SBI's Women's World Cup preview

SBI's Women's World Cup preview

Women's Soccer

SBI's Women's World Cup preview

USWNTBS060511112

Photo by Brad Smith/ISIphotos.com

The United States women's national team kicks off its World Cup campaign on Tuesday in hopes of securing its first World Cup championship since 1999.

The U.S. women have never finished worse than third in any of the five Women's World Cups, but after the standard that was set by the teams of the past, it figures to be win or bust yet again for coach Pia Sundhage and her squad.

In order to accomplish that feat, the U.S. women will have to overcome tournament host Germany, which is the two-time defending champion and led by captain Birgit Prinz and her 128 career goals. Germany opens group play against Canada on Sunday, the opening day of the tournament.

Brazil is also a threat to capture the title, as it's led by five-time FIFA World Player of the Year Marta. The United States was able to top Brazil to capture the gold medal at the 2008 Summer Olympics, and it will hope for a repeat performance should the two teams cross paths again.

Here's a closer look at the USWNT ahead of this summer's World Cup:

USWNT ROSTER

GOALKEEPERS – Hope Solo, Nicole Barnhart, Jillian Loyden.

DEFENDERS – Christie Rampone (C), Rachel Buehler, Ali Krieger, Amy LePeilbet, Heather Mitts, Stephanie Cox, Becky Sauerbrunn.

MIDFIELDERS – Heather O'Reilly, Shannon Boxx, Carli Lloyd, Megan Rapinoe, Tobin Heath, Lori Lindsey.

FORWARDS – Abby Wambach, Amy Rodriguez, Lauren Cheney, Alex Morgan, Kelley O'Hara.

USWNT GROUP C SCHEDULE (all games televised on ESPN, ESPN3.com and Galavision)

June 28, vs. Korea DPR at Rudolf-Harbig Stadium, Dresden, 11:45 a.m.

July 2, vs. Colombia at Rhein Neckar Arena, Sinsheim, 11:30 a.m.

July 6, vs. Sweden at World Cup Stadium, Wolfsburg, 2:30 p.m.

USWNT PLAYERS TO WATCH

Abby Wambach, F – The active leading goal scorer for the U.S. women with 118, Wambach is a key figure at the top of Sundhage's formation. A killer aerial threat and a veteran of two World Cups, she'll be the focal point of the U.S. attack.

Hope Solo, GK – The last time Solo was on a World Cup stage, she was benched in favor of the more-experienced Briana Scurry ahead of the team's 2007 semifinal against Brazil. Solo publicly voiced her displeasure and was promptly kicked off the team before working her way back into the mix. The surefire No. 1 keeper now and fully fit after September shoulder surgery, she's the linchpin of the U.S. defense.

Christie Rampone, D – At 36, Rampone is the oldest player on the team. She's also the last remaining player from the 1999 team that won it all. As the captain in central defense, the onus is on her to make sure her unit is organized and focused throughout the tournament.

Heather O'Reilly, MF – Her play on the right wing is paramount to the attack's success, and her efficiency in setting up the forwards with her runs and and crosses could be the difference for the Americans.

BIGGEST QUESTIONS FACING THE USWNT

  • On the U.S. roster, 13 of the 21 players have never appeared in a World Cup before. Will the inexperience be too much to overcome? Or is Olympic experience just as valuable?
  • Can the 31-year-old Wambach (nine career World Cup goals) be as prolific as she's been in the past?
  • Which U.S. team shows up? The one that surprisingly struggled to qualify through CONCACAF? Or the one that shut out Japan (twice) and Mexico over the last month and enters the tournament as the No. 1-ranked team in the world?

WWC LINKS

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What do you think of this USWNT's chances of winning the World Cup? Who do you expect to have a big tournament?

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