I remember it like it was yesterday. Donning red, white and blue face paint and in head-to-toe soccer kit, my 11-year-old self watched the U.S. play in the 1999 Women's World Cup opener from one of the last rows in Giants Stadium. Sixteen years later and still as enamored by the Beautiful Game, I cheered on that same team in the 2015 finale, but this time from the second row of BC Place.
After attending both historic moments, and the World Champions ticker tape parade, I reminisced on the weeks since the team hoisted up that World Cup trophy to claim its unprecedented third star. "This is not a once every four years (or 16) phenomenon anymore," I thought. "It’s a revolution." So, what's changed?
Top 5 reasons - 1999 vs. 2015
1) One player, one moment vs. one nation, one team
2) Team vs. individual promotions
3) Gender discrimination vs. discrimination of another kind
4) Inspiring girls vs. inspiring men, women, boys and girls
5) Fall vs. rise of professional league
One player, one moment vs. one nation, one team
In scorching 100-degree heat, 90,185 fans crowded inside the Rose Bowl, perched on the edge of their seats watching the heart-thumping drama. Any shot or miss could be the game-changer. Every moment of play mattered, all the way until the final whistle of double overtime. Then, there were the penalty kicks. As soon as Brandi Chastain's shot hit the back netting, without hesitation she whipped off her jersey and pumped her fists in elation. Her teammates piled on the love, and the biggest match in women's soccer quickly became a part of American history.
Contrast that to this year's edition of the Women's World Cup: the United States scored four goals within the first 16 minutes (including a hat trick from Carli Lloyd, the eventual Golden Ball and Silver Boot winner). Not only were the fans stunned by the result, the players were as well. For the remaining 74 minutes, it just needed to keep its composure and the lead. It coasted to a 5-2 result. The wild excitement for everyone came much sooner than in 1999 so when the game was finally called it was a little anticlimactic. However, what makes 2015 unique is that three players got on the scoreboard and when the game ended, there wasn't just one player to rush. Touting "One Nation. One Team." as the official U.S. Soccer slogan, it quickly became evident that the women unified American soccer supporters.
Team vs. individual promotions
Back in 1999, most promotions consisted of the entire team (or groups of players), like a packaged deal. Headliner Mia Hamm made it a point to include her teammates and to promote the sport through mainstream channels. Contrast that to now when it's reported that Alex Morgan makes over $1 million in endorsements alone with companies like Coca-Cola, GNC, Nationwide Insurance and Mondelez (Chips-Ahoy, Ritz and Trident). It's not easy traveling 23-deep for every photo shoot or appearance, especially when the players come from 12 states and play for nine different clubs. This gives them an opportunity to expand their reach individually but also as a collective.
The real reason for this change perhaps is that the team isn't trying to only push the wholesome girl-next door identity like it had before. That opens up the opportunity for these women to stay true to themselves with unique alliances. For instance, boutique lines Peau du Loup and Wild Fang dress several players in hip clothing and accessories. The diversity of player personalities can be leveraged for maximum reach. It’s especially important to continue this thrilling wave heading into next summer’s Olympic Games in Rio.
Gender discrimination vs. discrimination of another kind
Gone are the days of "women can't play soccer" claims or "you play like a girl" as an intended dis. It was a societal message in 1999: yes women can. Now it’s a sports message: yes women can and we're damn good at it too. It’s no longer an issue of competition quality or fan interest; the conversation shifted from being women to being athletes.
However, the 2015ers were faced with ironically progressive discrimination. The women played on artificial turf, dealt with mediocre referees and received lower prize money. Despite numerous appeals, FIFA utilized artificial turf for the first time in a major tournament – its only explanation was to provide “optimum playing comfort and maximum safety for the players.” But every single men’s tournament has been played on natural grass and so will the upcoming 2018 edition.
