A'Ja Wilson bites her gold medal during the women's basketball medal ceremony at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 on Aug. 8, 2021 in Saitama, Japan.
A new era for the U.S. women’s basketball team begins Wednesday night when the FIBA Women’s World Cup tips off in Sydney.
Gone are longtime stars Sue Bird, Tina Charles, Diana Taurasi and Sylvia Fowles. In their place, look for Breanna Stewart and A'ja Wilson to lead the U.S. in its quest for a fourth consecutive and 11th overall World Cup title.
Here are three storylines to follow heading into Sydney:
The last time Team USA lost in the World Cup, Breanna Stewart was still in middle school. Since finishing third at the 2006 World Cup, the U.S. has won 22 straight games in the tournament.
The U.S. roster is loaded with WNBA talent, with Stewart, 28, and Wilson, 26, among five players back from last year’s Olympic team that won a gold medal in Tokyo. Ranked No. 1 in the world, the U.S. enters as the favorite, though its win streak could be challenged by an increasingly deep field.
The U.S. opens Thursday (9:30 p.m. ET Wednesday) against a tough Belgium team that’s ranked fifth in the world and has a formidable front court in Emma Meesseman and Kyara Linskens. Group A play continues through Sept. 27 with games against Puerto Rico, China, South Korea and Bosnia & Herzegovina.
Things will only get tougher from there. Japan is coming off its first Olympic medal in the sport after taking the silver last year in Tokyo. France is coming off an Olympic bronze medal. Meanwhile, perennial power Spain comes into the tournament ranked No. 2, and Australia, the 2018 runner-up playing on home soil, is No. 3.
U.S. coach Cheryl Reeve said she isn’t worried about what other teams are doing at this moment. She is concentrated on how her team is executing.
“You really have to lock in on what you do,” Reeve said. “You’re going to have your schemes and (have to decide) which ones you will utilize. Belgium is highly skilled. We played them and Puerto Rico in February, and so the first two games for us are a repeat of what we did in February. I think we have a good understanding about what their identity is.”