World Cup 2019 Printable, Downloadable Calendar and Game Schedule

Although our sporting culture still has many miles to travel before it even gets close to equality in covering men’s and women’s sports, things have improved measurably during the eight (!!) years since I started this website. That’s why I was so surprised to find (or not find) a simple spreadsheet with games, times, and television listings for the 2019 World Cup. So, I did what any good nerd would do and made one myself.

Feel free to copy and paste or download the data here.

While I was at it, I got all excited and created a calendar as well as a by group version of the data. In these, I tagged the USWNT games and, based on a highly secret, proprietary mix of FIFA rankings and intuition, I highlighted the games I would most recommend watching. Based on standings and how the knockout stage sets up, I might update this and upload new versions later on.

If you’d prefer to view these as .pdfs or even print them out and put them on your fridge, here you go! Click on the images to download or print.

Enjoy the games!

Calendar

List of Games

By Group

Meet the 2019 USWNT: Julie Ertz

The 2019 soccer Women’s World Cup begins on Friday, June 7 in France. The United States team is the defending champions but their path to repeating is a perilous one. The field is stronger than it ever has been before and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see any of the top ten teams lifting the trophy on July 7.

To help prepare you to root for team and country, we’re going to run a short profile of every player on the 23-person roster. When female athletes take their turn in the spotlight, they often receive coverage that is slanted toward non-game aspects of their stories — marriage, children, sexual preference, perceived lack-of or bountiful sexiness, social media activity, etc. In the hope of balancing things out, just a tiny bit, these previews will strive to stay on the field, with only a little bit of non-gendered personal interest when possible.

Julie Ertz

Position: Midfielder

Club: Chicago Red Stars

Number: 8

National team experience: Ertz has 82 appearances for the national team and has scored 18 goals. During the 2019 SheBelieves Cup, she never left the field.

What I wrote in 2015: She’s a calming and confidence inspiring presence for teammates and fans. The United States often dominates games and so [Ertz’s] main job from her central defensive position is to organize, play passes up to the midfielders, and stay vigilant against any budding counter-attacks. When the team faces tougher competition, as it will during the World Cup, it will be interesting to see if [Ertz] will be able to remain as physically dominant and mentally prepared as she has so far in her career. If she does, there’s no reason to think she won’t play every minute of the World Cup for team USA. Watch for her leaping, aerial runs to the near post on corner kicks and free kicks.

What to expect from Julie Ertz in 2019:  Since the 2015 World Cup, Julie Ertz has been shifted from playing right next to Becky Sauerbrunn as a center defender to playing right in front of her as a defensive midfielder. In the realm of coach Jill Ellis’ much critisized positional fiddling around, this has been the most stable and most easily understandable move. Yes, Ertz was a rock in the back line, playing a big role in the 2015 World Cup win, but she’s been just as stable playing the “number 6” role. It suits her aggressive and competitive play even perhaps a bit better than central defender. As a central defender, your job is mostly to stand at the back and repel anyone who comes at you. As a central defensive midfielder, you’re often matched up one to one, mano a mano (hand to hand, not man to man, btw) with the best offensive player on the other team. That’s the type of direct challenge I can picture Julie Ertz really getting fired up for. In this year’s World Cup, that’s what I’d bet on — Ertz frustrating the hell out of the other team’s best attacker.

Video:

Non-gendered personal interest item: When asked about her ability to score goals on leaping headers by Sports Illustrated’s Grant Wahl, Ertz responded, naturally, by talking about her aggressiveness. She said, “I just love trying to score, I guess… I’m not backing out, so someone has to…” You might think this is just fluff, unless you have ever seen her play or if you heard the next thing she said, which was “I’ve knocked my teeth out so many times. My mom’s so annoyed at how many times I’ve knocked out my teeth. She wants me to wear a mouthguard … My dentist is my uncle, and our family always jokes that’s one of the best family-member careers that could have been attached to our family, because I’m losing my teeth all the time.” LOL

Links: An excellent profile of Ertz from Allison Glock for ESPN. Plus her Wikipedia page, U.S. Soccer page, and Twitter.

