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Carli Lloyd says countries are closing the talent gap on U.S. women's soccer

Carli Lloyd, who's playing in England with Manchester City, says international competition is getting stronger: "Long gone are the days of just being athletic, fast and fit. You've got to bring some skill with that too." Tom Flathers via AP

MANCHESTER, England -- After spending just a few weeks in England with Manchester City, Carli Lloyd said she believes countries around the world are closing the gap on the United States women's team.

The U.S. is still the most successful women's soccer nation in history, with three World Cup triumphs and four Olympic golds. But Lloyd has been impressed by the standard of the game in Europe and believes that England, which finished third behind the U.S. at the 2015 World Cup, is catching up.

"You're seeing the trend of every national team closing the gap on us," she told reporters Tuesday. "It's becoming really, really hard. Long gone are the days of just being athletic, fast and fit. You've got to bring some skill with that too."

The two-time FIFA World Player of the Year is now preparing to face Danish side Fortuna Hjorring in a Champions League quarterfinal second leg. Manchester City leads 1-0 from the first leg, thanks to Lloyd's first goal for the club.

"The players we have here who play for England are quality players who have that technique," Lloyd said. "It's going to get stronger."

Lloyd, 34, said she always wanted an opportunity to experience playing abroad and will stay with WSL champion City for four months, playing in a Spring Series, FA Cup and the Champions League. She trains at the £200m Etihad Campus along with the men's team, which is coached by Pep Guardiola.

Two other U.S. internationals, Crystal Dunn and Heather O'Reilly, have also moved to England, with Chelsea and Arsenal, respectively. While Lloyd is enjoying her time in Manchester, she would not recommend playing in Europe to everyone.

"I think if you're a skillful player who maybe doesn't like to be hit and play tough, you're not going to survive in this league," she said. "You've got to be tough; it's a tough league. If I wasn't tough, it would be tough to play here because the refs let a lot go.

"I think it's a great league -- I've been enjoying it. Playing for Man City has been a fantastic environment for me to learn, get better, but it's not for everybody."

Lloyd's arrival in England has already increased the exposure of women's soccer, which struggles to compete with the more established men's game. And the midfielder, who was playing with young girls at a City in the Community event before speaking to reporters, is enjoying the opportunity to inspire a new generation of young players.

"I think it's important to keep growing the game," she said. "While winning all the awards and things have been great in my career, I think the way that I carry myself and go about my life on and off the pitch is really important to me -- like here today, giving back to these girls. One of them was saying I'm her idol, and to me that's priceless. Money can't buy that.

"For me, it's so important to give back and to have that kind of relationship. If I can help the girls in the team just with my character and ways I go about my job here, that's been fantastic."