Adequate training and frequent exposure to fast-paced, quality competition can elevate the experience level and accuracy of officiating.In an effort to empower, FIFA claims that women’s soccer is a cultural reflection so women should be refereeing women. Which is all well and good unless there’s a shortage of fair and experienced referees. Ever since the 1999 edition, all officials have been women for the women’s tournament but few have really stood out as high caliber decision-makers. Adequate training and frequent exposure to fast-paced, quality competition can elevate the accuracy of officiating. The argument that burgeoning women’s soccer programs can only grow through participation at the highest level suggests the same for refereeing.
The United States women received $2 million in prize money. That’s $6 million less than the United States men got for dropping out in the Round of 16 (and they have never won a World Cup, let alone three). But, back in 1999, there was no such thing as prize money. FIFA didn’t even start distributing it to women until the 2007 edition. And the figure doubled from 2011 to 2015 too. It may be slow but it’s still progress, and discriminatory.
Inspiring girls vs. inspiring men, women, boys and girls
For the first time in 55 years, a woman was honored during a New York City ticker tape parade in Manhattan. Out of 205 total held by NYC, the most recent was the first to celebrate an all-female sports team, of 23 women.
These women aren’t just heroines or pioneers, they are also champions, plain and simple. Society has now accepted them as athletes, rather than second-class citizen female athletes.
Mayor Bill de Blasio addressed the crowd in front of City Hall at the conclusion of Canyon of Heroes: “You can see out there the love that the people of this city and the people of this country have for this team, and what they mean to all of us. You can see it in the faces of men and women, boys and girls. And it was just the purest deepest sense of admiration.”
With 25.4 million viewers tuning into the 2015 finale, USA versus Japan become the most-watched soccer match – male or female – in U.S. history. It’s clear that de Blasio’s sentiment resonated with American sports fans and pulsated across the country: One nation, one team.
Fall vs. rise of professional league
Sixteen years ago, the national team players used their World Cup triumph to leverage a professional league. Due to high demand, the Women's United Soccer Association (WUSA) launched as the first women’s professional soccer league in the United States, in 2001. It only lasted three years. Now, we are in the third season of the WUSA's second successor, National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL). But this time, U.S., Canada and Mexico soccer federations subsidize part of the operating costs.
Now due to the World Cup buzz, NWSL clubs are selling out stadiums and getting airtime on Fox Sports and Time Warner. But, the league still has a long way to go to match its male counterpart Major League Soccer, who has enjoyed 21 years of existence with 10 successful expansion teams. That makes it hard to believe that in 1999, the women had the upper hand in the soccer market. So how will the powers that be leverage the recent progress for a sustainable solution? Check back in 16 years for a Top 5: 2015 vs. 2031.
The two teams are 32-8-14 to the Americans’ advantage, with 93 goals for & 35 goals against. Of the remaining in the tournament, FiveThirtyEight and ESPN Stats & Info gave China the worst odds to win it all (65/1) in comparison to the second-placed USA (2/1). The oddsmakers also believe China only has a 12% chance of defeating the Red, White and Blue in the knockout game.
The last time the two teams met was December 10, 2014 with 1-1 draw:
Remember the last time United States and China squared off in a Women’s World Cup match? As the most watched soccer moment in the States, the Americans took home the 1999 title, marking the last time they won the Cup. In the tournament’s history, the U.S. has never lost to China so the real question is, “Can the Americans continue the streak, when they take on the Steel Roses in the quarterfinals?
Highlights from the 1999 Women’s World Cup final
Midfielders Megan Rapinoe and Lauren Holiday will miss the quarterfinals after yellow card accumulation in the 2-0 victory over Colombia. Despite the absences, United States has touted a deep bench which will be utilized. In the previous match, U.S. head coach Jill Ellis hinted that she would put Morgan Brian and Christen Press in the openings.
A natural fit to step in for Rapinoe would be Press, who scored the game winner against Australia in her World Cup debut. Effective as a midfielder and forward, the fast and versatile striker has the ability to finish when it matters. But there is more to Press that we have yet to see.
“I think that what [Jill Ellis] wants from me is for me to play at my 100%,” said Press. “I definitely think I’ve had good performances, and I’m proud of what I’ve done, but I haven’t hit my 100.”
