Dear Sports Fan,
I had no idea the Women’s World Cup was upon us. Give me the breakdown – who are the top teams? Where is the Cup being held? Are there any channels showing it in the US?
Dear Penalty Kick,
The Women’s World Cup is indeed upon us. This quadrennial competition pits the best 16 women’s national soccer teams against each other over three weeks. It began on June 26 and will conclude on July 17. It is being held in Germany with games in nine arenas throughout the country.
The women’s tournament has a lot in common with the men’s. To start with, just qualifying for the tournament is a great achievement for many countries. The qualification games have been going on since April 2009! The tournament is divided into two stages. In the first stage or group stage, the 16 qualifying teams get split up into four groups of four. Each team plays every other team in the group. A win is worth three points, a tie worth one, and a loss none. At the end of the group stage each team will have played three games. The two teams in each group with the most points will move on to the next stage. As you can imagine, with only eight possible point totals it is pretty usual to have some teams tied at the end of the group stage. Luckily there is a Byzantine system to settle these situations! There is a hierarchy of eight tie-breaking factors that end with “Drawing of lots by the FIFA Organizing Committee!” The second stage is a pretty straight-forward single elimination tournament between the surviving eight teams.
The host team Germany has won the last two World Cups and they are again the favorites. If they stumble under the pressure, the next most likely teams to take advantage are the Brazilians, the Americans, the Japanese, and the Swedes — believe it or not, people bet on these games! People watch them too! Every game will be televised on ESPN or some ESPN channel.
I love watching women’s soccer because… well, I love watching any soccer! The issue of why women’s sports are not more popular as spectator sports in our country is a bigger one than you asked me to bite into, but it does seem like soccer translates from men to women better than almost any sport. The rules are exactly the same — the ball the same size, the field the same size, etc. The competition is as fierce and unlike men’s soccer, our women actually have a good shot to win! Also there is WAY less diving! The U.S. team played its first game today and won 2-0 over a North Korean team whose coach blamed lightning for his loss in his post-game press conference. Lighting!! The remaining two games in the group stage for the U.S. are Saturday at noon against Colombia and Wednesday July 7 at 2:35 against Sweden. Give them a watch!
Thanks for the question,