New York, NY – The worst kept secret in U.S. sports was revealed today when U.S.Soccer President Carlos Cordiero and United States Women’s Soccer General Manager Kate Markgraf officially unveiled 2019 NWSL Coach of the Year Vlatko Andonovski as the successor to Jill Ellis.
Markgraf, who left the broadcast booth to take on the responsibility of running the U.S. women’s program, including replacing Ellis, had this to say, “From the moment I came aboard, the main focus has been on hiring a new U.S. Women’s National Team coach.”
“We identified the qualities we thought were most important for this unique position, we talked to quite a few people in the women’s soccer community domestically and around the world, and in the end, Vlatko was the best fit with his experience with elite players, how he sees the game, how he coaches the game and manages players, and his overall personality and ability to take on a job of this magnitude.”
USWNT coaching selection process
High Press Soccer was curious about the process and who was in the room during the final interviews, so we asked. “It involved Earnie Stewart, the Sporting Director,” Markgraf began, “and Earnie had already gone through the process once, and was valuable support throughout the entire hiring search process. Cindy Parlow Cone, who was the technical expert and then Barry Paulos from coaching education, who has worked with many coaches both here and in Belgium.”
Markgraf described a process that involved, “looking and quizzing him (Andonovski) and quizzing the other candidate. Putting different scenarios in front of them to see how they can think on their feet in a stressful situation when they know they are going to be evaluated and also the quality behind their answers.”
Andonovski won a pair of NWSL Championships with now defunct FC Kansas City in 2014 and 2015. He has been named Coach of the Year twice, this season with Reign FC, and in 2013 with FCKC.
Andonovski had been widely tipped to win the position but he clearly understands the history behind his new job, noting, “All of the talented coaches and players that have come before have built a legendary tradition of excellence and I’m committed to working very hard to continue to move this program forward.”
NWSL success helped secure the job
Andonovski is the first coach to come to the USWNT job directly from the NWSL. The Yugoslavia born Macedonian-American was sure to give a tip of the cap to the league.
“The NWSL has been tremendous in my development,” Andonovski said. “They have done such a great job creating a platform, not just for players but for coaches to develop and improve their knowledge and understanding of the game.”
Andonovski emphasized the tight bond between the league and the national team, saying, “ I have already had numerous conversations with the coaches in the markets and we are all in agreement that we are going to collaborate as much as possible and ultimately we are all going to fight and struggle with the same goal.”
Andonovich explained, “obviously they have the first goal for them is to win games and to win championships in the league but we are all going to fight towards the ultimate goal, which is winning World Cups and Olympics.”
Andonovski does not have all that much time to build towards that Olympics in Tokyo next July and he will take his first steps towards that test very soon, with a pair of friendlies in Columbus, Ohio versus Sweden on November 7 and three days later in Jacksonville, Florida against Costa Rica.
About Vlatko Andonovski
Vlatko Andonovski is a 43 year-old originally from Yugoslavia.
He came to the US in 2000 to play for the Wichita Wings in the now defunct NPSL. He’s been a full-time manager since 2013, first with the Kansas City Comets (indoor) and then with the NWSL’s FC Kansas City. He won titles with FC Kansas City in 2014 and 2015. After that club folded, he took over Reign FC in Seattle in 2018.
Reign finished 2019 in fourth place in the NWSL with a 10-8-6 record. They were third last year with an 11-8-5 record.
With Andonovski has a USSF Pro License, he has no international coaching experience.
Ellis leaves the program as inarguably its most successful coach. She steered the team to consecutive Women’s World Cup victories. She’s coached the most games (127) and won the second most (102) in USWNT history. Ellis will continue coaching the nationals for their five friendlies on their victory tour, after which she’ll end up as the winningest coach too.
Naturally, speculation has begun on “who will be next?” However, before a coach is hired, a GM for the women’s program must be named. The most obvious candidate would be Ellis herself. She’s certainly earned it. As of today, that doesn’t appear to be a consideration. On her exit conference call Tuesday, Ellis gave no indication she was giving the GM role any thought.
Regardless of who the GM is, most of the coaching candidates will remain the same. It’s difficult to handicap the race without a GM but we’ll give our thoughts as to who should be considered and why.
Remodeling the US program first…
A major storyline from this year’s World Cup was how 7 of the 8 quarterfinalists were European teams.
