Women's Soccer Preview

Coming off a historic run to the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup title, the U.S. women’s national soccer team had to turn its attention to the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020. Then, the COVID-19 pandemic hit, the Games were postponed for one year, and many things suddenly changed for the world and the USWNT.

Following the one-year delay, a U.S. team with some new faces and a new coach in Vlatko Andonovski will attempt to be come the first team to win an Olympic gold medal following a first-place finish at the Women’s World Cup.

The USWNT will be competing in its seventh Olympic Games with the goal of earning a fifth Olympic gold after winning in the 1996 debut, as well as 2004, 2008 and 2012.

Before the sporting world shut down, the U.S. rolled through the 2020 Concacaf Women’s Olympic Qualifying tournament, scoring 25 goals while allowing zero. The USWNT defeated Mexico 4-0 in the semifinal to earn its berth to Japan and then downed Canada 3-0 in the title game to claim its 13th regional crown. The U.S. will join host Japan, Australia, Brazil, New Zealand, Great Britain, Netherlands, Sweden, Zambia, Canada, China and Chile in the 12-team Olympic tournament.

Women’s soccer teams at the Tokyo Games will compete for medals over a condensed 17-day competition with just 18-player rosters, down from 23 players at the World Cup, meaning depth and fitness will be vital to any team’s success.

Because of the relatively short time between the World Cup and the Tokyo Games — and taking into considering how many months of competition were lost due to the pandemic — the 2020 U.S. Olympic women’s soccer team is expected to feature many of the same players who starred on the World Cup fields in France. With the core of the U.S. team bolstered by experience in numerous world championships, the Americans will be one of the favorites in Tokyo. 

Updated on June 11, 2021. For more information, contact the sport press officer here.

• The U.S. will be looking for redemption after failing to medal for the first time at an Olympic Games in 2016. The USWNT was knocked out of the Rio Games in the quarterfinals, losing to Sweden after a penalty kick shootout in a game that saw the United States dominating play. The USWNT out-shot Sweden 26-7 but only put six shots on goal and ending the match in a 1-1 draw at the end of regulation. The U.S. made three of its five penalty kicks to Sweden’s four, and the U.S. team exited the competition earlier than in any previous world championship in its history.

• The postponement of the Olympic Games has given U.S. star forward Alex Morgan a chance to be fit and ready for what would be her third Games. Morgan gave birth to her first child — a girl — on May 7, 2020, and would have had the difficult task of getting herself game ready in just two and half months. She’s instead had plenty of time to regain the fitness and form that have led to 109 career international goals, which should provide a big boost to the U.S. gold-medal prospects.

• Morgan was one of several USWNT stars to ply her trade in England in 2020, where U.S. players joined some of the world’s biggest clubs. Morgan headed to London to suit up for Tottenham Hotspur while U.S. teammates Tobin Heath, Rose Lavelle, Christen Press and Sam Mewis all headed to Manchester. Heath and Press played for Manchester United, while Lavelle and Mewis joined Manchester City.

• Although Japan was eliminated from the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup in the Round of 16, the host nation will no doubt be one of the favorites at the Tokyo Games. Japan may be young, but the program has been focusing on developing a team for the 2020 Games for the past few years, and its squad has tremendous talent all over the field. 
• Already known as one of the world’s best players entering the 2019 Women’s World Cup, Megan Rapinoe became arguably the most famous female soccer player on the planet after winning the Golden Ball as the tournament MVP and the Golden Boot as the tournament’s top scorer. During the Rio Olympic Games in 2016, Rapinoe, who will be 37 at the Games, was recovering from a major knee injury, and will be looking to make a greater impact five years on in Tokyo. 

• U.S. defensive midfielder Julie Ertz, 29, was a dominant player at the 2019 Women’s World Cup in France, scoring her first World Cup goal. One of the USWNT’s most popular players on and off the field, Ertz serves as a critical leader for the U.S. However, Ertz injured her MCL in May during a NWSL game, causing her to miss some time with the USWNT in the run-up to the Olympics. 

• The skillful and dynamic Rose Lavelle, 26, was one of the breakout stars of the 2019 Women’s World Cup, where she dazzled fans and her teammates with world-class performances and won the Bronze Ball as the third-best player in the competition. The midfielder capped her World Cup with the clinching goal in the final against the Netherlands, a tally that will go down as one of the most dramatic and important goals in U.S. history.

• Veteran leader Carli Lloyd recently earned her historic 300th cap and has scored more than 120 international goals, including some of the most important in U.S. history. Lloyd, who would be 39 at the Games, is one of the best clutch players in women’s soccer and has scored the game-winner twice in Olympic gold-medal matches (2008 and 2012). Tokyo would be the fourth Olympic Games for the two-time FIFA Women’s World Player of the Year. 

• Goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher’s performance at the 2019 Women’s World Cup ranged from highly professional to spectacular, and her penalty kick save in the semifinal against England will go down as one of the greatest moments in team history. A backup on the 2015 World Cup and 2016 Olympic team, Naeher got the chance to play in her first World Cup in France and capped it off with a clean sheet in the Final.
• July 21, 2021: U.S. vs Sweden (Group G)
• July 24, 2021: U.S. vs. New Zealand (Group G)
• July 27, 2021: U.S. vs. Australia (Group G)
• July 30, 2021: Quarterfinals
• August 2, 2021: Semifinals
• August 5, 2021: Bronze-medal game
• August 6, 2021: Gold-medal game