Miss the World Cup already? Looking for an opportunity to cheer on American soccer against international foes? Well you’re in luck: the FIFA Women’s U-20 World Cup starts tonight.
Not excited? You should be.
No, you won’t see Abby Wambach or Alex Morgan in action tonight. And no, the women don’t draw nearly as much interest as the men (which is unfortunate, considering how successful they are). But there are a number of reasons why you should tune in.
This is the warm-up to next summer’s Women’s World Cup
This year’s U-20 World Cup is being held north of the border in Canada. For the Canadians, this is essentially a dress rehearsal for when they host next year’s senior World Cup.
American soccer fans should remember the 2011 World Cup fondly. Though the U.S. ended up losing to Japan in the final on penalties, the tournament brought us one of the most iconic moments since Brandi Chastain’s penalty in 1999. Trailing Brazil 2-1 in the 122nd minute, American Megan Rapinoe sent a fantastic cross in to Abby Wambach, who headed home the equalizer just past the outstretched arms of the Brazilian keeper.
The U.S. would advance on penalties and exact revenge for their embarrassing defeat in 2007. Meanwhile, commentator Ian Darke added yet another fantastic call to his U.S. resume.
This is the Group of Death
The U.S. will likely advance out of Group B and into the quarterfinals (only 16 nations compete in the U-20 World Cup), but the road couldn’t be much tougher.
They begin group play tonight against Germany, which is the second-best women’s soccer nation. The two nations have combined for five of the six U-20 World Cup titles and both are favored to advance, regardless of what happens tonight.
But after Germany, the U.S. will face their other two arch rivals Brazil and China. This group has both the talent and the storylines to keep you interested throughout.
This is the future of the USWNT
USMNT stars such as Michael Bradley, Jozy Altidore, and DeAndre Yedlin appeared in U-20 World Cups. Some of the men end up playing U-20 soccer before joining the senior team, but a number of them don’t.
This isn’t the case with the women’s team. From the 2011 Women’s World Cup squad, 10 of the 12 players eligible to play in a U-20 World Cup did so. Simply put, the future stars of the USWNT will be on the field tonight.
One key player to watch? Forward Lindsey Horan. Back in 2012, Horan was the top-ranked women’s soccer player coming out of high school and had verbally committed to play at UNC. Instead, she decided to forgo college and signed with Paris Saint-German’s women’s team. At just 20 years old, Horan has already earned two caps for the senior team and is expected to lead the U-20 team with her goalscoring ability.
The U-20 Women’s World Cup begins tonight at 7:00 EDT. Tournament matches can be seen on ESPN 2, ESPN U, and ESPN 3. You can catch tonight’s United States-Germany match on ESPN U and ESPN 3.