European clubs have started investing in the women’s game. Traditional powerhouse clubs from England to Spain and France are fostering programs down to the academy level.
The results have been immediate and profound.
This is a problem for the US.
Europe is home to the best domestic leagues in the world by a large margin. Their academy system, from Ajax to Southhampton, Liverpool to Barcelona, are second to none. This is in part why you see European nations dominate at the World Cup. From a young age, players are receiving the best training possible.
Despite our deep talent pool, the US has failed to catch up with Europe. The pay-to-play club model is a major reason why.
Whoever steps in as the next GM and coach should take a serious look at the game down to the youth level. How can US soccer learn from Europe and adapt / adopt their best practices? Is there a happy medium?
If changes aren’t made, the US women’s program will take a step back and look more like the men’s side. This will be a major storyline for the sport in the next 4-to-8 years if the US slip. In the US, it will be the story.
Initial reports of possible replacements all list some variation of the same names. The general consensus is the most likely candidate will come from the NWSL. There are a few female candidates, but the majority of the names are male.
The US needs to nail this hire. Someone with familiarity of the European academy model — and ideas on how to reshape our youth program — should be a line-in-the-sand requirement. The easiest — and laziest — thing to do would be changing nothing.
With that exposition out of the way, on to who should be the next USWNT coach.
The leading contenders
Laura Harvey – Utah Royals
I like Harvey, 39, for two reasons: 1) she’s English and has coached at Arsenal (great women’s program) and Birmingham City, and 2) she’s coached the USWNT U-23 squad and reportedly gave Ellis the heebie-jeebies (she viewed her as a threat) a few years ago.
Harvey now coaches the Utah Royals in the NWSL. She’s straddled both the English Academy model and US youth system. Is she too young? Or is she the right age to lead the program into a new era?
Regardless, in a field without any obvious leading candidate, she’s the best option we see.
HPS Handicapping: +250
Paul Riley – North Carolina Courage
Riley, 55, is probably the most bandied about name for the position. He’s been in the USWNT cue before, most recently in 2014.
Riley, a Liverpool native (#ynwa), would have some familiarity with the European academy model. However, he’s far removed, having been in the US since 1982 (first as a collegiate player at Adelphi University, then in various US pro leagues).
It’s really his coaching bonafides in the US that earn him consideration. He’s won back-to-back NWSL Coach of the Year honors.
This seems like the easiest / laziest choice (not that he’d be a bad coach), but he wouldn’t be our pick. Still, where there’s smoke…
HPS Handicapping: +300
Mark Krikorian – FSU
Krikorian, 59, has turned FSU into a power program on par with UNC. He’s been with the Seminoles since 2005. Before that, he coached the U19 USWNT in the Thailand World Cup.
With two NCAA titles (2014 & 2018), he knows how to win. But is his age, gender, and lack of recent international experience going to be an issue?
HPS Handicapping: +650
Vlatko Andonovski – Seattle Reign FC
Another male! Andonovski, 42, is the right age profile. He’s had success in the NWSL, winning the 2014-15 titles with FC Kansans City. He went to Seattle after KC folded.
While noted for developing young talent, Andonovski has no — as in literally none — international experience. Major demerit.
HPS Handicapping: +900
The longshot candidates
Emma Hayes – Chelsea
Hayes, 42, currently manages the Chelsea women’s team. While not at the US national level, she has coached in the states at the collegiate (Iona) and professional (Chicago Red Stars, ’08-10 version) levels.
She’s helped develop some of the top talents at this year’s World Cup (Hedvig Lindhal, Millie Bright, and Fran Kirby). Interesting choice who the US probably won’t give much consideration to this cycle.
HPS Handicapping: +1600
Mark Parsons – Portland Thorns
Parsons, 32, has been coaching in the NWSL since 2013. He won a title with the Thorns in 2017.
But…while very respected, he’s too young. Check back in on the next cycle.
HPS Handicapping: +1700
Sarina Wiegman – Netherlands
The current coach of the Netherlands has been getting some ink, but we don’t see it happening. While she has spent time in the US (she played at UNC), she’s got a good gig with the Dutch side. Why pull a Kevin Durant and leave to the slightly better squad? She’s close enough already. She’ll try to see it through with the Dutch.
HPS Handicapping: +2500
Jitka Klimková – USWNT
Jitka, 45, is the USWNT U20 manager. She played for the Czech first division and national team. Lacks the pedigree for the top job though.
