It was a mere formality, but the US women’s national soccer team made it official on Sunday, defeating Jamaica 6-0 in the semifinals of the CONCACAF Women’s Championship to qualify for next year’s Women’s World Cup. The team will tune up when it faces Canada in the championship on Wednesday.
Though there are no posted odds on the game, the US should be considered a strong favorite. Odds are available for who will win the 2019 Women’s World Cup, which will be held June 7 to July 7 in France.
The US is the +200 favorite at Sportsbook.ag, and a +250 top pick at Bwin.com to defend their championship they won in 2015 in Canada. The Canadian national team is a +3300 to win.
US Coach Jill Ellis said the team has been progressing nicely, and she likes their chances in eight months, but warned of crowning the team before the tournament even begins.
“The players in this group are players that have gone through the gauntlet in terms of being challenged and showing their quality,” Ellis said. “They have a lot of depth and a lot of talent. Right now, it’s about the game that’s in front of you. You can’t make predictions like that.”
The US team certainly looked like champions in the World Cup qualifying tournament that began Oct. 4. They faced the third-best team in Mexico, the only team to defeat them in qualifying, and breezed past the neighbors to the South, 6-0.
Megan Rapinoe had two goals, the first in the game’s third minute. Alex Morgan also had two goals.
The team continued its supremacy in its next game three days later against Panama, winning 5-0. Again an early goal, this one by Sam Mewis in the fifth minute, set the tone.
Trinidad and Tobago were next last Wednesday, and the women did what the men’s team could not, downing the tiny island nation, 7-0. Morgan and Rose Lavelle each had two goals.
Their fourth shut out, three with Alyssa Naeher in goal, came on Sunday against Jamaica. Again two players had multi-goal games, with Morgan and Tobin Heath scoring twice in the 6-0 victory.
Heath said the team is playing at a level that other countries find hard to match.
“I think both offensively and defensively our tempo is high,” Heath said. “Defensively we want to regain and win the ball as high up on the field as possible. And then when we do win the ball, wherever we win it, we want to try and go forward as quickly as possible and get to the goal as quickly as possible and take advantage of any team that wants to open up and play against us.”
Putting Rio Behind Them
The qualifying is helping to put the disaster of the 2016 Olympics out of the team’s mind. Several of the members of the current team were in Rio, and the women were one of the top picks to take home the gold medal.
The team was bounced from the Olympics by Sweden in the quarterfinals, losing on penalty kicks. The defeat was the earliest exit it had ever made in a major tournament — spanning back seven World Cups and six Olympics.
Ellis restocked the team with younger talent, and made sure everyone on the team knew that a performance like the Rio Olympics wouldn’t be tolerated.
“The message is that everything moving forward becomes about performance,” Ellis said. “It’s not about how many caps you have or what you’ve done in the past, but what are you doing in this moment and what are you prepared to do for the future.”