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Cleat Cute’s Sapphic Soccer Romance Will Fill the World Cup-Shaped Hole in Your Heart

Despite being a huge fan of women’s sports — and women, in general — I’ve never been really familiar with soccer. I think it’s because there was no little league girls soccer when I was a kid, and my high school didn’t get a team until I was a senior. By that time, I was playing all the other sports and also the straight girl I was in love with played tennis, so I had to fit every single one of her matches into my schedule. So I’ve been out here, naive as a baby deer, assuming that nothing can compete with the sapphic drama of the WNBA — until this 2023 World Cup! I have now learned that soccer includes so many dating teammates, so many dating rivals, and sometimes even one ex-girlfriend will poke a new girlfriend, who plays for her opponent, right in her gay chest instead of shaking her hand after a game! Which is why I’m pleased to tell you that Meryl Wilsner’s sapphic soccer romance, Cleat Cute, is coming your way real soon. And just in time: It can’t be good for your body to cut off lesbian soccer drama cold turkey.

It goes like this: Grace Henderson has been the USWNT’s superstar since she was a teenager. Now she’s 26, captain of the National Team, captain of her club team in New Orleans, and making bank because of it. She had one small fling with a teammate once, that went terribly, and now she’s sworn off dating other soccer players and is just fine spending time in her own company, in her pristinely clean home, quietly reading books. Then! In walks Phoebe Matthews, all giant red hair and an even bigger laugh, a late-comer to the world stage because she went to a tiny college and didn’t come up in the farm leagues like her teammates. She’s been in love with Grace Henderson since she was a teenager, and she’s both starstruck and completely smitten with her when she meets her in real life too. Things get even more complicated when Phoebe ends up on Grace’s club team after USWNT training camp, where they shared their first kiss on a dare.

Phoebe has ADHD, and it’s a big part of her characterization. Grace is very likely on the autism spectrum, which is apparent throughout the book, but only hits Grace near the very end. So, in classic Meryl Wilsner fashion, there’s a whole lot of misunderstandings going on that drive the plot forward. It’s two steps forward and one step backward for these teammates that aren’t alike at all, but cannot get enough of each other. I cannot overemphasize this enough: If miscommunication and unspoken confusion stresses you out, do some deep breathing before you pick this one up! It is D R A M A! I don’t mind it, there’s not even really a bad guy in this book, just opportunities for growth.

One of my favorite things about this book, much like Stars Collide by Rachel Lacey, is how in touch it is with queer fandoms. There’s even a mention of L Chat that had me howling. If you’re a fan of women’s soccer, you’re going to see not only your favorite sport play out in the pages of a queer romance novel, but also your own self reflected back at you. And that’s cool as heck. Mostly, though, Cleat Cute is full of sexy sex sex. Unapologetic sapphic sex. You don’t even have to wait until the third act! That’s a W for everyone!

Cleat Cute lands on September 19, 2023, just in time to for your sleep schedule to finally get back on track after the World Cup. 

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Heather Hogan

Heather Hogan is an Autostraddle senior editor who lives in New York City with her wife, Stacy, and their cackle of rescued pets. She's a member of the Television Critics Association, GALECA: The Society of LGBTQ Entertainment Critics, and a Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer critic. You can also find her on Twitter and Instagram.

Heather has written 1718 articles for us.


  1. Oooh! I’m super excited to read this, after just finishing “Delilah Green Doesn’t Care” by the same author…I love the characterization and gentle use of (happy!) romantic tropes!

    Just what we all need to fill our broken soccer hearts. Can’t wait!

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