Meet the 2019 USWNT: Crystal Dunn

The 2019 soccer Women’s World Cup begins on Friday, June 7 in France. The United States team is the defending champions but their path to repeating is a perilous one. The field is stronger than it ever has been before and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see any of the top ten teams lifting the trophy on July 7.

To help prepare you to root for team and country, we’re going to run a short profile of every player on the 23-person roster. When female athletes take their turn in the spotlight, they often receive coverage that is slanted toward non-game aspects of their stories — marriage, children, sexual preference, perceived lack-of or bountiful sexiness, social media activity, etc. In the hope of balancing things out, just a tiny bit, these previews will strive to stay on the field, with only a little bit of non-gendered personal interest when possible.

Crystal Dunn

Position: Defender

Club: NC Courage

Number: 19

National team experience: Dunn has 84 appearances and 24 goals for the national team. This is her first World Cup. During the 2019 SheBelieves Cup, she played two whole games at defense and started one game as a striker, replaced by Carli Lloyd in the 87th minute.

What to expect from Crystal Dunn in 2019:  “Crystal Dunn, Defender” is one of the weirdest parts of this year’s team and yet it explains so much. Crystal Dunn is probably one of the world’s best 20 strikers. In 2015, she led the NWSL in scoring. So far this year, she has four goals in three games for the North Carolina Courage. She’s lightning in a bottle. So, why is she playing defense on the national team? One reason is that being one of the best 20 strikers in the world doesn’t help all that much when the U.S. has five or six of those best 20 and several of them are better than you. The second, and perhaps more meaningful reason is that coach Jill Ellis has spent the past four years tinkering with the idea of playing versatile attacking players in the outside defensive positions instead of defensive ones. This isn’t a radical idea (in fact, it was a formative one for people my age, because it’s how the Brazilian men’s team won the 1994 World Cup in the U.S.) but the extent to Ellis’ commitment to it is striking. Dunn is effective at this hybrid attacking defender role. Despite of (or because of) her height, she’s a tough enough tackler to more than hold up on defense, and having another world class attacker sprinting up the wing when the U.S. has the ball should strike fear in opposing teams. She’s the first choice outside defender for the team and should play most of the time during the World Cup.

Video:

Non-gendered personal interest item:  Dunn was universally considered the “last player cut” from the 2015 World Cup team. That was the year she won the NWSL’s most valuable player award and its Golden Boot for most goals scored, which tells you a little bit about her skill and competitiveness.

Links: Here are her Wikipedia page, U.S. Soccer page, and Twitter. Plus an article about her from Sports Illustrated.

Meet the 2019 USWNT: Carli Lloyd

The 2019 soccer Women’s World Cup begins on Friday, June 7 in France. The United States team is the defending champions but their path to repeating is a perilous one. The field is stronger than it ever has been before and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see any of the top ten teams lifting the trophy on July 7.

To help prepare you to root for team and country, we’re going to run a short profile of every player on the 23-person roster. When female athletes take their turn in the spotlight, they often receive coverage that is slanted toward non-game aspects of their stories — marriage, children, sexual preference, perceived lack-of or bountiful sexiness, social media activity, etc. In the hope of balancing things out, just a tiny bit, these previews will strive to stay on the field, with only a little bit of non-gendered personal interest when possible.

Carli Lloyd

Position: Forward

Club: Sky Blue FC

Number: 10

National team experience: Lloyd has played 274 games for the national team and scored 110 goals. During the 2019 SheBelieves Cup, she came on as a sub in the 85th, 87th, and 88th minutes of the three games.

