The US women’s national team will embark on their journey for a third straight Olympic gold in London on Wednesday, when they face France in their first match of the tournament.
The opening game will give US fans a glimpse into how the team will do this summer, as France is a solid team that will test them early in the Games. While starting off against one of the better squads in the world isn’t ideal, it will be a good gauge for the USWNT and force them to start strong.
The Olympics are an important opportunity for USWNT veteran stars Abby Wambach and Hope Solo to pick themselves back up after the heartbreaking loss in the World Cup last year. If they thought the pressure to win in 2011 was intense, that was nothing compared to what the team is feeling now. Coming into the Olympics ranked number one in the world, they are expected to take gold.
To compound the weight of the high expectations placed on the players, the collapse of Women’s Professional Soccer in the US after the end of last season makes a victory absolutely crucial for the future of the women’s program in the States.
While it has not had an immediate impact on the talent level of the team yet, it’s clear that without a professional league to play in here in the US, eventually the program will suffer. A league in the US allows for development of fresh young talent, and gives them a place within our borders to play professionally.
For there to be a shot at bringing back a league anytime in the next few years, the team needs to be successful this summer—lose, and the return of a professional women’s league will be set back even further.
It is without question that the stakes are unbelievably high. Wambach and Solo need to lead the team, along with rising stars like Alex Morgan and Megan Rapinoe, to Olympic glory—failure in London is flat-out not an option.