Good news, friends! The 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup starts Friday. This is going to be a fun summer of soccer and I am very excited. I figured I would put together a primer for the World Cup by having a conversation with…well a hypothetical person who doesn’t know as much about the World Cup but wants to get into the festivities.

So what’s the deal? Did the US actually qualify for this one unlike the US men last summer?

Yes, we did! Not only did we qualify, but we are the defending champions after we won our third World Cup four years ago in 2015. You may remember Carli Lloyd scoring three goals in the first 16 minutes of the World Cup final to house Japan. When you win a World Cup you get to put a star above the crest on your jersey. We have three stars. Going for that fourth this summer.

Oh yeah, that’s right, our women kick ass. Are we gonna steamroll everyone?

Well, we are co-favorites with the host nation France. Just like every World Cup with the USWNT, the expectation is to win this thing. We don’t award the “hey they got out of the group and played pretty well” points that we give the men. The USWNT expect to win, but it won’t be a stroll past the Arc de Triomphe. FRANCE REFERENCE!! THAT’S GOOD WRITING RIGHT THERE!

So our women and the French, huh? This thing basically shaping up for a US vs France showdown in the final?

Actually, no. The way the draw fell, if both the US and France win their groups (as they are heavily expected), they will meet up in the quarterfinals in what many are already predicting could be the match of the tournament, with the winner eventually taking the trophy.

So what happens before we beat the cheese eaters?

It starts with group play. There are six groups of four where everybody plays each other in their group. Three points for a win, one point for a tie. Top two teams in each group advance to the single-elimination knockout round. Also, the four third place teams with the highest point total also make it to the knockout round.

Wait, so you can finish THIRD in your group out of four teams and still advance?

Yeah, so basically something really catastrophic would need to happen for the US to bail out of the tournament before knockout play. If that happens we should probably just shutdown US Soccer altogether and start over.

So the tournament starts today. When do the US play?

We don’t play until next Tuesday at 2:00pm against Thailand. Then Sunday the 16th against Chile and Thursday the 20th against Sweden . Our toughest match by far will be against Sweden (ranked 9th in the world). If we don’t win the group it will be because Sweden manages to get the best of us. They were in our group four years ago and we drew 0-0. Expect goal-fests against Thailand and Chile, however.

Whoa, whoa whoa. 2pm? 11am? The hell?

Yeah, like I said, France is hosting the 2019 World Cup. Time zones and whatnot. Not quite as convenient as four years ago when the World Cup was held in Canada and the matches were in primetime. But guess what 2pm kickoffs on weekdays means? Knockin’ outta work early! Get those out of office meetings scheduled on Outlook now and meet everyone at the bars.

So who is our best player? Abby Wambach?

Nope, Wambach went out on top after retiring following the 2015 World Cup win. This is Alex Morgan’s team, who I am sure you have heard of or would at least recognize if you saw her. Baby Horse, as her teammates call her, is the betting favorite to be the top goal scorer in the tournament. You can always spot her on TV by the pink strap she wears in her hair…and the fact she is the one scoring all the goals. 

Yeah, Morgan. I know her. Who is an up and comer about to breakthrough that I can name-drop to sound like I know what I am talking about.

Mal Pugh! She is poised for a huge breakout and be the next star/face of US Soccer. 21-years old and this looks to be her coming out party on a global stage. She became the stuff of internet legend a month or so ago when a story about her breaking her wrist goofing around when she was 12. Her dad told her she couldn’t play in the tournament so she looked him in the eye and snapped the bone back into place. Badass.

So where are we all skipping work to watch these things?

The US matches will be on FOX so any bar with a TV will be able to put it on. Looking for a big watch party? Surly is having big throwdowns for the matches with a TV outside. Of course the old standby Brits Pub will be doing it up big as usual. I HIGHLY encourage you to watch with a big group of people. There are few things better than watching huge global soccer matches with a crowd.

This all sounds well and good. So….who ya rootin’ for?

Rooting for a fourth star, baby.

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