What I wrote in 2015: Carli Lloyd is one of the most powerful soccer players in the world. From her position in the center of the midfield, (although coach Jill Ellis has experimented with her in an outside midfield role), Lloyd works tirelessly on offense and defense. She is noticeably stronger than almost everyone else in the sport… Lloyd doesn’t have the vision, dribbling, or passing abilities of some of her midfield counterparts, but she more than makes up for it with power and determination. Lloyd should play close to every minute of the World Cup this year.

What to expect from Carli Lloyd in 2019:  What Abby Wambach was to the 2015 World Cup squad, we hope Carli Lloyd will be to this one: a great player well past her prime who provides leadership mostly from the bench. While I have confidence that Lloyd will do everything in her power to support the team, I worry because of her position. Lloyd is a central midfielder. Wambach was a striker. Strikers are kind of like an extremity while the central midfielder is the heart of the team. In the 2015 World Cup, Wambach got into games that were essentially already decided and her team was happy to feed her the ball and try to get her some more international goals. Subbing in a central midfielder is more disruptive, even in games the United States has in hand. Lloyd’s style magnifies that difficulty because she plays so differently from the players most likely to start in her old position this year: Lindsay Horan and Rose Lavelle. Both of those players are playmakers – Lloyd is a scorer. If she can’t get any meaningful playing time, will she be able to lead from the bench? If she disrupts the team when she’s in, will her teammates appreciate her?Lloyd’s belief in her own ability to dominate games is still strong, as is her right. What if she refuses to sit on the bench gracefully? Everything will probably be fine on this front, but I still worry.

Video:

Non-gendered personal interest item: Uh, of interest perhaps only to myself, Lloyd is almost exactly the same age as me and went to the same college as I did for the same four years. So, when I write about her needing to age gracefully and not being sure she’s ready for that, am I being a clear-headed blogger or just projecting…?

Links: Here are her Wikipedia page, U.S. Soccer page, and Twitter.

Meet the 2019 USWNT: Becky Sauerbrunn

The 2019 soccer Women’s World Cup begins on Friday, June 7 in France. The United States team is the defending champions but their path to repeating is a perilous one. The field is stronger than it ever has been before and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see any of the top ten teams lifting the trophy on July 7.

To help prepare you to root for team and country, we’re going to run a short profile of every player on the 23-person roster. When female athletes take their turn in the spotlight, they often receive coverage that is slanted toward non-game aspects of their stories — marriage, children, sexual preference, perceived lack-of or bountiful sexiness, social media activity, etc. In the hope of balancing things out, just a tiny bit, these previews will strive to stay on the field, with only a little bit of non-gendered personal interest when possible.

Becky Sauerbrunn

Position: Defender

Club: Utah Royals FC

Number: 4

National team experience: 157 appearances, this will be her third World Cup. She has zero goals (as one would expect). During the 2019 SheBelieves Cup, Sauerbrunn was getting over a knee injury. She missed the first game, player part of the second, and all of the third. This is not typical.

What I wrote in 2015: Becky Sauerbrunn is a prototypical central defender. She’s strong, physical, and totally reliable. If you’re a midfielder, you feel secure knowing that if you make a mistake, Sauerbrunn is right behind you to clean it up. If you’re a goalie, you know you can count on her to keep the front of your net clear… Sauerbrunn has become the leader of the back line… Barring a major injury, we should expect to see Sauerbrunn on the field for every minute of the World Cup.

What to expect from Becky Sauerbrunn in 2019:  Uh… honestly, nothing has changed from four years ago. Becky Sauerbrunn is still the prototypical central defender. The biggest difference this year is the context Sauerbrunn is playing in. Not only have opponents improved but the U.S. team has spent much of the last four years experimenting with playing converted attackers on either side of the defensive line. Sauerbrunn is being asked to do more than ever at the heart of the team’s defense while her wing backs go shooting up the field. If she can solidify the back line the way she did during the 2015 World Cup, that will go a long way to repeating as champions. .

