(L-R) Mallory Pugh and Trinity Rodman celebrate after the team's fifth goal during the match against Jamaica as part of the 2022 Concacaf W Championship on July 7, 2022 in Monterrey, Mexico.
Once a team has reached the heights that the U.S. women’s soccer team has, results can become less important than performance. The game becomes not just about winning, but how well does the team play while winning.
Take, for instance, what is transpiring at the Concacaf W Championship in Monterrey, Mexico.
After booking a spot in next year’s FIFA Women’s World Cup in Australia and New Zealand earlier in the tournament, the Americans are only two wins away from also securing a berth in the Olympic Games Paris 2024.
Most national teams would love to be in that position. But then again, the U.S. is not like most national teams.
The USWNT faces great expectations when it takes the field, whether it is a friendly, a World Cup or an Olympic Games. Those great expectations come with a great history. But in a world in which women’s teams are improving every year — some by leaps and bounds — sometimes winning is just part of the equation.
The U.S. will meet Costa Rica in the tournament’s semifinals on Thursday at 7 p.m. ET. If the Americans prevail, they will play the winner of the Canada-Jamaica semi on Monday for the right to book a spot in Paris.
The second- and third-place teams will tussle for one of two Concacaf Olympic spots in a playoff next year.
Compared to many of its previous teams, this U.S. squad — a mixture of veteran and youngsters getting their first competitive action at this level — hasn’t exactly played up to expectations.
“If you asked me if we’re ready to go in a World Cup and compete in the World Cup tomorrow, we’re probably not ready for it,” U.S. coach Vlatko Andonovski said. “But are we going to be ready in a year? Absolutely. I’m very happy with the progress of the team, development of the team and the development of the individuals within the team as well. I think that we’re doing a good job and we were moving in the right direction.”
Of course, most teams in the world would love to have the “problems” the U.S. has.
With several veteran players retired or sidelined by injuries or on maternity leave, Andonovski has thrown several younger players into the deep end of the Concacaf qualifying pool. While some of those players have struggled at this level, there have been encouraging signs.