Primed to step into Holiday’s role, Brian has already proven her worth, completing 14 out of 16 passes in her 21 minutes against Colombia. Playing alongside Houston Dash teammate, Carli Lloyd, will be an added benefit too.
“In our games, we’ve partnered [with certain players] specifically because we knew she wold be one of the players to come in,” said Ellis. “[Brian] is a tremendous ball distributor.”
Both Brian and Press contribute significant attacking roles, and their presence comes at a time when the United States needs to get on the board, early and often, to ensure a place in the semifinals. Keep in mind, the United States has never failed to reach a semifinal.
Even though none of the Chinese players on the current roster were present on that fateful day in Pasadena, Calif., there is still a lot riding on their backs too.
It has been a long journey since, as they failed to qualify for the 2011 event in Germany and the 2012 London Olympics. The team has gone through 12 coaches since 2000. Their current coach, Hao Wei, was expelled as a result of play interference against New Zealand and missed the Round of 16 match as a result. He will be returning to the helm for the quarterfinal matchup.
Women's World Cup: USA survive a scare and defeat Australia in Group D opener at Winnipeg Stadium
Special to MLSSoccer.com
U.S. women's national team fans can breathe easy.
It wasn't their best game, but the US women still came away 3-1 winners on Monday against a dangerous Australia side thanks to two goals from Megan Rapinoe, one from Christen Press and some great goalkeeping from Hope Solo.
The game's first came from Rapinoe after just 12 minutes. The US midfielder confidently cranked a shot from outside the box, which deflected off a defender and into the goal.
Wide open in front of net, Australian forward Lisa De Vanna retaliated with a left-footed first-time redirect in the 27th minute after some nifty build-up.
The score held at 1-1 until Press tallied the game-winner for her first-ever Women's World Cup goal and her 21st tally in 46 matches. It was also the USA's 100th all-time World Cup goal.
STANDINGS: See how Group D looks after the first group matches
Rapinoe sealed the deal in the 78th minute, but this time no deflection was necessary. It was a strike that clinched the win for the team and Player of the Match honors for her.
But it wasn't just about the goals scored for the USA. It's about the goals they denied. Goalkeeper Hope Solo, who was in the eye of a media maelstrom in recent days, played a major role in the victory. If it were not for Solo, the United States might have been down by two in the first half.
WATCH: Hope Solo's jaw-dropping first-half save
With superior passing and an ability to create chances, the Matildas started the match hungry, but ultimately couldn't keep it up as fitness proved the difference maker. As the game progressed, Australia tired and lost momentum. But, the Americans, ever-known for their tremendous fitness and superior athleticism, finished strong. That doesn't mean the Australians took it well:
The USWNT were comfortable enough during the second-half proceedings that coach Jill Ellis decided to bring on star forward Alex Morgan, whose last game came on April 4 against New Zealand due to a bone bruise in her knee.
Morgan replaced Sydney Leroux with the USA managing a two-goal cushion at 3-1 in minute 79. After eight weeks off the pitch, Morgan will surely need plenty more minutes to be a pivotal player later in the tournament. But the debate still rages on about whether the opener was the right match to reintroduce her again.
Group of Death? More like Group of Drama! The scoreline may not have reflected just how well Australia played, but the final result places the United States atop Group D with three points.
Monday's other group match featured a 3-3 thriller between Nigeria and Sweden which showcased many of their respective strengths and weaknesses ahead of their encounters with the USA, giving Ellis & Co. plenty to chew on in the coming days.
The USWNT next play Sweden on June 12 and then close out Group D play against Nigeria on June 16. And the support is expected to continue to be overwhelming from around the country. Here's how the nation experienced the game, according to Twitter:
And the US supporters in Winnipeg weren't too shabby themselves:
Among the USWNT fans seen on social media were artists like Paula Abdul as well as a host of NFL and NHL teams. But arguably the cutest supporter of the lot was seen with former United States powerhouse, and FIFA Female Player of the Century, Michelle Akers.