Video:

Non-gendered personal interest item:  As the wonderful soccer writer, Stephanie Y explains, everyone wants Becky Sauerbrunn to score a goal. There was even a plot among her teammates to give her a penalty kick, but Sauerbrunn classically refused. If she gets a national team goal, she wants to earn it. Hard to imagine there will be many opportunities for the most defensive of defenders to score in the World Cup, but as Stephanie writes in her article, “it would be dope.”

Links: A Equalizer Soccer profile of Sauerbrunn plus her Wikipedia page, U.S. Soccer page, and Twitter.

Meet the 2019 USWNT: Allie Long

The 2019 soccer Women’s World Cup begins on Friday, June 7 in France. The United States team is the defending champions but their path to repeating is a perilous one. The field is stronger than it ever has been before and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see any of the top ten teams lifting the trophy on July 7.

To help prepare you to root for team and country, we’re going to run a short profile of every player on the 23-person roster. When female athletes take their turn in the spotlight, they often receive coverage that is slanted toward non-game aspects of their stories — marriage, children, sexual preference, perceived lack-of or bountiful sexiness, social media activity, etc. In the hope of balancing things out, just a tiny bit, these previews will strive to stay on the field, with only a little bit of non-gendered personal interest when possible.

Allie Long

Position: Midfielder

Club: Reign FC

Number: 20

National team experience: 45 appearances, this will be her first World Cup, she has six goals. During the 2019 SheBelieves Cup, Long wasn’t on the team, but she came on as a sub in each of the last two friendly matches before the World Cup.

What to expect from Allie Long in 2019:  Allie Long is one of those classic bitter sweet USWNT stories. A star player in college and for her club teams, Long has always been just slightly below the best players on the U.S. team at her natural position. For Long, that position is central attacking midfield, a position that Carli Lloyd and Lauren Holliday had a lock on for a solid six years. Now that Holliday has retired and Lloyd is at the end of her fine career, Long finds herself again behind two players at that position, this time younger than herself: Lindsay Horan and Rose Lavelle. Blocked at her natural position, like so many others, Long has had to show positional flexibility to make the team. Coach Jill Ellis has experimented with moving Long straight back into either center back or central defensive midfield. Since Long is a wonderful player, strong, physical, excellent in the air, a technically sound passer, she did just fine in those positions… but not well enough to supplant players who have been playing the for longer and have a more naturally defensive mindset. So now she finds herself blocked for playing time behind Becky Sauerbrunn, Abby Dahlkemper, and Julie Ertz instead of Lindsay Horan and Rose Lavelle. No matter what, the outcome is the same. She’s unlikely to see much playing time in France. If she does get into a few games, expect to see her playing in one of the more defensive positions.

Video:

Non-gendered personal interest item: During the off season, Long plays futsal. Futsal is a version of soccer played either indoor or outdoor on asphalt with smaller teams and a smaller, heavier ball. It emphasizes ball skills and quick feet. In the United States, it’s played mostly by Hispanic soccer players.

Links: Here are her Wikipedia page, U.S. Soccer page, and Twitter as well as two profiles by empireofsoccer.com and ABC News.

Meet the 2019 USWNT: Abby Dahlkemper

The 2019 soccer Women’s World Cup begins on Friday, June 7 in France. The United States team is the defending champions but their path to repeating is a perilous one. The field is stronger than it ever has been before and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see any of the top ten teams lifting the trophy on July 7.

To help prepare you to root for team and country, we’re going to run a short profile of every player on the 23-person roster. When female athletes take their turn in the spotlight, they often receive coverage that is slanted toward non-game aspects of their stories — marriage, children, sexual preference, perceived lack-of or bountiful sexiness, social media activity, etc. In the hope of balancing things out, just a tiny bit, these previews will strive to stay on the field, with only a little bit of non-gendered personal interest when possible.

Abby Dahlkemper

Position: Defender

Club: NC Courage

Number: 7

National team experience: 37 appearances, this will be her first World Cup, she has zero goals. During the 2019 She Believes Cup, Dahlkemper played every minute of every game.