HPS Handicapping: +4500
Tony Gustavsson – USWNT
He’s the ponytailed blond man on the sidelines with Jill Ellis. The 45 year-old won’t be the permanent coach, but it wouldn’t be surprising if he served on an interim basis until a successor is named.
If (huge if) he impressed enough and had buy-in from the players, maybe (huge maybe) he’d get the full-time job.
HPS Handicapping: +5000
Ellis will still remain with the team through their five game victory tour this summer.
According to Equalizer, Ellis is stepping down of her own accord. Neither Ellis nor USSoccer has released a statement as of this writing.
Jill Ellis USWNT coaching record
After an interim stint as manager, Jill Ellis was appointed as permanent coach of the USWNT in May 2014.
From there, she guided the national team to two World Cup titles (2015, 2019). She won CONCACAF and FIFA Women’s Coach of the Year honors in 2015.
Was Jill Ellis a good coach?
Ellis has her critics. The 2016 US Olympic finish — the worst-ever for the team — is a blot on her resume. However, the English born manager has to be credited with keeping the US program on track to win this year’s World Cup despite a swirl of publicity relating to the team’s Equal Pay Lawsuit against USSoccer, as well as the back and forth between co-captain Megan Rapinoe and U.S. President Donald Trump.
Ellis’ near-constant experimentation, which continued up to the World Cup semifinal and final, had some critics scratching their heads. In particular, her decision to start Sam Mewis over Lindsey Horan raised howls of protest among the USWNT cognoscenti and casual fans alike. But Ellis had the last laugh, as Mewis performed very well on the biggest possible stage.
In the wake of that 2016 Olympic disappointment, Ellis set about broadening the USWNT’s playing style, a process that led to more than a few bumps in the road. Ellis sought to turn the U.S. into more of a possession-based side, rather than a team that got by on speed, strength, and athleticism.
Ellis, now 52, felt that the likes of 2016 Olympic Champions Germany, along with France, and England, among others, were too good to beat with that approach – and so began a three year “Mad Scientist” phase for the coach.
She tried and discarded a three-back set featuring career-long midfielder Allie Long. Ellis sometimes struggled with a problem most of her rival coaches would have given their eye teeth to try solving: what to do with so many fantastic players?
By the time the World Cup rolled around this June, Ellis had settled on playing dynamic attacker Crystal Dunn at left fullback, even though Dunn can be a nightmare from the forward or attacking midfield position.
Ellis landed on Julie Ertz as the team’s defensive midfielder, although she teased the possibility of using the Best 11 World Cup 2015 defender in the back right up until the WWC kicked off.
Silky smooth attacking midfielder Rose Lavelle emerged as one of the rising stars of the women’s game. A share of the credit has to go to Ellis, who never wavered in her belief that Lavelle, despite missing considerable time through injury in the World Cup buildup, could bring that something different the USWNT was lacking.
Ellis also stuck to her guns when she decided that Alex Morgan flanked by Megan Rapinoe and Tobin Heath was her best front line, despite the presence of Carli Lloyd, Christen Press, and Mallory Pugh.
Jill Ellis USWNT coaching record
Ellis, a longtime assistant who took over from Tom Sermanni in May 2014, walks away as the only coach to have won the Women’s World Cup on two occasions.
She retires with an outstanding record of 102 wins, 7 losses, and 18 ties.
Ellis, who coached more games than any other USWNT coach, will take charge of the team through its five-match Victory Tour, beginning Saturday at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California, when the World Cup Champions face the Republic of Ireland.
Who will be the next USWNT coach?
There is no obvious successor in place, as Ellis was when the decision to terminate Sermanni was made.
And then we have the issue of the General Manager. As with the Men’s National Team, USSoccer has created a system in which the person named to the newly created position of General Manager will lead the coaching search.
Earnie Stewart was eventually named as the GM on the Men’s side, after a delay that left the USMNT rudderless for a long year, before Gregg Berhalter was finally named.
That cannot happen with the women’s team, not with the 2020 Olympics just around the corner.
Given the proximity of the Olympics and the increased investment in the women’s game by a number of the traditional European powers – seven of the eight quarterfinalists were European – whoever takes on the mantle of GM needs to nail this hire.
