The countdown to the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup in Canada this summer has officially begun. With a little over a month until the festivities begin, analysts have started to embark on a series of lengthy commentaries that will consume sports media from now until early July.
Every World Cup comes with a “group of death,” a term reserved for the bracket with the most top-ranking teams from around the world. Unsurprisingly, the FIFA No. 2-ranked United States Women’s National Team has, yet again, been selected for this group. Last time around in 2011, the team saw serious competition from Brazil and Sweden. This summer, the United States will face Sweden again, along with Australia and Nigeria in Group D.
This year’s event also comes with a number of unprecedented elements that will inevitably alter the playing field. 2015 marks the first time in World Cup history that the women’s tournament will play host to 24 teams instead of the standard 16. The additions will allow for a six-group tournament, versus past years, which only had four. Welcome newcomers to this World Cup will include teams from Côte d’Ivoire, China PR and Thailand, among others. But not to worry, there is only room for one champion, and that champion will be the U.S. Women’s National Team.
The United States will return key veterans like Abby Wambach, who alone gives the team an edge. Wambach has scored 178 goals against 35 different countries — 11 of which were against Sweden — and has become an unstoppable weapon for the U.S. team’s offense. In 2011, Wambach paved the way for her teammates to get to the World Cup Final against Japan. Although the Japanese Women’s National Team ultimately defeated the U.S., the better team certainly did not come out on top. But this time around, Wambach’s offensive tact will be further complemented by younger players like Alex Morgan and Sydney Leroux, leaving little room for an unanticipated upset.
Morgan entered the World Cup stage for the first time on the U.S. Women’s National Team four years ago and has proved herself to be one of the most valuable attackers in the game right now. In the 2011 Germany World Cup, Morgan came off the bench for five of six games and accompanied Wambach as one of two players to score in both the semifinal and championship games. She also became the first player in U.S. women’s soccer history to tally a goal and assist in the World Cup Final.
In recent years, Morgan hasn’t been found anywhere near her former position at left bench. In 2012, she had one of the best scoring years in U.S. history with 28 goals and 21 assists, leading the team’s statistics in both categories. Her goal total puts her near the top players in U.S. women’s soccer history; her 2012 assist total is second only to the legendary Mia Hamm. This year, Morgan is one of two players who has started in all seven games so far.
Morgan and Leroux started their professional campaigns together on the U-20 national team, and have since blossomed together on the senior international stage. Last year alone, Leroux scored nine goals against familiar teams like Canada, Russia, Japan, Mexico and others. Like Morgan, Leroux initially added depth from the bench, but has recently earned significantly more playing time. To say Leroux will be a much-needed relief asset this summer is an understatement.
Of course, this trio will be accompanied by an extremely talented supporting cast including my personal favorite, Christie Rampone, in addition to Megan Rapinoe, Carli Lloyd and Lauren Holiday. Star goalkeeper Hope Solo was also recently cleared to participate in the 2015 World Cup following domestic assault charges last summer. With the star-studded roster ready for the trip to Canada, victory seems inevitable for the United States Women’s National Team.