What to expect from Abby Dahlkemper: During the 2015 World Cup, the USWNT had a perfect partnership of ice and fire in the center of their back line. Becky Sauerbrunn provided the ice as the prototypical central defender; strong and dependable — never out of position or flustered. Julie Ertz nee Johnston was the fire; aggressive on defense and capable of sudden strikes up the field. When Coach Jill Ellis converted Ertz to a midfielder it seemed like a fit of fancy destined to end in failure. Why break up such an accomplished defensive pairing? Abby Dahlkemper was the reason. Although this is her first World Cup, she’s an experienced professional star, having anchored the defense of the North Carolina Courage during their championship run in 2018. Unlike the ice and fire pairing of 2015, this year’s World Cup squad will have an ice and ice pairing of Dahlkemper and Sauerbrunn. Like Sauerbrunn, Dahlkemper is a defense-first, second, and third defender. I would be stunned if she didn’t play every second of every game during the World Cup, tormenting opposing strikers throughout.

Video:

Non-gendered personal interest item: Dahlkemper would likely be a more well known name to casual USWNT fans if she hadn’t suffered a severe injury in 2016 shortly after being called up to the national team for the first time. She had a septic infection which began in her right foot which spread up her leg to her knee! AGHH!

Links: Read about Dahlkemper’s injury and her unique connection with Sam Mewis. Here are her Wikipedia page, U.S. Soccer page, and Twitter.

What should I watch at the Olympics on Fri, Aug 12?

The Olympics are here! The Olympics are here!

Now, what should I watch? It’s a universal question with a personal answer. I can’t tell you for sure what you’ll enjoy the most, but I can tell you what I think the best, most interesting events of the day are going to be. Listen to the podcast and follow along with the abridged schedule below. If you want to see a full schedule, check out today’s schedule and tomorrow’s schedule on Dear Sports Fan. If you’re on a phone, this Google Sheets link is your best bet.

Let me know if you enjoy what you see and hear and please, if you have a question as you’re watching, email dearsportsfan@gmail.com and I will reply!

What's new with the USWNT at the Summer Olympics in Rio?

The last we heard from the United States Women’s National Soccer team on a world stage, they were grinning ear to ear and getting showered with confetti after dominating Japan to win the 2015 World Cup. Only a year later, that team is gone, replaced by a new one that’s (believe it or not) younger, deeper, and stronger. The United States entered the 2015 World Cup as one of the three or four favorites along with Germany, France, and eventual runner’s up, Japan. Five Thirty Eight actually predicted that Germany was the slightly stronger team. The situation coming into the Olympics is different. The United States is perceived as being way ahead of its rivals — expected to win the gold medal. So, what happened? Is this simply a case of recency bias? Are we blinded by that last image of our triumphant heroes? What, exactly has changed? To answer these questions, let’s take a quick look at each unit on the soccer field – goaltenders, defenders, midfielders, and forwards.

Goaltenders

Hope Solo is still the best goalie in the world, and her backup, Alyssa Naeher has a reasonable claim at being second. Gone from the World Cup roster is Ashlyn Harris. This is no knock on Harris, but Olympic rosters are only 18 players as opposed to 23 for the World Cup, so there’s no reason to carry three goalies. The United States will have an advantage in goal versus every team they play in this tournament.

Defenders

The 2015 World Cup team was quietly led from behind by a near-unbreakable back four. Center backs Becky Sauerbrunn and Julie Johnston anchored the unit while Meghan Klingenberg and Ali Krieger womaned the wings. They were awesome! I wanted to make helvetica style t-shirts with just their last names on the front. Amazingly, just a year later, one member of this fearsome foursome has been supplanted in the starting lineup. Ali Krieger has been replaced by Kelly O’Hara. You may remember O’Hara from the World Cup semifinals against Germany. She came into the game as a sub (apparently Coach Jill Ellis described her own decision making process as, “we need a bitch, get O’Hara”) and scored a goal in the 84th minute to salt the game away. O’Hara is a more attack minded player than Krieger (she was on the World Cup roster as a midfielder) and her ascension to the starting lineup is partially a recognition that the United States is likely to be doing a lot more attacking in this tournament than actual defense. O’Hara is also five years younger than the 32 year old Krieger, and it’s just possible that she’s a step faster at this point. Krieger will be joined on the bench by the smooth defensive defender, Whitney Engen. Engen was on the World Cup roster as well but didn’t get into a game. Gone are elder stateswomen Lori Chalupny and Christie Rampone. The team will miss their presence but not their play.

