(L-R) Alex Morgan, Megan Rapinoe and Allie Long celebrate during the U.S. Women's National Soccer Team Victory Parade on July 10, 2019 in New York City.
With its FIFA Women’s World Cup victory now thoroughly celebrated, the U.S. women’s national soccer team is officially moving forward.
The post-World Cup victory tour wrapped up on Oct. 6. Vlatko Andonovski officially took over as the new head coach on Oct. 28. And now the team’s next tournament is set.
The U.S. will host the 2020 Concacaf Women's Olympic Qualifying Tournament from Jan. 28 through Feb. 9, with games being played in Texas and California. The two finalists will earn berths to the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020.
Though coming off a historic World Cup win this past July, the USWNT should have extra motivation for the coming year.
Winners of four of the six Olympic women’s soccer tournaments to date, the Americans are coming off their worst performance in a major championship at the Rio 2016 Games, where they were eliminated in the quarterfinals. They are also aiming to become the first Women’s World Cup champion to win the subsequent year’s Olympic gold medal.
First, though, the U.S. must qualify.
Eight teams from North America, Central America and the Caribbean will take part in the Concacaf tournament. The U.S. will face Costa Rica, Panama and Haiti in group play, with the games taking place in Houston. A second group consisting of Canada, Mexico, Jamaica and Saint Kitts and Nevis will play in Edinburg, Texas.
The top two teams from each group will advance to the semifinals on Feb. 7 in Carson, California. The winners of each semifinal game earn a berth to Tokyo, and they’ll meet in a championship game on Feb. 9 in Carson for good measure.
The Americans have won each of the four Concacaf Women’s Olympic Qualifying Tournament they’ve taken part in, and will no doubt be favorites to win again.
Fans who got used to the U.S. team’s dominant performance at the summer’s World Cup in France should anticipate some changes in 2020, however.
The Olympic field features just 12 teams, which is half the number that competed in France. Similarly, Olympic rosters are limited to 18 players, as opposed to the 23 in the World Cup.
Changes are also inevitable within the U.S. team, starting with Andonovski, who takes over from Jill Ellis, the first coach to lead a team to two Women’s World Cup titles.
The roster will no doubt have some changes, too, with striker Alex Morgan already out for the Olympic qualifying tournament as she prepares for the birth of her first child in April. However, the World Cup Silver Boot winner has said she hopes to regain fitness in time to play in the Olympics, which begin late July.