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 set its sights firmly on 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.

One thing that did not change was the focus of the coaching staff and players on trying to make history again by becoming 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 1996, 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. Ten countries have qualified for Tokyo so far: host Japan, Australia, Brazil, New Zealand, Great Britain, Netherlands, Sweden, Zambia, the U.S. and Canada.

The U.S. team was riding a wave of momentum on and off the field after roaring to the World Cup title by defeating the Netherlands, 2-0, on July 7, 2019, in front of a sold-out crowd of 57,900 fans in Lyon, France. Record-breaking television audiences around the world, as well as media coverage back home once again helped make USWNT the most popular female sports team in the U.S. and perhaps the world.

As witnessed during the 2019 World Cup, the level of competition in the women’s international game continues to grow, making each world championship more difficult than the last. In Japan, every team will be looking to keep the USWNT off the top of the podium, but the U.S. team, with a new coach and a unique blend of experience and young talent, will surely be up for the task.

Women’s soccer teams at the Tokyo Games will compete for medals over a condensed 17-day competition with just an 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 will likely 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 July 20, 2020. For more information, contact the sport press officer here.

- No women’s soccer team has ever won the world cup and an Olympic Games in back-to-back years. Can the Americans accomplish a feat never-before seen in women’s soccer?

- The U.S. was knocked out of the 2016 Olympics 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, a slight the U.S. team will be looking to rectify in Japan.

- The postponement of the Olympic Games has given U.S. star 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. Now, she’ll have plenty of time to regain the fitness and form that have led to 107 career international goals, which is great news for the USA’s gold medal prospects.

- Olympic soccer tournaments are not limited to one venue or city but are instead played across the host country. Although four of the six venues and five of the seven stadiums are in or close to Tokyo, the USA could also play in Sendai or Sapporo during the tournament. All matches will be played in world-class stadiums that seat between 42,000 and 70,000 fans.

- 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 Olympics for the past few years, and their squad has tremendous talent all over the field. With large and boisterous crowds sure to be rooting them on, Japan will be looking to return to their previous world-renowned form.

Megan Rapinoe (Redding, California)
Already known as one of the world’s best players entering the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup, 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 was recovering from a major knee injury, and will be looking to make a greater impact four years on in Tokyo. 

Julie Ertz (Mesa, Arizona)
The U.S.’s defensive midfielder, Ertz 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 will serve as a critical leader for the U.S. as she pursues her first Olympic gold medal. 

Rose Lavelle (Cincinnati, Ohio)
The skillful and dynamic Lavelle was one of the breakout stars of the 2019 FIFA 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 world cup final verse the Netherlands, a tally that will go down as one of the most dramatic and important goals in U.S. history.

Carli Lloyd (Delran, New Jersey)
The U.S.’s veteran leader Lloyd is fast approaching a historic 300th cap and has scored more than 120 international goals, including some of the most important in U.S. history. Llyod 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. 

Alyssa Naeher (Stratford, Connecticut )
Naeher’s performance at the 2019 FIFA 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 back-up on the 2015 world cup and 2016 Olympic team, Naeher got the chance to play in her first world championship in France and showed what happens when talent, mental toughness and preparation meet opportunity.

The USWNT qualified for the Tokyo Games by finishing in the top two at the 2020 Concacaf Women’s Olympic Qualifying tournament that was staged in Houston, Texas, and Carson, California, in late January and February 2020. The eight-team tournament featured two groups of four teams
The Olympic team will be chosen by the head coach and the coaching staff.
To be determined.