Group D has affectionately been dubbed the Group of Death since three of the four nations made FIFA's Top 10 rankings (No. 2 USA, No. 5 Sweden, No. 10 Australia, and Nigeria comes in at No. 33). Here are the five things you need to know before the opening whistle:
1) Dating back to 1987, USA has had the severe upper-hand against Australia, winning 22 matches and tying two. The Red, White and Blue have accrued 83 goals against the Aussies, over four times the goals against. However, the Matildas have had a steady climb since the first Women's World Cup in 1991 (did not qualify) but competed in the next three before exiting group competition for the first time in 2007. They also made it to the quarterfinals in 2011.
Known for its relentless play, Australia may not pose too much of a threat to the scoreline but will certainly challenge the United States to stay on task. Australia will put up a massive fight and make the USA work for its W. If either team takes a loss, it will be a huge setback for the remaining games, as neither want to vie for the wildcard "best third placed teams" position (four out of six advance to Round of 16).
Keep an eye out for Australia captain -- and FIFA Puskas Award 2013 nominee -- Lisa De Vanna, a strong-willed and aggressive forward who will be earning her 100th cap on game day.
2) The last time the two nations met was back in 2013 when the United States defeated Australia with a definitive 4-0 victory.
3) The biggest question mark of the match -- will Alex Morgan be ready to play? When asked if Morgan was fully training with the team on Saturday, U.S. Soccer spokesperson said "Not to my knowledge." But Morgan herself put those rumors to rest.
So, will she get much playing time on Monday? The line between cautious and injured remains blurred. Head coach Jill Ellis will not put Morgan into a position where she will not thrive 100 percent, which leaves her to only step onto the field if absolutely necessary and then, only for enough minutes just to get her rhythm back.
4) In the team's mind there are six more games to go and a deep and versatile bench to experiment with along the way. To the United States, it is not a matter of "will they win?" but "how will they do it?" If USA can hold off the Matildas all 90, prevent further injury and remain focused, the team will be well on its way to living through the Group of Death. As much as USWNT say they focus on one game at a time, they are looking ahead at Sweden, who poses the biggest threat in the early stages.
5) Of the 47 National Women's Soccer League (NWSL) players to compete in the Women's World Cup, four come from Australia: Steph Catley (Portland Thorns), Caitlin Foord and Samantha Kerr (Sky Blue FC) and Katrina Gorry (FC Kansas City). Overall though, the two NWSL teams who share ownership with Major League Soccer's Portland Timbers and Houston Dynamo boast 8 and 6 players, respectively.
Allysha Chapman, Erin McLeod and Lauren Sesselmann (Canada), and Morgan Brian, Meghan Klingenberg and Carli Lloyd (USA) represent the Dash. In addition to Catley, Kayln Kyle, Christine Sinclair and Rhian Wilkinson (Canada), Jodie Taylor (England), Nadine Angerer (Germany) and Tobin Heath and Alex Morgan (USA) represent the Thorns.
Monday could not come soon enough as the United States kicks off its Women's World Cup group play against Australia at Winnipeg Stadium (7:30pm ET on FOX Sports 1, NBC Universo).
Follow official hashtag #USAvAUS to stay up-to-date on game commentary as it happens.
Canada Use Stoppage-Time Penalty Kick To Beat China In 2015 Inaugural Match
Special to MLSSoccer.com
It was mission accomplished for the Canada women's national team after securing a 1-0 win over China in the opening match of the 2015 Women's World Cup on Saturday at Edmonton's Commonwealth Stadium.
In front of 53,058 people – the largest crowd for any Canadian national team match in Canada – striker Christine Sinclair proved to be the difference maker. The captain put the game away in the 91st minute with a well-placed penalty kick, joining an elite group in the process.
WAS IT A PENALTY KICK?
There was some debate whether Canada received a hometown call with the late stoppage time penalty kick. Here's the foul that led to the penalty:
Canada coach John Herdman himself admitted "that's your home-field advantage," when discussing the penalty kick. He also said that "when the call came, I celebrated like we'd just scored."
STANDINGS: See how Group A looks after the first group matches
The fans at Commonwealth Stadium could not care any less judging by their reaction when the ball hit the back of the net:
Sinclair and her teammates celebrated the win like the monumental win that it was -- a group match at the biggest tournament for women's soccer in their own backyard. The three points will take some pressure off.
