AUCKLAND, New Zealand (AP - The 2023 Women's World Cup is finally here.
The United States will be playing for an unprecedented three-peat at the Women’s World Cup. It won’t be easy for the No. 1 team in the world.
Co-hosted by Australia and New Zealand, the quadrennial tournament for international soccer’s most coveted trophy kicks off July 20 and features an expanded field of 32 teams, up from 24. There are 64 matches during the tournament.
That means more competition for the two-time defending World Cup champion U.S., which won the 2015 event in Canada and the 2019 tournament in France. The Americans have won four titles overall, most of any nation.
WHAT’S THE WORLD CUP SCHEDULE AND WHERE IS IT LOCATED?
The 32 teams are divided into eight groups of four teams. Each team plays a three-game, round-robin group stage, running from July 20 to Aug. 3.
The top finishers advance to the round of 16 from Aug. 5-8. The quarterfinals are set for Aug. 11-12 and the two semifinal matches will be played Aug. 15-16. A third-place game is set for Aug. 19 in Brisbane ahead of the final in Sydney.
The final will air at 6 a.m. ET (1000 GMT) on Aug. 20 in the United States.
The broadcast schedule is complicated by the time difference. The United States is playing in Group E with Vietnam, the Netherlands and Portugal. The opening match is against Vietnam on July 22 in Auckland, which, because of the time difference, will air in the U.S. on July 21 at 9 p.m. ET.
A rematch of the 2019 final against the Netherlands is set for July 27 in Wellington, airing at 9 p.m. ET on July 26 in the U.S. The last group game against Portugal is set for Aug. 1, airing at 3 a.m. ET that same day.
HOW TO WATCH THE FIFA WOMEN’S WORLD CUP
Fox holds the English-language media rights in the United States for the Women’s World Cup. Telemundo holds the Spanish-language rights.
Fox will broadcast a record 29 matches over the air on its main network and the rest of the games will be aired on FS1. All matches will be streamed on the Fox app.
FIFA struck a collective deal with the European Broadcasting Union in mid-June, ending a standoff with a broadcasters in five major European television markets. The deal guarantees the games will air in France, Germany, Spain, Italy and Britain.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
There are two distinct groups of players to watch at this World Cup: Veteran superstars and talented youngsters.
Canada’s Christine Sinclair leads a group of veterans that includes Brazil’s Marta, Australia’s Sam Kerr, France’s Wendie Renard and American Alex Morgan.
Sinclair, who is 40 and likely playing in her final World Cup, is international soccer’s all-time leading scorer, among women or men, with 190 goals.
Megan Rapinoe, set to appear in her fourth World Cup, says that this one will be her last. The 38-year-old forward for the United States plans to retire from soccer at the end of this year.
Young stars include 22-year-old U.S. forward Sophia Smith, 21-year-old Jody Brown of Jamaica and 19-year-old Melchie Dumornay of Haiti. American-born Casey Phair, 16, was named to South Korea’s squad.
Smith doubled up last year as both the U.S. Soccer Player of the Year and the National Women’s Soccer League’s Most Valuable Player.
TEAMS TO WATCH
The United States is ranked No. 1 in the world in the latest FIFA rankings. The Americans are a strong team despite recent injuries, but their dominance in international play will be challenged at this World Cup.
Germany, ranked No. 2, won back-to-back World Cups in 2003 and 2007. Third-ranked Sweden knocked the United States out of the 2016 Olympics in the quarterfinals. Seventh-ranked Canada won the gold medal at the Tokyo Games.
Considered a contender, England has been hit by injuries to top players including Beth Mead, Fran Kirby and captain Leah Williamson. All three will miss the World Cup. France switched coaches in March after some players threatened to skip the tournament.
Australia can’t be counted out as co-host. The Matildas will be boosted by Kerr, one of the world’s best players.
The United States is a +240 favorite to win the World Cup, according to FanDuel Sportsbook. England is next at +430, followed by Spain at +550.
There’s also a big group of teams the oddsmakers say have little chance of lifting the trophy, including Jamaica, Vietnam, Argentina, Zambia, Nigeria, Costa Rica, Morocco, Philippines, South Africa, Haiti and Panama. All are at +43,000.
POWER RANKINGS — July 19
- United States: The favorite for a reason and motivated to make it three in a row.
- Spain: Packed with talent and innovation, and a genuine force; no midfield unit is better.
- England: Was staking a claim as the top team in the world until the injury bug hit.
- Germany: Has never failed to reach the quarters, will be looking for even more.
- Australia: Spurred by Sam Kerr, this team won't be scared of anyone on home soil.
- France: The golden generation has gone, can coach Herve Renard be the wild card?
- Canada: The Olympic champ has been through off-field turmoil, but is battle-tested.
- Brazil: Marta is still going, but the biggest impact might come from coach Pia Sundhage.
- Netherlands: The 2019 finalist hasn't progressed as much as it would have liked.
- Japan: Always solid and professional, but desperately in need of a star striker.
- Sweden: Poor recent form might affect confidence despite an Olympic silver.
- China: Spent years in the doldrums until a stirring Asian Cup triumph. Not to be overlooked.
- Norway: Early pioneers of women's soccer hoping for a resurgence in 2023.
- Denmark: First task is to survive a tricky group.
- Italy: Still looking for a breakthrough at the top level.
- New Zealand: Needs a strong start to stir local interest.
- Ireland: Nerves will be tested by opener against hosts Australia.
- Portugal: First appearance comes courtesy of a resilient backline.
- Switzerland: Impressed by reaching round two in 2015.
- South Korea: Has a 1-8-1 record in its three World Cups.
- Colombia: Highly competitive in South American qualifying, and Linda Caicedo is electrifying.
- Jamaica: Strength in depth will be tested in a viciously tough group.
- Nigeria: An African powerhouse, coached by American Randy Waldrum.
- Argentina: Looking to secure its first victory at a World Cup.
- Zambia: Fast-improving and a popular pick for causing a shock.
- South Africa: African Nations Cup champ but struggling for form.
- Haiti: An inspirational team that will have many neutrals on its side.
- Vietnam: Tough early challenge against the reigning champ.
- Morocco: Hard to know what to expect from this rapidly improving team.
- Costa Rica: Current form is a worry, as is being in such a difficult group.
- Philippines: Impressive effort in qualifying will give hope.
- Panama: Facing a big step up in quality.