stars prior to taking the reigns at Chelsea in 2012.

Hayes also believes that a three-year sponsorship deal with Barclays announced this week -- reported to be worth around £10 million -- shows a growing interest in the women's game in England.

"Tell me a league in the world in the women's game that can attract a sponsor like that and the level of investment?" she asked. "It's absolutely brilliant and credit to them.

"This will be the best league -- if it's not already -- in the world, and I think this announcement [Barclays sponsoring the WSL] demonstrates that we've got the pulling power to bring the very best to our league and, importantly, to put their money in the right places," she added. "The work that's been done here in the last five years should be celebrated... it's unbelievable, such a great news story for our country, and one that I'm sure America will look at and say, 'How do we keep pace with that?'

"The best players aren't going to America. They're staying in Europe, and in fact they're coming to England."