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U.S. women's soccer team targets first-ever World Cup three-peat

United States Women's National Team striker Sophia Smith (R) is expected to be one of the top performers at the 2023 Women's World Cup. File Photo by Bill Greenblatt/UPI
1 of 5 | United States Women's National Team striker Sophia Smith (R) is expected to be one of the top performers at the 2023 Women's World Cup. File Photo by Bill Greenblatt/UPI | License Photo

July 21 (UPI) -- U.S. women will start their World Cup run against Vietnam on Friday in Auckland, New Zealand, aiming to become the first team in women's or men's soccer history to win three-consecutive World Cups.

Coverage of the Group E match between the top-ranked Americans and No. 32 Vietnam will air at 9 p.m. EDT on Fox. Oddsmakers expect the Americans to win by at least five goals.

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"I'm thinking about winning a World Cup," forward Sophia Smith told reporters at a pregame news conference. "I'm thinking about winning the first game against Vietnam. Whatever that looks like, whoever scores, whatever the score is, a win is a win. That's the biggest thing to me.

"If it takes me scoring a lot of goals to win, I'll do that. If it takes me playing a lot of defense, I'll do that. We all have the same goal and that's to win. It's to start off by beating Vietnam and doing whatever it takes to do that."

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The U.S. women, who captured titles in 2015 and 2019, are favorites to win the expanded, 32-team tournament -- up from 24 teams four years ago.

The 2023 Women's World Cup started Thursday and runs through Aug. 20 in Australia and New Zealand.

The local time at tournament sites is 14 hours ahead of Eastern Daylight Time, which means most of the games will either air very late at night or early in the morning in the United States. All U.S. women's games will be broadcast on Fox.

The Americans are 40-4-6 in 50 appearances during their previous eight Women's World Cup runs. Vietnam will make its first World Cup appearance -- for a women's or men's team -- Friday against the four-time champions.

This edition of the U.S. women's team features a meshing of youngsters with proven, champion veterans. Smith (22), and fellow forwards Trinity Rodman (21) and Alyssa Thompson (18) lead the American youth movement and are expected to star at the 4 1/2-week tournament.

Defender Kelley O'Hara (34), goalie Alyssa Naeher (35) and forwards Alex Morgan (34) and Megan Rapinoe (38), who announced last month that she will retire from soccer, are among the U.S. players looking to add to their legacies.

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"We are a young and talented team," 31-year-old defender Crystal Dunn told reporters. "There are 14 players stepping into their first World Cup. That's so amazing and incredible.

"The world is going to see so many new faces. That comes with its own challenge, but also such a beautiful opportunity for players to seize this moment and opportunity."

Road to the final

Two teams from each of the tournament's eight groups will advance to the Round of 16, a knockout stage that starts Aug. 5. Eight teams will then move onto the Aug. 10 and 11 quarterfinal round. The semifinals will be held Aug. 15 and 16. The third-place game and final will be Aug. 19 and 20, respectively.

The No. 9 Netherlands and No. 21 Portugal share Group E with the USA and Vietnam. Each team will play three group stage games to finalize standings and determine a winner and runner-up.

The winner from Group E will meet the Group G runner-up in the Round of 16. The Group E runner-up will face the Group G winner in the first knockout round.

No. 3 Sweden is the favorite in Group G, which also includes No. 16 Italy, No. 28 Argentina, No. 54 South Africa.

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No. 6 Spain, No. 11 Japan and No. 12 Norway are among the top-ranked teams the winners from those Round of 16 games can face in the quarterfinals.

The Americans can't face No. 2 Germany, No. 4 England, No. 5 France, No. 7 Canada, No. 8 Brazil or No. 10 Australia until the third-place game or final.

U.S. World Cup schedule

All times EDT

Friday

Group E: USA vs. Vietnam at 9 p.m. on Fox

Wednesday

Group E: USA vs. Netherlands at 9 p.m. on Fox

Aug. 1

Group E: USA vs. Portugal at 3 a.m. on Fox

Aug. 5

Round of 16: Group E winner vs. Group G runner-up at 10 p.m. on Fox

Aug. 6

Round of 16: Group E runner-up vs. Group G winner at 5 a.m. on Fox

Aug. 10

Quarterfinal: TBD vs. TBD at 11 p.m. on Fox

Aug. 11

Quarterfinal: TBD vs. TBD at 5:30 a.m. on Fox

Aug. 15

Semifinal: TBD vs. TBD at 6 a.m. on Fox

Aug. 19

Third-place game: TBD vs. TBD at 4 a.m. on Fox

Aug. 20

Final: TBD vs. TBD at 6 a.m. on Fox

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