The US women’s soccer team will face the Netherlands, Vietnam and an as-yet-unknown playoff winner at next yr’s Women’s World Cup — a fortunate draw, even when it included the Dutch, the team the Americans beat in the ultimate to win their most up-to-date world title in 2019.
The Americans learned their first-round opponents on the tournament’s draw on Saturday and can enter the tournament in Australia and Latest Zealand — the primary co-hosts within the World Cup’s history — because the two-time defending world champion. But they may arrive amid tectonic shifts in the ladies’s game, including an unsatisfying bronze medal on the last Olympics; a generational shift on their roster; and a surge of investment and interest that has powered the rise of recent rivals like England and Spain and revived old ones like Germany, Canada and France.
“Today’s a superb day,” United States midfielder Lindsey Horan said. “It’s exciting.” She said the opening game against Vietnam “offered us an amazing probability to get stepping into the tournament.”
A few of those teams can have liked their draws, too: Sweden, the world’s second-ranked team, was drawn into a gaggle with South Africa, Italy and Argentina, and Germany, the world No. 3 and the runner-up eventually summer’s European Championship, will face Morocco, Colombia and South Korea.
England, the newly crowned European champion, will face a European foe (Denmark), a faded former power (China) and, like the USA, a playoff winner whose identity is not going to be confirmed until February. For England, it’s going to be either Senegal, Haiti or Chile.
“The detailed preparation for the World Cup actually starts after tonight,” United States Coach Vlatko Andonovski said before the draw, adding, “For a team that’s all the time done well historically, the pressure’s all the time going to be there.”
The 2023 World Cup might be the primary since FIFA, world soccer’s governing body, expanded the sphere to 32 teams. That produced a draw populated by familiar faces and first-time entrants: top-ranked challengers and former champions like Sweden, Germany, Spain, France and the Netherlands from Europe; regional powers like Brazil, Japan and Nigeria; and a handful of debutantes — Zambia, Morocco, Ireland, Vietnam and the Philippines.
The Americans? They qualified in July with the assistance of a mixture of old and latest: veterans like Alex Morgan, Rose Lavelle, Lindsey Horan and Becky Sauerbrunn, but additionally newer faces like Sophia Smith, Trinity Rodman and Naomi Girma.
Andonovski’s team stays a mix of past and present: Megan Rapinoe will most probably make the roster next summer, but Carli Lloyd’s role this weekend was helping to run the draw, not waiting anxiously for the outcomes of it. But Andonovski promised that the team could be ready.
“I actually have to say, when you ask me if we’re able to go in a World Cup and compete within the World Cup tomorrow, we’re probably not ready for it,” Andonovski told reporters after the Americans qualified in July. “But are we going to be ready in a yr? Absolutely.”
Others are lower than certain: The US lost to England and Spain this month, its first consecutive losses in five years, and it faces one other daunting challenge next month with two friendlies against Germany, the ladies’s Euros runner-up.
England, the most effective team in Europe in the intervening time and unbeaten in its last 24 games, and Canada, which defeated the USA on its approach to the gold medal eventually yr’s Tokyo Olympics, might be waiting. But so will the Germans and the Dutch and the Swedes and the Spanish and the remaining.
The World Cup will open on July 20, with Latest Zealand and Australia each playing games at home, and conclude with the ultimate on August 20 in Sydney’s Olympic stadium.