The two-time World Cup Champion defenders, the United States Women’s National Team (USWNT) is currently vying for a spot in the 2020 Summer Olympic Games in Tokyo, Japan. In the past three games, the USWNT has dominated teams in our region of the world and they’re expected to clinch their spot in the Olympic tournament this weekend. Here’s an update on what we know so far and what is still to come for the USWNT.
For international soccer tournaments, such as the Olympics or the World Cup, teams first compete within their region to send the very best to the tournament. However, this means that some teams don’t get their shot at competing on the international stage. The USWNT cruised to an easy victory in the last CONCACAF Olympic Qualifying Tournament back in 2016 but were knocked out in the Quarter Final matches. The CONCACAF is the Confederation of North, Central American, Caribbean Association Football and is one of six regional governing bodies for the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA). Teams competing in the tournament include the United States, Costa Rica, Haiti, Panama, Canada, Mexico, Jamaica, and Saint Kitts and Nevis. The tournament is set up with two groups of four teams who compete for the top two spots in their group, who then move onto the semi-finals. The teams who win in their semi-final game will have secured their spot in the 2020 Olympic Games, but both will compete during the final match.
So far six of the matches have been played, putting the United States and Costa Rica in the semi-finals from Group A and Canada and Mexico from Group B. The USWNT holds the first seed coming out of Group A and will play Mexico, the runner up in Group B, to hopefully earn their spot in the Olympics. As stated previously, the USWNT is a dominating force in the region. They’ve scored a total of 18 goals in just three games and have yet to let up a single goal so far in the tournament. This doesn’t mean that their spot at the Olympics is assured. The USWNT will still face more difficult opponents in the semi-finals. Canada and Mexico are the favorites out of Group B and both have competed well on the international stage throughout the years.
The USWNT has played this Olympic Qualifying Tournament under new direction after Head Coach Jill Ellis left the program. Jill Ellis had led the team to two World Cup Victories and 106 international game wins in just five years with the program. Those are pretty big shoes to fill, but Vlatko Andonovski, US Soccer’s pick for the next head coach, has said in press meetings that he’s up for the challenge. Andonovski has been a coach in the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) in the United States for seven years and brought his team to victory in the NWSL Championship game twice.
Andonovski chose a 20-woman strong roster for the tournament but will have to shorten the roster to just 18 players by the time the Olympics rolls around. Which will surely be Andonovski’s first major challenge given that these are the 20 best female soccer players in the United States at the moment. But this also means that these games, while they may look like washouts to the crowd are actually critical games for the players to score in and show their value to the new head coach.
You can catch the semi-final games tonight, February 7, on FS1 or on one of the many streaming services providing Fox Sports channels. The CONCACAF Olympic Qualifying final between the two teams headed to the 2020 Olympic games will be held this Sunday, February 9. Put on your jerseys and show up for your team this weekend and during the Olympics throughout the end of July and early August.