Catalan and Barça players to take part in groundbreaking Women's World Cup
Catalans set to star for Spain while Barça is best-represented club
More than a dozen players with Catalan connections have crossed the border to France for the FIFA Women's World Cup and what could be a watershed for women's football.
The eighth edition of the 24-team tournament – taking place over the course of a month from Friday – comes after four years of steady improvements in funding and coverage, and the hope is that it will be the biggest showcase yet of the wealth of talent within the game.
The Spanish side are hoping to reach the knockout phase for the first time after making their World Cup debut last time around in Canada. They have seven Catalans in their ranks, most of whom figure among the 10 Barça players in the squad overall, making the Blaugranes the best-represented club across the competition with a total of 15 international stars.
Marta Torrejón, born in Mataró on the Costa Brava, is Spain's captain and most-capped player. Her experience, along with that of Barça skipper Vicky Losada, from Terrassa in central Catalonia, will be crucial if Spain are to turn their rise to 13th in the world rankings, spurred by a 100% win record in their qualifying campaign, into results on the global stage.
Spain will also look to Barça hero Alèxia Putellas and Marta Corredera, who plays up front for Levante, the two most recent Catalan players of the year, to provide some of their attacking incision as they hope to improve on their sub-standard scoring record from 2015.
Their Catalan compatriots Aitana Bonmatí, Leila Ouahabi and Andrea Pereira are all heading to their first World Cup having seen success in the international youth set-ups.
Spain open their campaign against South Africa at 6pm on Saturday in Le Havre before a tough test against 10-time European champions Germany on 13 June in Valenciennes.
They return to Le Havre for their final group game against China on 17 June, where their fate is set to be decided. However, if they succeed in finishing runners-up behind the Germans in Group B, even more difficult opponents most likely await in reigning champions USA.
Some of Barça's most prominent players are outside the Spain camp, including Nigeria's former BBC Women's Footballer of the Year Asisat Oshoala, who recently signed a permanent deal to remain at the club after her loan, and long-serving Brazil striker Andressa Alves.
Dutch duo Stefanie van der Gragt and Lieke Martens count among the dark horses for the tournament, with the Netherlands having hosted and then surprisingly won Euro 2017, while Barça forward Toni Duggan is a genuine contender for the trophy with England.
It isn't only the Catalan players who are going to be close to the action. Catalan residents, too, are only a three to four-hour drive from the closest of the World Cup venues in Montpellier, where four group games will be held as well as one round of 16 fixture on 25 June.