The U.S. women's national team has never failed to reach a gold medal game at the Olympics, and with the way things are set up, it would be quite the stunner if they failed to do so this time around.
The bracket has unfolded quite favorably for the U.S. women, who took gold in 1996, 2004 and 2008 and settled for silver in 2000 after falling to Norway in the final. Pia Sundhage's squad has a date against New Zealand in Friday's quarterfinal that will potentially be followed by a semifinal against host Great Britain or Canada.
By contrast, the other side of the bracket is brutal, with powers Japan, Brazil, Sweden and France all duking it out for a place in the final.
It should be noted that New Zealand is no pushover. The Football Ferns nearly sprung an upset over the U.S. women during a February friendly in Frisco, Texas, until Alex Morgan struck in the 88th minute and again in stoppage time to deliver a 2-1 victory. In the group stage, New Zealand succumbed to second-half goals in 1-0 losses to Great Britain and Brazil before coasting by Cameroon 3-1 to reach the quarterfinals as a third-place qualifier.
The United States received an injury boost with the word that veteran defensive midfielder Shannon Boxx is reportedly available for Friday after missing the last two matches with a hamstring injury. With the way Carli Lloyd has played for the U.S. women, she is likely to retain her place in the starting lineup against New Zealand, but having Boxx is a boon for the Americans, who could use the experienced depth considering the amount of minutes the starters played during the group stage.
Do you see the U.S. women having a clear path to the final? Are you apprehensive about the quarterfinal matchup? Do you see Great Britain or Canada providing resistance in a potential semifinal? Which team do you see getting through to the final from the other side of the women's bracket?
Share your thoughts below.