Midfielders

The biggest on-field loss from the World Cup team has got to be the early retirement of Lauren Holiday. One of the most insightful (literally) playmakers in the world, there’s no one on this team who can see a play develop and pass the ball as well as Holiday. If there’s anything positive about Holiday’s retirement, it’s that it makes the still crowded midfield picture a tiny less cloudy than it would be otherwise. You can pencil World Cup monster Carli Lloyd into the starting lineup. After rehabbing a knee injury between tournaments, she’ll be back at full strength, doing what she does best — scoring enormous goals in enormous games. In case you don’t remember or weren’t following the team before 2015, Lloyd scored both goals in the 2012 gold medal match to beat Japan 2-1 and the only goal in the 2008 gold medal match to beat China 1-0. Lloyd is the epitome of clutch. She’ll be joined on the field by a defensive midfielder. Morgan Brian is the first choice for this position but has been having some nagging hamstring issues. If she can’t go, Allie Long will replace her. Long is new to the team and is well deserving of a spot. She’s a more traditional defensive midfielder than Brian. At 5’8″, she’s only an inch taller than Brian, but she plays a much more physical game. In the other two midfield spots, Tobin Heath and Lindsay Horan are the two most likely starters. Tobin Heath is a shoe-in for the most improved player since last year. Known for a long time as an insanely skilled player on the ball, Heath has grown measurably since the World Cup in other aspects of the game. I’d now rank her as one of the best and most well rounded players in the world. She’ll strike fear in her opponent’s hearts every time she touches the ball. Horan is new to the team. She’s a strange mixture of Holiday-lite passing ability with Wambach-lite destructive aerial attacking ability near the goal. Everyone’s favorite player, Meghan Rapinoe just barely made the team after frantically rehabbing a torn ACL for most of the time between the World Cup and Olympics. She’ll come off the bench as a substitute. Missing from last year’s team, in addition to Holiday, are the retired Shannon Boxx and Heather O’Reilly.

Forwards

Only the United States could lose the greatest striker of all time Abby Wambach… and get better. Wambach’s long time offensive partner Alex Morgan is in better form this year than she was last. She’s fully healthy and has seemingly found the scoring touch that she misplaced during the World Cup. She’s joined by two new dynamic weapons: Crystal Dunn and Mallory Pugh. Dunn was the last woman left off the World Cup team last year and she’s played like a woman possessed ever since. She led the National Women’s Soccer League in scoring and was named the NWSL’s most valuable player to boot. At 5’1″, she’s all speed and explosiveness. Mallory Pugh may be the most exciting addition to the team. Given what seemed like a “nice story” type of opportunity to play with the USWNT as an 18 year-old, she grabbed the opportunity by the throat and has not let go. At times, she’s looked simply like the best player on the field. As weird as it is to write this about a player so young, there aren’t really any holes in her game. She’s skilled, fast, has a great scoring touch, and looks entirely comfortable on the field with women much older and more experienced than her. Rounding out the strikers is Christen Press. Everyone, myself included, thought that Press was going to be the break out star of the 2015 World Cup. Instead, she got locked out of the starting lineup and barely played. Alas, I fear her fate could be the same in this tournament. It’s a shame, because Press is a player capable of transcendent moments, but she may not be able to get onto the field enough to show us any. Missing from the World Cup team, in addition to Wambach, is Sydney Leroux, who is pregnant, and Amy Rodriguez, who simply couldn’t make the team with the worthy additions of Pugh and Dunn.

