What is the Women's World Cup? Get the lowdown of 2015 event in Canada
Special to MLSSoccer.com
It takes seven games to win it all. At this summer's edition of the Women's World Cup in Canada there are several changes from years past, namely expanded field and roster sizes. And for the first time, Hawk-Eye goal-line technology will be utilized and controversially, the matches will be played on artificial turf.
Hawk-Eye technology makes its debut at Women's World Cup
As women's soccer developed around the world creating dark horse contenders, the biggest international soccer tournament had to adapt. For 2015, eight more teams were added for a total of 24 nations from six confederations. (This has steadily increased from 12 in 1991 and 16 in 1999.) As a result of more games, the roster size increased by two, to 23.
Final rosters for every competing nation in 2015 Women's World Cup
Competition kicks off between the host nation and China on Saturday, June 6 in Edmonton. With 52 matches to be played in six venues from Moncton to Vancouver, the tournament will be the largest and longest. It also allows for many solid favorites to take home the title and trophy. The final will be played on Sunday, July 5 at BC Place.
For the first time in U.S. history, the team is not entering the tournament with the #1 FIFA World rank, that honor goes to Germany. But also France, reigning champion Japan, Brazil, Sweden and Canada will not make it easy to reach the final. What was once considered a small group of potentials has now increased, and the tournament can be anyone's any day.
Complete match schedule on FIFA
Adding to the intensity, 2015 will be the first time a World Cup - male or female - has been played on artificial turf. Back in fall 2014, the players filed a suit accusing FIFA and Canada Soccer Association of gender discrimination, as the men do not compete on turf at the World Cup level. The surface has been known to cause injury, overheat up to 10-degrees from atmospheric temperature and impact the speed and quality of play. However, the organizations were not budging and thus the players dropped the lawsuit to focus on preparing for the games.
Players drop gender discrimination suit against FIFA, CSA
The inaugural Women's World Cup in 1991, held in China, was called the World Championship for Women's Football for the M&M's Cup - as FIFA did not want to make it a "World Cup" just yet. Back then, the women played 80 minute games. FIFA bestowed the World Cup brand upon the 1995 tournament and increased matches to 90 minutes.
In the past six Women's World Cups, there have been four victors - U.S. in '91 and '99, Norway in '95, Germany in '03 and '07, Japan in '11.
Just like in men's soccer, stars above the jersey shield signify World Cup titles, and in the case of the United States women, they have earned two. It has been 16 years since the team hoisted up the highly coveted trophy.
World Cup: USWNT draws South Korea in final send-off match at sold-out Red Bull Arena
Special to MLSsoccer.com
American fans stole the show at Red Bull Arena Saturday afternoon. With a Women's National Team record setting crowd of 26,467 at the arena (and its third consecutive sellout this year), the supporters showed up in full force, outfitting the already Red, White & Blue stadium with an overwhelming presence. During the national anthem, Sammers S.C., The American Outlaws, New York Red Bull's Southward and Sky Blue's Cloud 9 rose a custom tifo with a resounding demand - "Bring It Home" - in reference to the 2015 Women's World Cup title and trophy. The fans then began to chant "We Love Ya" and "I Believe" giving the stadium an undeniable energy.
BRING IT HOME tifo
The U.S. carried that electric vibe, as it donned volt socks for the first time. The neon also outlined the black lettering on the back of the jersey, making it appear green. (This is the second time the U.S. has had difficulty with name and number visibility - back in 2012, Nike had to reissue the adhesive because the silver did not show well on TV.)
USWNT white kit unveiled
Despite the Unites States storied dominance in the women's game, one may be shocked that it did not put the game away early. Korea Republic proved a formidable competitor, in what was believed to be a handed win. The international friendly ended in a 0-0 draw. The most riveting part of the game was a final attempt from Korea Republic's as the seconds wound down - a blast from outside the box forced Hope Solo to make an impressive dive to the upper right 90. Had the ball gone through her finger tips, the U.S. would have ended its home winning streak.
Hope Solo's last minute save to preserve tie
Midfielder Megan Rapinoe suffered a quad injury in training on Friday so she sat out as a precaution. She plans to be back in action for the team's Women's World Cup debut against Australia on June 8.
Meanwhile, New Jersey native and USWNT veteran Christie Rampone made only her second appearance of the year, this time in front of her hometown crowd, after battling a nagging back injury since January.
Despite these alterations to the roster, the team anticipates all 23 members of the squad will be healthy for the tournament.
U.S. hopes that Saturday was the last time on American soil that it would wear two stars above the crest, aiming for its third Cup - the previous two were in 1991 and 1999.
I will be reporting on the 2015 Women's World Cup for Major League Soccer this summer.
Abby Wambach leads USWNT against Korea in final Women's World Cup tuneup at Red Bull Arena
Special to MLSSoccer.com
The last time the U.S. Women's National Team played at Red Bull Arena, Abby Wambach broke the all-time record for most goals scored by any male or female player in the world. Not only did she surpass FIFA World Champion Mia Hamm's 158, she shattered it with four goals against Korea Republic on June 20, 2013.
Entering Saturday's final send-off match before the Women's World Cup in Canada, also against Korea Republic (4:30 pm ET, ESPN), she now has 182 goals to her name. Wambach is on the fast-track to 30 goals in under two years, having scored a brace in the previous two send-off matches -- wins vs. Mexico (5-1) and the Republic of Ireland (3-0).
Today will be the team's third appearance at RBA and its second against Korea there, with an overall 7-0-1 record. It also will be the team's final match before the Women's World Cup, having already bested Mexico and Republic of Ireland in the first two legs of the series.
One of the team's biggest names will not be stepping onto the pitch today -- Alex Morgan is still nursing a bone bruise in her left knee that has put her out of commission for the U.S. over the last two months. She plans to be healthy for the USA's first World Cup group stage match against Australia on June 8 in Winnipeg.
Good news for the team is that veteran and captain Christie Rampone has the all-clear to play since a nagging back injury dating has kept her on the sidelines since January.
With 304 appearances for the Red, White & Blue, Rampone will join only four others who have competed in five WWC tournaments. As the remaining player from the storied 1999 Championship squad, she has the most caps of any active player in the world and second most in soccer history.