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USWNT vs. Canada Breakdown

Now that the NFL’s crowned a new champion (congratulations going out to Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs for their triumph in last Sunday’s Super Bowl,) the time has come to turn our attention over to the other kind of football. No, ladies and gentlemen, we’re not talking about the XFL, which begins its new season on Saturday afternoon and evening.

Rather, we"re talking about futbol, specifically the United States Women"s National Team. When you last saw them play, it was late January. Over 180 minutes of game time against the Football Ferns of New Zealand, the USWNT earned two shutout victories donning the away kit, outscoring their opposition 9-0 across the two matches held.

In the last three matches that the USWNT and New Zealand have played head-to-head, it"s been all red, white, and blue all the time. The Americans defeated the Ferns by an aggregate total of 14-0, dating back to Feb. 20, 2022, during the second matchday of the SheBelieves Cup.

USWNT Begin Defense of SheBelieves Cup Thursday in Orlando

On Thursday afternoon and evening, matchday one of the 2023 SheBelieves Cup will be held inside Orlando"s Exploria Stadium, a venue that"s certainly no stranger to holding US Soccer matches. Less than a year ago, the United States Men"s National Team thumped Panama 5-1 in the penultimate CONCACAF World Cup Qualifier.

The victory practically locked up the Americans" place in last fall"s tournament. A March 30 loss to Costa Rica in the final qualifier proved immaterial in the grand scheme, as the USMNT would have had to lose by a minimum of six goals that night to not directly qualify.

11 months later, it"s the USWNT"s turn to play at the home stadium of MLS side Orlando City. They"ll begin the SheBelieves Cup with their first real test of 2023, Olympic gold medalists Canada. It"ll be the second game of a doubleheader (7 pm ET/ 4 pm PT, HBOMax [English], Peacock/ NBC Universo [Spanish].)

Thursday"s early game will pit Japan against Brazil in Orlando. Kickoff time for the tournament lid-lifter will be 4 pm ET/ 1 pm PT on HBOMax and Peacock.

What is the SheBelieves Cup?

In case you"ve never watched the SheBelieves Cup before, here is a brief explanation as to what it is: First held in the winter of 2016, the competition is a round-robin soccer tournament hosted by the United States Soccer Federation consisting of a four-team field.

The SheBelieves Cup has only a three-match group stage, mirroring those in larger international tournaments. As is the case in group stages around the world, three points are awarded in the standings for each win, with a draw earning the teams one point apiece in the standings.

Determining a Champion in the SheBelieves Cup

After three matchdays, the tournament ends, with the country whose national team accumulates the most points in the standings winning the championship. Should there be a tie on points at the end of the tournament, goal differential will be No. 1 tiebreaker.

Since the SheBelieves Cup"s inception in 2016, the USWNT have been far and away the most decorated squad in the tournament, winning five championships, including three titles in succession. The 2020 tournament was noteworthy in that the clinching game between the USWNT and Japan was played the very night that COVID-19 was declared a pandemic.

Canadian WNT Threatens Strike, Canada Soccer Threatens Lawsuit

In the run-up to this year"s SheBelieves Cup, one storyline that"s become a major talking point is the behind-the-scenes drama between the Canadian Women"s National Team and the Canada Soccer Association. Last weekend, the Canadians did not partake in a training session and went on strike over income inequality.

This latest labor action marks the second time in under nine months that a Canadian senior national soccer team has gone on strike. Back in June, ahead of a scheduled international friendly vs. Panama in Vancouver, the men"s national team saw that game canceled amid a work stoppage of its own over the same issue.

Later on in the weekend, the Canada Soccer Association notified the women"s national team that it wasn"t in a legal position to strike and attempted to sue the squad, forcing the work stoppage to be stopped itself. This ensures that the team will compete in this year"s SheBelieves Cup without interruption, but Christine Sinclair, captain of the Canadian women"s national team, has stated that their involvement will be under protest.

USWNT Star Morgan in Solidarity With Canadian Comrades

In the wake of the brief strike by the Canadians, USWNT forward Alex Morgan took to Twitter to voice her support for the Canadian Women"s National Team, adding that the Canadian Soccer Association was “on the clock." A key for the Canadians heading into the tournament is a simple one: Tune out the distractions.

If they let the distractions of the work stoppage get to them, Thursday night will be a long one. The fight for equal pay is an important and admirable one, surely, but the battles on the field are just as important right now.

Megan Rapinoe Back in the Mix For USWNT

When you think of impact players for the United States Women"s National Team throughout recent years, chances are one name comes up more often than any other: Megan Rapinoe. Throughout the seven-year history of the SheBelieves Cup, Rapinoe, the USWNT"s star forward, has scored seven goals for the Stars and Stripes, owning the all-time tournament record in that category.

While she didn"t feature in either of the January friendlies for the Americans due to an ankle injury, the provisional roster for the February camp and SheBelieves Cup included Rapinoe and Morgan"s names. Rapinoe was the only player included for selection this month to not be included in the January camp.

Rapinoe Chasing History

If you had to place a wager on Megan Rapinoe"s involvement in this year"s tournament, go ahead and put that money down right now. You can"t lose that bet.

When it"s a major tournament, such as this one or the Women"s World Cup, Rapinoe is going to put on a jersey. With Megan Rapinoe having mulled over retirement in recent times, enjoy her on the pitch while you still can.

The stakes are high for Rapinoe here. With appearances in each match during the SheBelieves Cup, Rapinoe will have accumulated 200 caps for the USWNT as the 14th athlete in program history to hit the plateau.

Final Thoughts

The USWNT will be facing three opponents inside the top-20 in the FIFA rankings over the next week. It begins Thursday with Canada, which enters the SheBelieves Cup at No. 6 in the rankings.

At the same time, however, all three of these matches will be played on home soil for the Americans. When the USWNT suit up at home, they"ve been a great team more often than not. However, last fall, they were beaten by Germany in Miami to end a 71-match unbeaten streak inside the United States,

Prediction: USWNT 2, Canada 0.

Main image credit Embed from Getty Images

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