It really is difficult to speculate on the next coach without knowing the identity of the GM but with all 23 of the U.S. World Cup Team coming from the NWSL, it makes sense to look to the domestic league for Ellis’ likely replacement.
The most respected and experienced coaches in the league are Paul Riley, of North Carolina, Vlatko Andonovski of Seattle, and Laura Harvey, of the Utah Royals. Jim Gabarra is out the league at the moment but he has a long career in U.S. Women’s soccer behind him and could possibly emerge.
We will be keeping an eye out for future developments.
The USWNT aren’t the life of the party right now…they are the party.
The team celebrated their 2019 Women’s World Cup win today with an estimated 1M New Yorkers. With some clear pre-noon drinking going on, they’d put many college spring breakers to shame.
It’s a big day for the team: they fly straight from the victory parade in New York to the ESPYs in LA. It’ll be fun to see what kind of shape they’re in tonight.
Here’s some of the best victory parade pictures we can find. We’ll upload more as the day goes on.
USWNT victory parade pictures
The party kept rolling for the USWNT today during a victory parade in New York City.
The team was clearly in high spirits and enjoying the moment. A reported 1 million people showed up to support the team.
Once the team arrived at City Hall, chants of “equal pay” rang out.
There, at the steps of City Hall, USSF President Carlos Cordeiro addressed the elephant in the room:
“We believe all female athletes deserve fair and equitable pay. [We believe] together we can get this done.”– USSF President Carlos Cordeiro
With Cordeiro throwing it out there, he’s put himself in a spot with little wiggle room.
Rapinoe addresses the issue
US star Megan Rapinoe, possibly a little bit inebriated, closed the rally.
After giving shout outs to everyone involved in the USWNT program, she addressed Cordeiro’s comments:
“I think he’ll make things right…He’s with us…We look forward to holding those feet to the fire.”– Megan Rapinoe on Cordeiro’s equal pay comments
Let’s see how this plays out.
A few notes:
- Julie Ertz is draped in an American flag and playing air guitar on the World Cup trophy? How badass is she?
- That plane ride home looks fun.
- Great photo of Kelley O’Hara sitting down and soaking it all the years of hard work.
- Jessica McDonald and her son ❤
USWNT celebrating World Cup photos
What a week of soccer!
How far ahead are the USWNT from the rest of the world? And how far behind are the men? Give it a listen.Listen to “High Press Pod Episode 14: A Tale of Two National Teams” on Spreaker.
In Megan Rapinoe We Trust.
And Rose Freaking Lavelle.
Overcoming an elite performance from Netherlands goalkeeper Sari van Veenendaal, the USWNT won back-to-back World Cup titles.
But claiming the 2019 Women’s World Cup title wasn’t easy.
Scoreless first half as van Veenendaal comes up big
The US had opportunities to get on the board in the first half, but we’re denied time and time again by van Veenendaal.
In all, van Veenendaal made four on target saves, many of which were revandedonkulous.
The US controlled possession and outshot the Netherlands, but couldn’t breakthrough in a physical, scrappy half.
Rapinoe, Lavelle bring the title home
The game was all square until VAR reared its ugly head again in the second half.
In the 58th minute, Stafanie van de Gragt high kicked Alex Morgan in the box. The US was lining up to take a corner, but the ref was called to check on VAR. After review, a penalty was awarded.
Up stepped Megan Rapinoe.
Rapinoe cooly waited for van Veenendaal to show then slid the ball in the opposite direction, giving the US a 1-0 lead in the 61st minute.
It was Rapinoe’s third penalty conversion of the tournament and 50th international goal. At 34, she became the oldest player to score in Women’s World Cup history.
The US went on the attack from there.
In the 69th minute, Rose Lavelle drove the ball from halfway unchallenged and fired a rocket to put the US up 2-0 and the game out of reach.
As the US is expert at doing, they bled the clock out to secure the win. Coach Jill Ellis was able to Carli Lloyd on the field at the end, giving the US legend an appearance in each game this World Cup.
Back-to-back and four in all
The win gives the US back-to-back World Cup titles and four in all. The four titles are two more than Germany.
Rapinoe secured the Golden Boot for the tournament and player of the match honors for the championship. She was also awarded the Golden Ball for the tournament.
I was wrong.
In 10 years, we’ll remember the summer of 2019 as the year that women’s soccer became a permanent fixture in the collective global sporting consciousness.
