Houston's Michelle Alozie, Louisville's Thembi Kgatlana make their marks on NWSL

Morgan: This will be the best World Cup ever (1:11)

Alex Morgan talks about what this upcoming World Cup will do for women's soccer and what it means to play in her fourth World Cup for the USWNT. (1:11)

Although several star players are in camp preparing for the FIFA Women's World Cup in Australia and New Zealand (July 20-August 20), Michelle Alozie and Thembi Kgatlana starred for their respective sides in the NWSL.

There were also key contributions by African players not only at international level, but also for clubs in Sweden, Norway and Russia.

The dynamic Zambia duo of Racheal Kundananji and Barbra Banda gave the world a taste of what is to come in three weeks time.

Michelle Alozie, Houston Dash

After a staggered start to her Houston Dash career over the 2021 and 2022 seasons, Nigeria's Alozie has come into her own in the 2023 campaign and taken on a more influential role.

The 26-year-old, who can seamlessly slot into several positions, started on the wing and scored for the Dash in their 2-0 win over Orlando Pride.

The Super Falcons star started four of her team's five matches in June, only sitting out for the 3-0 NWSL Challenge Cup loss to Racing Louisville, which was their only defeat for the month.

Apart from the win over Orlando Pride, Alozie also started draws with Gotham FC, OL Reign and Angel City.

Rachael Kundananji, Madrid CFF

Kundananji carried her superb form at club level for Madrid CFF over to the Zambia national team as they continued their preparations for the World Cup.

The forward, who finished second in the Primera Iberdrola scoring charts, was on target in two warm-up matches in June, a 3-2 defeat to Ireland and a 3-3 draw with Switzerland.

She played second fiddle to Barbra Banda at the Tokyo Olympics, but Kundananji has shown over the past year that she is equally capable of carrying the flag for Zambia against the toughest opponents in world football.

Barbra Banda, Shanghai Shengli

Banda appears to be finding her best form once again with the World Cup just around the corner, playing an equally instrumental role to Kundananji in Zambia's warm-up matches.

The striker, who rose to fame with back-to-back hat-tricks at the Tokyo Olympics against the Netherlands and China, set up Kundananji's consolation goal against Ireland and was on the scoresheet herself against Switzerland.

Having been ruled out of the Women's Africa Cup of Nations (WAFCON) due to controversial gender testing, Banda is eligible for the World Cup and seemingly raring to go.

Thembi Kgatlana, Racing Louisville

South Africa striker Kgatlana began to find her best form again in June after almost a year on the sidelines following a ruptured achilles tendon at the WAFCON.

Capitalising on Kirsten Davis' assist, Kgatlana scored her first goal for her new club in only her second start, a 2-0 win over Gotham FC. It bodes well for Banyana Banyana as they head to the World Cup, despite an ongoing pay dispute disrupting their preparations.

While fellow new signing Uchenna Kanu has struggled to capture her best form since moving to Louisville, Kgatlana, who previously had a stint with Houston Dash, looks on course to become a fan favourite.

Anam Imo, Piteå

Like compatriot Ngozi Okobi-Okeoghene, Imo will consider herself unlucky to have missed the cut for the Super Falcons ahead of the FIFA Women's World Cup, particularly given her fine form in the Damallsvenskan this season.

At the time of writing, Imo is the joint-second highest scorer in the league with 11 goals. In June, she scored in the 3-1 defeat to Vittsjö and then netted both of Piteå's goals in the 2-1 victory over Uppsala.

After three wins in a row, Piteå are second in the league at the time of writing and have a very real chance of claiming a second ever Damallsvenskan title in November.

Grace Chanda, Madrid CFF

Chanda, who is Kundananji's club teammate at Madrid, did not slot in quite as seamlessly in her first season at the club as the forward did, despite giving a decent account of herself.

Chanda, a 26-year-old midfielder, played 26 times in the Primera Iberdrola in 2022/23, but only started 11 games, so it was important that she got into full flow ahead of the World Cup, which she appears to have done in the pre-tournament friendlies.

Back to being an instrumental part of a team rather than a bit-part player, Chanda scored Zambia's first goal against Switzerland in a match which the Copper Queens led 3-1 at one point before drawing.

Although they are packed with attacking talent, it is important that they tighten up defensively ahead of the start of the campaign. However, for the troublesome trio of Kundananji, Banda and Chanda, it has been so far, so good.

Halimatu Ayinde, Rosengård

June saw Ayinde start four Damallsvenskan matches for Rosengård and feature in big wins over Växjö (7-1), Kalmar (5-0) and Uppsala (5-2), as well as a 0-0 draw, also against Uppsala.

Having only played three matches for Rosengård in last season's Damallsvenskan title triumph, Ayinde has already appeared eight times this term and will be confident of getting significant game time in the middle of the park at the World Cup for Nigeria.

Evelyn Badu, Avaldsnes

Badu, who was signed by Avaldsnes off the back of her form in the 2021 CAF Women's Champions League for that year's runners-up, Hasaacas Ladies, has grown into a dependable first-team player at the age of 20.

Having scored her first league goal in Norway against Arna-Bjørnar on April 29, Badu continues to rack up minutes in the middle of the park and June saw her surpass her appearances tally from her debut campaign.

Last term, the midfielder featured 12 times in the Toppserien for former Liverpool left-back John Arne Riise's side. This season, she has 15 appearances under her belt already and looks stable enough to lead her generation of Ghanaian women's footballers.

Tatiana Ewodo Ekogo, CSKA Moscow

Cameroon forward Ewodo Ekogo scored for CSKA in their 1-0 win over her old club, Yenisey, to get off the mark for her new side.

Having scored seven times for Yenisey in the league last season, she has been used as a bit-part player by CSKA, but has made a case for increased game time with her crucial winner. CSKA are currently second in the league, one point behind Zenit.

Michaela Abam, Linköping

Cameroon international Abam appeared twice in the Damallsvenskan for Linköping in June, participating in comfortable 4-1 victories on both occasions.

The midfielder-cum-forward replaced Cathinka Tandberg twice as Linköping beat Djurgården twice by the same scoreline.

Linköping are fourth in the league, six points behind leaders Häcken, who have a game in hand at the time of writing.