The United States Women’s National Team will open up the 2020 (2021, whatever) Tokyo Olympics with an early morning kickoff against Sweden on Wednesday at 4:30 am ET and 5:30 PM local time. The USWNT is looking for redemption after their worst performance in the Olympics, losing in the 2016 quarterfinals, failing to medal for the first time since women’s soccer was introduced in the 1996 Atlanta Olympics.
The team is in a dominant run of form leading up to the games with an 11-0-1 run, including outscoring teams 37-1 in those twelve games, including six consecutive clean sheets. The last time the team lost was all the way back in January of 2019, when they lost 4-1 to France, since then, it’s been a total of 44 games unbeaten. As a result, the reigning World Cup champions come into the tournament as the odds-on favorites at -160, the next closest team is the Netherlands at +600. If the Americans are to win gold in Tokyo, they will be the first reigning women’s World Cup champions to follow that up with a gold medal.
The Americans are led by an experienced roster that has 19 players that played together on the World Cup stage. The team will have to contend with a tough group though, as they have to face Australia, New Zealand and their hardest challenge in the group stage, Sweden. After finishing first in their group in the 2016 Rio Olympics the Stars and Stripes lost to the Swedes on penalties in the quarterfinals. The Americans and the Swedes have played nine times in world tournaments, which is the most of any opponent all time for the USWNT.
The two teams played most recently in the 2019 World Cup when the Swedes fell to the Americans 2-0 in the final group game, finishing second in the group. The US won that game thanks to a goal in the third minute by member of the Olympic team, midfielder Lindsey Horan and an own goal by current member of the Swedish Olympic team defender Joanna Andersson.
The biggest challenge outside of the group stage for the USWNT, should they both get out of the group stage, will be Great Britain, who have a stacked roster including reigning PFA Player of the year forward Fran Kirby, Chelsea’s Millie Bright, Houston Dash’s Rachel Daly, and Man City’s Lucy Bronze. England gave the US their most competitive game at the 2019 World Cup with a 2-1 win for the Americans that included a red card from Millie Bright for a studs up challenge on Alex Morgan in the 85th minute and a penalty save from Alyssa Naeher in the 83rd minute while clinging to that one goal advantage in the semifinal.
The last time a big women’s soccer tournament took place in Japan was the 2012 U-20 World Cup, which the US won with current members of the Olympic squad including defender Julie Ertz, defender Crystal Dunn and midfielder Sam Mewis all part of that team.
Megan Rapinoe: In the 2016 Olympic Games, Rapinoe was almost nonexistent for the team, failing to find the stat sheet in two games. However, since then she has come into her own as a USWNT legend, with 15 goals and 4 assists in 19 games for the national team since the last Olympiad. If the US wants to go deep into this tournament they need their star winger to have a big few weeks in Tokyo.
USWNT beats Sweden 3-1, with goals by Rapinoe, Morgan and Lavelle.