OTHER SIDE OF THE COIN
As hosts, Canada really needed the "W." But China were organized, they remained disciplined and they bunkered down in the defense, proving to be impenetrable. As China dominated the flow and interrupted Canada's rhythm, the play was frantic in the first half.
A collective gasp from those in attendance came in the 23rd minute after China's Lisi Wang struck a free kick which dramatically bounced off both posts and then went out of play (WATCH THE CRAZY PLAY HERE).
But Herdman saw his side play with a lot more composure and they wound up outshooting their opponents 14-5. But Canada could not find the back of the net until the controversial PK.
An hour before the opener, none other than the biggest name from this past week's news cycle -- FIFA President Sepp Blatter -- wished the 24 nations good luck. And he shared some nifty facts about the tournament:
Canada is back in Group A action against New Zealand on Thursday, June 11, while China take on the Netherlands earlier that same day.
It only got worse as the game progressed since FIFA's gamecast used male pronouns -- "him" instead of "her" -- during the play-by-play.
Artificial turf stole the Saturday's commentary. According to an on-field thermometer, it came in at 120-degrees which was about 45-degrees hotter than the atmospheric temperature. The Twitterverse blew up about gender inequality and FIFA's lack of respect for the women's game. As the tournament progresses, the heat can prove to be a massive game-changer.
Special to MLSSoccer.com
Women's World Cup 2015 opens play Saturday, June 6 -- with host Canada versus former powerhouse China as the opening match (6pm ET, FOX Sports 1 and Telemundo in USA and CTV in Canada).
These are the five things you need to know before kickoff:
1) The two have played 26 times since 1987 for an overall 14-5-7 record in favor of the Chinese. However, the teams have only played head-to-head three times since coaches John Herdman (Canada) and Hao Wei (China) have taken their posts. During these matches Canada won by one goal each: 1-0 in 2012 and 2013, and 2-1 in most recently.
As hard as it is to believe that it has been sixteen years since the USA won, it is equally as hard to believe that China fell from grace. The country hosted the first ever Women's World Cup in 1991 and again in 2007 after pushing the responsibilities back from 2003 due to a SARS outbreak.
The last time the two met, at BaoAn Cup CFA Women's International Football tournament Shenzhen 2015 (also known as the Four Nations), Christine Sinclair scored back-to-back goals in under two minutes to overcome the team's 31st minute deficit and put the game away. For the first time in history, Canada went on to win the entire tournament, resulting in a total ego booster for the Big Red. However, the infrequency of recent play makes Saturday's opener a tad bit unpredictable.
2) Despite previous results, do not rule out China. They use to be a super power -- remember when they faced the United States in the final back in 1999?
China also took home silver at the first ever Olympic women's soccer competition in 1996. However, the team did not even qualify for the last tournament in 2011. Long surpassed by another Asian power - reigning WWC champion Japan, China has a chip on its shoulder. But then again so does Canada who has long been in the shadow of its Southern neighbor.
3) In years past, China has been known for its precision and Canada for its physicality. Because the teams will be playing different styles from one another, it will be imperative to adapt quickly while remaining focused to their own game plans. They are both known for playing quality to be dependent on their opponents' level.
The two nations have a recent common competitor, No. 6-ranked England -- Canada won 1-0 and China lost 2-1.
4) China has proven be a very secretive team. There are not many reports on its recent performances, which leads some to think they may have a few tricks up their sleeves or at least that is what they want us to think. Due to its inexperienced and fairly untested squad, it will most likely not continue deep into the tournament but it could place second in the group just for trying hard. Its primary purpose this year is to be a disruptor more than a contender. However, Canada really needs this win.
5) China has a lot at stake but Canada has even more. As host, they have a massive home field advantage. Canada will be riding an adrenaline rush after the Opening Ceremonies as the host of the tournament and in front of a sea of red, for the Red Nation not the Steel Roses.
Come game time there will be no more niceties -- who will handle the pressure best?
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.