And how did that happen? Because the USWNT are the new Dream Team: a global phenomenon with the A-list personalities that match the A-list talent they bring to the pitch.
The sport will never be the same because of them.
Women’s soccer is already changing and the World Cup isn’t even over yet
It’s already happening.
ESPN announced a TV deal this week with the top women’s soccer league in the world: the NWSL.
Noting the record ratings that rival FOX is realizing from the Women’s World Cup, ESPN finally decided that they were ready to cash in. It’s a modest start of just 14 games (including the semifinals and championship), but ESPN can support and grow the league through a digital content reach that’s unmatched from its peers.
The fact that coverage starts almost immediately after the World Cup ends will only help ensure ratings success. The world has come to know not just USWNT players, but international stars like Chicago striker Sam Kerr. Diving right into coverage fresh off the World Cup and in the barren wasteland of summer sports is a brilliant strategy to build on an already engaged audience.
Digital media consumption in general, from live streams of games on FIFA to traffic on High Press Soccer itself is proving interest in the women’s game is vast and strong.
We’ve already seen the tipping point. It’s happened. Now it’s time to build on it.
USWNT players are forces on and off the pitch–sit back and enjoy them
None of this would be possible without the success on the field and conviction off the field of the USWNT.
Yes, they may be too talented to fail. But from the first game of their World Cup, the USWNT have captured headlines that their male counterparts never have.
Beat Thailand 13-0 and get criticized for too much celebrating? They make no apologies.
Come up with some clever tea sipping shade to throw at your opponent after scoring? Call out the double standard when you’re called out for it.
There is something different about this USWNT compared to their legendary predecessors. They great, they know it, and they don’t give a f*ck if you don’t like it.
It’s what makes many a transcendent modern star. For a sport to breakthrough, you need to be more than great. You need stars to be larger than life.
The public is responding to them not just by tuning in with their eyes, but showing up with their wallets too. USWNT jersey kits are Nike.com’s top all-time seller now. Something like that can’t happen without boys buying and wearing them–which they are doing.
There will be peaks, valleys, and plateaus with the game’s popularity from here. But the women’s soccer is now part of the broader global sporting landscape. So have a sip of tea and appreciate who made it happen. Teams and personalities like this are generational. Enjoy them while you can.
The head start is gone; the rest of the world has caught up.
The development system is just too inefficient.
Jill Ellis will finally get exposed.
The lingering obsession with pace, power and fitness will eventually sink the United States.
That signature American arrogance will be their undoing.
People in and around women’s soccer in the U.S. have been hearing, and saying, things like this for the better part of two decades. They’ve been saying it the past month too. There’s at least a kernel of truth in many of these sayings.
After wallowing in misogyny and institutional sexism for decades, many of the sport’s traditional hotbeds are finally waking up to the women’s game.
The American youth club soccer landscape is indeed a chaotic, cash-driven crab barrel that caters to the white and wealthy, where marginalized groups are overlooked and under-represented and culture and craftsmanship take a back seat to crass consumerist scorekeeping. College ball is a pretty hot mess, too.
Talent trumps everything
As steady as Jill Ellis’ hand has been on the helm this summer and as bought-in as her team appears, her cumulative track record remains open to examination. She still serves up several head-scratching decisions a year and she’ll always be associated with the 2016 Olympic faceplant, one of the biggest fiascoes in USWNT history. Even when she’s flawless, the fearsome riches of quality at her disposal inevitably obscure efforts to divine just what share of the credit she truly deserves.
Her charismatic, supremely talented players have built a strong case in their pursuit of gender equity from the U.S. Soccer Federation. Nonetheless, they work full-time in the most advanced and lavishly-supported women’s national team program on the planet. Occasionally, they come off sounding tone-deaf about that and their place in the wider world of WoSo.
So yes, there are complicated and imperfect aspects to the USWNT as the defending world champs approach the summit again this weekend. Their sport is evolving quickly and there are absolutely no guarantees that what has worked up to now will continue to work into the future.
And in all likelihood, all that won’t matter when they face the Netherlands in Lyon, France in the final of the 2019 Women’s World Cup on Sunday.
An imperfect system that’s still too big to fail
“We win any way possible and it is the DNA of this team to win no matter what,” U.S. center back Abby Dahlkemper told reporters earlier this week.