Okay, I’m ready. How do I watch?

The United States plays their first game of the Olympics tonight, Wednesday, August 3, against New Zealand at 6 p.m. ET with coverage on NBC Sports Network. They play against France on Saturday, August 6, at 4 p.m. ET with coverage on NBC Sports Network and NBC Universo. The USWNT’s final group stage game will be Tuesday, August 9, at 6 p.m. ET against Colombia with coverage on NBC Sports Network and NBC Universo.

What's up with the 2015 NWSL championship game?

The 2015 NWSL championship game between the Seattle Reign and FC Kansas City is tonight, Thursday, October 1 at 9:30 p.m. ET on Fox Sports 1. Here’s everything you need to know about the game.

What’s the plot?

This is not just a single elimination championship game, it’s also a rematch. These two teams met last year in the 2014 NWSL Championship game, which FC Kansas City won 2-1. The Reign came back better than ever this year and have been at the top of the standings basically all year. During the 20 game regular season, the Reign only lost three games. They won 13 of the other 17, tying the other four. This record put them head and shoulders above the rest of the league. Of the other eight teams, not a single one was able to break double-digits and win even ten games. FC Kansas City came in third place this year, the lowest showing ever for this freakishly consistent team, but did have the second highest tally of wins with nine.

Both teams are built around strong defensive play. Both teams have excellent goalies and strong, cohesive defensive units. Of the eight defenders in the NWSL honored by being selected to the league’s Best XI or Second XI (imaginary starting lineups voted on by NWSL journalists, club officials, and players), a whopping six of them will be playing in this game, three from each team. It’s from the midfield up that the teams start to differ. The Reign’s offense is driven by an overwhelmingly talented group of individual stars in the midfield who have found a wonderful balance playing together. FC Kansas City is a more traditional offensive team built around a wonderful partnership between a playmaking midfielder and an opportunistic striker.

Neither team was challenged very much in their semifinal matches. Although the Washington Spirit were able to hold the Reign to a 0-0 tie for the first three quarters of their match, this was mostly thanks to an incredible effort on the part of their goalie. The Spirit never really threatened to score and eventually the Reign broke through their bunker. Once they scored once, they just started scoring, and it was 3-0 when the game ended. FC Kansas City also won their semifinal by that same score. They jumped on the Chicago Red Stars early, thanks to an unforgivable blunder by the Red Stars keeper. This changed the dynamic of the game and ended whatever chance the Red Stars might have had to play the game on their terms. Kansas City never let up and won in comfortable fashion.

The Seattle Reign are looking for revenge for last year’s championship loss to Kansas City and simultaneously expecting a coronation after being the best team in the league all season. FC Kansas City will be playing for their teammate, Lauren Holiday, who is retiring after today’s game. She wants to go out with a victory and her teammates want her too even more.

Who are the players we know from the U.S. women’s national team?

The Seattle Reign have two familiar faces:

  • Hope Solo, who prowls the Reign’s goal with exactly the same amount of authority as she does the USWNT’s.
  • Megan Rapinoe, who unlike many of her teammates, plays virtually the same role on her club team as she did on the national team. This is vital for the Reign because Rapinoe is at her best when she’s essentially a supremely talented freelancer on one side of the midfield. Forcing Rapinoe into a more central (literally and figuratively) role reduces her impact on the game, so it’s good for Seattle that they don’t need to do this.

