(CBS Local/CBS New York)- The 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup kicks off today at 3 p.m. Eastern time, when host country France takes on South Korea at Parc des Princes in Paris in Group A play. The United States Women’s National team will begin its defense of the 2015 title the following Tuesday, June 11th at Stade Auguste-Delaune against Thailand. Jill Ellis’ squad looks to earn the fourth World Cup title in U.S. history and become the second country to win it in back-to-back cycles.
Ranked #1 in the world heading into the tournament, the team has had a strong 2019 so far, going 7-1-2, with the only loss coming back on January 19th to France. In more recent matches, the team has been even better, recording four straight shutouts against Belgium, South Africa, New Zealand and Mexico. Across those four matches, the team scored 17 goals.
With opening kick fast approaching, here is everything you need to know to cheer on the women in their title defense.
Of the 23 women on this year’s squad, 12 were with the team in 2015, making for a lot of familiar faces. The biggest ones gone from the team are forwards Abby Wambach, and Sydney Leroux, defender Christie Rampone and goalkeeper Hope Solo. But, veteran faces like Carli Lloyd, Megan Rapinoe and Alex Morgan are all back, as well as some young stars sure to be fan favorites.
Goalkeeper (3)- Adrianna Franch, Ashlyn Harris, Alyssa Naeher
Defenders (7) – Tierna Davidson, Abby Dahlkemper, Crystal Dunn, Ali Krieger, Kelley O’Hara, Becky Sauerbrunn, Emily Sonnett
Midfielders (6) – Morgan Brian, Julie Ertz, Lindsey Horan, Rose Lavelle, Allie Long, Samantha Mewis
Forward (7)- Tobin Heath, Carli Lloyd, Jessica McDonald, Alex Morgan, Christen Press, Mallory Pugh, Megan Rapinoe
The United States finds themselves in Group F alongside Thailand, Chile and Sweden. Sweden is the team that knocked the USWNT out of the 2016 Rio Olympic Games in the Quarterfinals. Three years later, the women are surely looking forward to getting their revenge. The Swedes are also ranked inside the Top 10 in the world at #9, while Thailand is currently ranked 34th and Chile is 39th.
The current iteration of the team has faced each of its group-play opponents at least once in the last three years. The U.S. knocked off Thailand 9-0 in 2016, dropped Sweden 1-0 in 2017 and beat Chile twice (3-0 and 4-0) in 2018.
Group play for the U.S. opens on Tuesday June 11th at 3 p.m. Eastern Time. Here are the game times for the USWNT’s opening round:
Tuesday, June 11th- USWNT vs. Thailand, 3 p.m. ET (FOX)
Sunday, June 16th- USWNT vs. Chile, 12 p.m. ET (FOX)
Thursday, June 20th- USWNT vs. Sweden, 3 p.m. ET (FOX)
Entering the tournament as the number one-ranked team in the world and defending champion, the U.S. is the favorite to lift the trophy come July 7th in Lyon, checking in at 7/4 odds. The host country, France, is right behind at 7/2 while Germany rounds out the top three with 11/2 odds to win as of this writing. For odds on the rest of the field, head over to Sportsline.
-Only one country in the history of the Women’s World Cup has won it in back-to-back cycles. Germany won the 2003 and 2007 editions of the tournament. The U.S. will join the Germans if they win this year.
-All 23 players on the U.S. squad play their club ball domestically in the NWSL.
-Lloyd, 36, is the oldest player on the roster and the only one to have now made four World Cup teams. She joins a legendary list of players to have played in four World Cups for the U.S. Kristine Lilly (6), Christie Rampone (5), Joy Fawcett, Julie Foudy, Mia Hamm, Brianna Scurry, Shannon Boxx, and Abby Wambach are the others.
-A few young players making their first World Cup appearance are worth keeping an eye on:
Abby Dahlkemper- The 26-year-old defender started all three Send-Off Series matches for the U.S. as part of the back line that help the team record shutouts in every match. Playing center back alongside Becky Sauerbrunn, the duo forms a strong middle of the U.S. defense, making life a lot less fun for opponents.
Rose Lavelle- The 24-year-old midfielder joined Dahlkemper in the Starting 11 of every match of the Send-Off Series and contributed a goal in the team’s 5-0 win over New Zealand on May 16th. The former number-one overall pick in the NWSL Draft (2017) appears ready to be one of the breakout stars of this year’s tournament for a U.S. team stacked with veteran talent.
Mallory Pugh- Fans may remember Pugh for her blazing speed, which she showed off in the 2016 Rio Olympics, where she scored a goal against Colombia to become one of the youngest players in Olympic history to do so. Now 21, Pugh is likely to enter off the bench in the second half of matches to provide an attacking spark for the team. She scored in the 76th minute of the team’s final Send-Off Series match against Mexico and has the ability to make an impact as a super-sub in France.