[COUNTDOWN: Canada 2014] Less than a month after the end of the World Cup, the USA is again represented in international competition. Unlike the men, who were underdogs in Brazil, the U.S. under-20 women will be the favorites in Canada. The USA opens Tuesday against Germany, which it beat in the 2012 final. The game will be held at Edmonton's Commonwealth Stadium, site of the first FIFA youth championship for women, which the USA also won, in 2002. For six reasons to follow the USA ...
Under-20 Women's World Cup:
Aug. 5 in Edmonton, Alb.
USA vs. Germany (7 p.m. ET on ESPNU, Watch ESPN)
Aug. 8 in Edmonton, Alb.
USA vs. Brazil (10 p.m. ET on ESPNU, Watch ESPN)
Aug. 12 in Moncton, N.B.
USA vs. China (4 p.m. ET on ESPN2, Watch ESPN)
1. The Americans are favored. The USA has won three of the first six Under -20 Women's World Cup championships, and it is favored to win a fourth title. It will be tested right away as Germany beat it the last time they met at the U-20 level. Other teams to watch out for are European champion France, which the Americans beat twice in June. Other competition should come from Asia, where reigning champion South Korea, China, the USA's final group opponent, and North Korea advanced ahead of Japan, which says a lot about the Asian competition as Japan is regarded as having the most advanced girls development program in the world. Brazil, which the USA will face Friday in Edmonton, is the South American champion, while Nigeria, fourth in 2012, returns as African champion.
Under-20 Women's World Cup:Viewing Schedule
2. The USA is loaded up front.Lindsey Horan, who plays in France for Paris St. Germain, is the best young forward the USA has produced sinceAlex Morgan and Sydney Leroux led the USA to the 2008 U-20 title. But Horan is not the only threat up front. Of the other five forwards, four were NSCAA All-Americans in 2013. Florida's Savannah Jordanwas the 2013 Soccer America Freshman of the Year with 22 goals, and Virginia's Makenzy Doniak tied the Cavalier single-season record with 20 goals. French likes the variety in the U.S. attack. "We have some exciting attacking personalities that are a lot different from each other," he said, "so that will be an interesting piece for this group.”
3. French isn't afraid to make changes.This is the first world championship for U-20 coach Michelle French, who was appointed head coach in February 2013, but she isn't afraid to make bold moves. Only five of the starters from the last meeting against Germany in 2013 -- a 3-0 loss in Spain -- are still with the team. And she has brought in seven new players who were not with the team for Concacaf qualifying in January.
4. The Americans are young.Andi Sullivan, who started at outside back in qualifying, finished up high school in June and will be off to Stanford after the U-20 World Cup. Five players were still in high school this last year, including Mallory Pugh, who was only a sophomore. She was brought up from the U-17 national team and could start in midfield in Canada. Sullivan is a co-captain, which is a testament to the leadership in the team. "That can be from the youngest kid to the most experienced player," French says.
Under-20 Women's World Cup:Seven Players to Watch
5. This U.S. team seeks own legacy.For all the success of the USA at the U-20 women's level, each team is different. Notre Dame's Cari Roccarostarted on the 2012 championship team and returns to anchor the defense. Stanford's Stephanie Amack, who did not play in the 2012 final, is the only other player back from two years ago. “We’re a totally new group," says Sullivan. "Different players, different coaches and different experiences. We have just two players that were in the last cycle. As much as we look to the last cycle as a role model, we want to build our own legacy.”
6. The USA has one its deepest teams ever. Horan returned to France early from the Concacaf qualifying championship, but the Americans did not miss a beat as it won the tournament played in the Caymans Islands, sweeping all five games by a margin of 29-0. Besides MVP Rose Lavelle and goalie Katelyn Rowland, Jordan, Amack, Roccaro and Sullivan and Rowland were all named to the Best XI at the Concacaf Championship.
U.S. U-20 Roster:
GOALKEEPERS (3):Jane Campbell (Stanford), Rosemary Chandler (Concorde Fire), Katelyn Rowland (UCLA)
DEFENDERS (6): Stephanie Amack (Stanford), Brittany Basinger (Penn State), Christina Gibbons (Duke), Katie Naughton (Notre Dame), Kaleigh Riehl (Braddock Road YC), Cari Roccaro (Notre Dame)
MIDFIELDERS (6):Carlyn Baldwin (Braddock Road YC), Nickolette Driesse (Florida State), Rose Lavelle (Wisconsin), Mallory Pugh (Real Colorado), Taylor Racioppi (PDA), Andi Sullivan (Bethesda SC)
FORWARDS (6): Makenzy Doniak (Virginia), Summer Green (North Carolina), Lindsey Horan (Paris SG/FRA), Savannah Jordan (Florida), McKenzie Meehan (Boston College), Margaret Purce (Harvard).