FC Kansas City has four players from the USWNT:

  • Becky Sauerbrunn, the rock of the national team’s defense, is the same unflappable power for FC Kansas City. She won the NWSL’s Defensive Player of the Year award for the third time in a row this year. Since this is the third season of the NWSL’s existence, that means no one else has ever won it. They should just name the award after her and get it over with.
  • Amy Rodriguez was a complementary player on the national team but she’s a star for FC Kansas City. She is their Alex Morgan, their number nine, (even though she wears number eight on her jersey.) She’s the best bet to score for Kansas City in this game.
  • Lauren Holiday will be playing her last game of professional soccer today. It’s somewhat fitting that she goes out playing for her club team rather than the national team because, at least in recent years, only with her club team has she been able to play soccer the way she wants. Her best position is the one Carli Lloyd plays at the national team level – central attacking midfielder. Holiday is only a hair behind Lloyd at this position, but that hair was enough to push her into a less comfortable position during the World Cup. If you’ve only seen her play in recent national team games, you’ll be surprised at how dominant she can be.
  • Heather O’Reilly only played in one game during the 2015 World Cup but she should start this game for the Kansas City team. She’s a capable and veteran midfielder.

Who are some other players worth knowing about?

On the Seattle Reign:

  • Kim Little is considered the best player in the world not to make the World Cup. There’s a contingent of people who would claim she’s the best player in the world, period. The Scottish attacking midfielder will certainly be the most dangerous player on the field in this game. She can score from virtually any spot on the field and she’s not afraid to run by or around defenders as well.
  • Jess Fishlock is another player who suffers because Great Britain competes in soccer tournaments in its component nations. Since she is Welsh, that means she has an uphill battle to qualify for the World Cup or Olympics. Fishlock is a strong two-way midfielder whose play stands out on the field even though she is sometimes confused for Megan Rapinoe because of her hairstyle.
  • Merritt Mathias played in last year’s final for FC Kansas City. A striker on a midfield dominant team, she does the often thankless task of harrying opposing defenders and opening up space for her teammates with long, tiring runs.

On FC Kansas City

  • Nicole Barnhardt was Hope Solo’s backup goalie for many years before being overtaken by two younger goalkeepers in the lead-up to the 2015 World Cup. At the age of 33, she truly has not lost a step. Her presence on the field virtually negates the advantage in goal that Seattle usually has.
  • Jen Buczkowski hopes to be the answer to Kim Little. Buczkowski is a shut-down defensive midfielder who will shadow Little all over the field. She’ll look to frustrate Little by denying her the ball and punish her with professional fouls when she gets it. Much of FC Kansas City’s hopes rest on how well Buczowski can perform this monumental task.

What happened last time?

FC Kansas City won thanks to goals resulting from two incredible combinations between midfielder Lauren Holiday and striker Amy Rodriguez.

Look at the angle Rodriguez chooses to run into space between defenders without going offside. Holiday does a great job getting her the ball but Rodriguez should get the lion’s share of credit for this goal.

The second goal involves the same two players but is a different story. Lauren Holiday breaks off just an insane series of brilliant dribbling moves to create this goal. Watch her slalom between defenders before dropping the ball for Rodriguez to easily slot into the net.

Seattle fought back, and did eventually score, but it was too little, too late to catch FC Kansas City.

What else can I learn about the game?

Read Liviu Bird’s championship preview for Sports Illustrated’s Planet Futbol and Lauren Barker’s similar but even more comprehensive article for SB Nation. Graham Hays has five key things to watch for in the game, which he shares with us on ESPNW. Equalizer Soccer brings us a blog post by goaltender Hope Solo in which she describes and thanks each of her Seattle Reign teammates. Finally, listen to Five Thirty Eight’s Hot Takedown podcast. They bring on soccer fan and expert Alison McCann to talk about the current state and future potential of the NWSL.

What’s going to happen this time?

First of all, it’s going to be a great game. Most NWSL matches frankly don’t reach the heights of a World Cup match, but this one will. These two teams are packed with talent and have played together for longer than most national teams get to. They are supremely determined to win. My guess is that this is a scoreless game going into the 75th minute of play. At that point, with the tension ratcheted up as far as it can go and player’s legs starting to get tired, it will come down to which team makes the first mistake and which team can capitalize on it. FC Kansas City and the Holiday to Rodriguez combination is great, but the Reign simply has more options; more ways to score and win. The Seattle Reign comes out on top, 1-0.