The Women’s World Cup kicks off Saturday in Canada, with 24 teams fighting to lift the famous trophy when the final whistle blows in Vancouver on July 5. The U.S. Women’s National Team famously finished second in 2011 and is among the favorites this year, but hasn’t won soccer’s most coveted prize since 1999. In this tournament, the U.S. has been handed a tough draw, facing Australia, Sweden, and Nigeria in Group D.
Two players from Georgia, Morgan Brian and Kelley O’Hara, will be integral to the U.S. team’s chances.
Brian was born and raised on St. Simons Island and plays in central midfield. At 22, the Golden Islands girl is the youngest player on the U.S. roster and will be making her World Cup debut. That won’t faze Brian though, as she’s always been an early achiever, making her national team debut in 2013 while still playing college soccer at the University of Virginia, a rarity in women’s professional soccer because turning professional is usually a prerequisite for national team selection. Brian is admired for her brains as much as her ball skills, possessing a remarkable ability to read the play and make the right decision, especially for such a young player.
O’Hara, 26, is from Fayetteville, and may be the most versatile player on the U.S. roster. She won the Hermann Trophy (awarded to the overall best player) while playing as a forward for Stanford in 2009, and played right midfield for the U.S. at the 2011 World Cup. But O’Hara has recently adapted her game to play in a more defensive position, a move which saw her play right back for every minute of the 2012 Olympic Games as the U.S. won gold in London.
Catch the ladies in the World Cup final on Sunday, July 5 at 6 p.m. on Fox.
Grove will be previewing and reviewing every U.S. Women’s National Team game on his podcast, the Total Soccer Show.