By Karen Price | Feb. 27, 2019, 9:34 p.m. (ET)
Kumi Yokoyama of Japan (R) takes the ball as Kelley O'Hara defends during the SheBelieves match on Feb. 27, 2019 in Chester, Pa.

 

The top-ranked U.S. women’s soccer team had leads of 1-0 and 2-1 as it kicked off its SheBelieves Cup title defense, but had to settle for a 2-2 draw as Japan grabbed the late equalizer in the tournament opener Wednesday in Chester, Pennsylvania.

With the World Cup 100 days away as of kickoff, the tournament is a chance for the participating nations to not only work on their own preparation but also get a feel for how they stack up against elite competition.

All four teams competing in the tournament, which will take place in three different cities over the next week, are ranked in the top 10 in the world.

The U.S. struck first on Wednesday. Tobin Heath came from the right side, charging toward the net with the perfect combination of acceleration and footwork to ward off her defender. When she was in line with the goal she chipped a pass back to the front, where Megan Rapinoe knew what was coming and was waiting to snap it past the goaltender for a 1-0 lead 23 minutes in.

Want to learn to curl like the pros? Looking for breaking news, videos, Olympic and Paralympic team bios all at your fingertips? Download the Team USA app today.

The score held going into the break. Japan, ranked eighth in the world, tied it in the second half, but nine minutes later Alex Morgan got her 99th career goal. She deflected a shot by Christen Press, who had just come off the bench.

However, Japan snatched the tying goal in stoppage time and the U.S. was unable retake the lead before the clock expired.

This is the fourth edition of the SheBelieves Cup. The U.S. won in 2016 and 2018 and was fourth in 2017. The Americans will take on No. 4 England on Saturday in Nashville, Tennessee, and No. 10 Brazil on Tuesday in Tampa, Florida.

The World Cup will be held in France and the U.S. opens play on June 11.

Karen Price is a reporter from Pittsburgh who has covered Olympic sports for various publications. She is a freelance contributor to TeamUSA.org on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.