Rog examines the USWNT's title defense and breaks down some of their biggest challengers.
I write with fingers tingling with anticipation. The joyous journey that is the 2019 Women’s World Cup is just 32.5 hours away. It promises to be the deepest, most fiercely competitive tournament of all-time. The swirling backdrop of gender equality and the ongoing, grueling fight to grow the global women’s game mean the stakes could not be higher.
Our No. 1 in the FIFA rankings United States are both defending champions and bookies’ favorites. The squad is stacked, talented, and a poised balance of experience and youth. 2015 victors Carli Lloyd, Alex Morgan, and Golden-of-Blazer Megan Rapinoe meld with younger talents like fleet-footed Crystal Dunn and 5’11 Tower O’Power, Sam Mewis.
Yet, the U.S. is still a work in progress. A traumatic, Anthony Joshua-esque shock defeat in the 2016 Olympic quarterfinals led coach Jill Ellis to overhaul the team’s style of play. In the old days, the U.S. could rely on their superior athleticism to outrun and demolish all-comers. The increased tactical savvy of the European rising powers has compelled the Americans to embrace possession-based football and it has been, at times, an awkward transition. They have been found out by confident opponents on the counter-attack, and struggled to summon the creativity to unlock deep-lying defenses.
The players I believe will be key for the United States are poet-warrior Rose Lavelle and five-tool wonder Lindsey Horan. When those two play self-confidently, they can propel the United States to the next level football we yearn to see, and will need to witness, as the challengers are both many and mighty.
The French will seek to thrill hometown supporters with their technically-savvy football, a product of the peerless youth academies that have been set up there on the women’s side. It would be a remarkable feat if the women can add a second world title to the one Paul Pogba and Co. lifted last summer.
The English Lionesses were semifinal darlings in 2015 and believe they have a potent balance to go even further in France. Traditional challengers, Canada, with evergreen Christine Sinclair in her Fifth World Cup, and Australia featuring best player in world, Sam Kerr, will also menace. Harder to call are traditional threats, Germany and Japan,who have dispatched squads in transition. Defending European champs The Netherlands and Spain believe they can have the technical ability, pace and confidence in possession to be dark horses.
The only thing I know for sure: No team will fear the United States, as they have in World Cups past. This will be the most competitive tournament of all-time, a testament to the investment so many nations have made in the youth coaching, the club game, and infrastructure of the fast-growing Women’s game. I talked to Lindsey Horan about that as part of our American Legend Series. Without flinching, she admitted, “It will be a huge challenge for us,” before adding with a swagger, “but that is what makes the U.S., the U.S.”
We could not be more excited to savor the 52 games, sprinkled over 31 days and will be touring the nation, living each heartbeat of the tournament, beginning in the spiritual home of Women’s Football in this country, Portland, Oregon. We will take the stage at the Aladdin Theater, Tuesday, June 11, the same day the U.S. open their World Cup defense against Thailand. And we will be joined on stage by the Portland Thorns very own Meghan Klingenberg. TICKETS ARE AVAILABLE HERE.
Here’s the rest of our schedule, with additional dates coming very soon:
And we mentioned it earlier, but we cannot overstate how proud we are of our American Legend Series, Presented by Budweiser. The series is a glut of Pods and Digital Videos with four of the footballers the U.S. will pin their hopes on this summer in France: Alex Morgan, Crystal Dunn, Lindsey Horan and Megan Rapinoe. Alex Morgan and Crystal Dunn’s installments have already dropped. Lindsey launches TODAY, with a Pod and video being released in just a few hours. And Megan follows next Monday. We beseech you to listen to these because, despite our involvement, the athletes are amazing. And the conversation is about much more than football. It dives into gender equality, race and each players' own personal narrative archs, from childhood to the present.
PS. We want to thank all GFOPs who donated to our ongoing Blazer initiative with Hope For the Warriors. In April, we asked you to send your men’s and women’s blazers to the CPOS so we could give them to Veterans who are transitioning from active service to civilian life. You answered the call and then some, GFOPs. We cannot thank you enough. And a reminder that this is an ongoing initiative and if you have any blazers or business wear to donate, you can send it to the below address and we will make sure it gets to Hope For the Warriors. Courage.
SEND BLAZERS TO: Men in Blazers 325 Hudson Street Seventh Floor NY, NY 10013