The USWNT are a machine. They’re a thoroughbred competitive powerhouse a quarter-century in the making that has in recent years managed to refresh itself without losing hold of the established magic that’s been passed down from generation to generation. The depth of the player pool is the envy of the world. Each roster is a shark’s mouth of gleaming, razor-sharp teeth with endless rows of replacements waiting to push forward to fill any gap.
The program sits atop an enormous, cutthroat soccer pyramid founded on the sheer overwhelming numerical superiority of some 2 million registered players from youth to adult across the richest nation on the planet.
It’s prominently failed to value and mobilize the country’s Hispanic, immigrant and blue-collar populations. This has allowed a tradition of direct, often brutally physical play to take root and shortsightedly severed the elite tiers of youth play from the dominant U.S. cultural paradigm of high-school sports. And American women’s soccer can still call on an incredible depth and array of resources – human, infrastructure and beyond.
Dozens of thousands of youth clubs and coaches dot the map and competitive leagues abound. There are about 600 NCAA Division I and II collegiate women’s soccer programs, offering thousands of athletic scholarships and hundreds of quasi-professional, highly-competitive training environments. And there are many more schools at the NAIA and D3 levels. (Even if many of the governing body’s outdated rules and regulations are an active hindrance to nurturing new generations of modern footballers.)
It’s run on a shoestring and troubling threadbare in important ways. But the federation-affiliated professional league, NWSL, is the most fiercely competitive top flight in the world. It’s about to get it’s time to shine too, with a newly minted ESPN TV contract. The league is cauldron of demanding soccer and dedicated pros where even poverty-line contracts are keenly pursued and USWNTers past, present and future vie for the attention of Ellis and her staff.
And on those rare occasions when the senior squad fail to perform –- like against Sweden in Brasilia three years ago — or the infamous 4-0 WWC semifinal loss to Brazil in Hangzhou, China in 2007 — or the epic 2011 final loss to Japan –- their adversaries still must get everything right to defeat them. The margins for error are so big on one side, and so tiny on the other.
“We step on the field every time and we know we’re going to get the [opponent’s] best game and we have to play to our very best,” veteran defender Kelley O’Hara said this week. “I don’t think we ever underestimate anything. I think that’s what what people project onto us.”
Culture eats strategy for breakfast
Culture, we are often told, eats strategy for breakfast. And as often as Ellis, April Heinrichs, Sunil Gulati, the mandarins of the NCAA and USSF boardrooms, various figures in various youth organizations and other powers that be may have goofed up on strategic stuff over the years, the cumulative size, history and momentum of women’s soccer’s place in the United States endures.
The intoxicating allure of the beautiful game is that any team can win on any given day, and that should cheer both the marked underdogs in orange and the neutral viewers on Sunday. What’s just as liable to chill their hearts, however, is the a sprawling, star-spangled stack of institutional advantages piled atop the opposite side of the ledger.
And those are probably not going to fade away any time soon.
The 2019 Women’s World Cup final is set!
The USWNT defeated England 2-1 in a thriller on Tuesday to advance.
After 120+ opposite-of-thrilling minutes, the Netherlands topped Sweden 1-0 on Wednesday to punch their ticket to the finals.
This is the 8th time the US will face the Netherlands internationally. The Orange Army reach their first ever World Cup final in only their second ever tournament appearance.
Here’s what you need to know heading into the final game of this year’s World cup.
Women’s World Cup Finals Game Time
The 2019 Women’s World Cup final will take place between the US and Netherlands on Sunday, July 7th at 11am ET.
In the US, the game will air on FOX.
Women’s World Cup Finals Odds
For a refresher, read how to bet soccer.
Most of the money is coming in on the US to win the game. They’ve moved from -400 to -435. Netherlands has gone longer from +300 to +320.
Title futures though are as follows:
|USA -435||Netherlands +320|
Women’s World Cup Finals Probabilities
FiveThirtyEight gives the US a 66% chance to repeat as champs.
Third Place Match
England will play Sweden for third place on Saturday the 6th at 11am ET. The game will be aired on FOX.
England was not the US’s toughest opponent — France was. The final against either the Netherlands or Sweden should not be as difficult as the quarters and semis were. But this is a knockout tournament and anything can happen.
Two of the US’s best players (Megan Rapinoe and Rose Lavelle) nurse tricky hamstring injuries, though both players have indicated that they will be healthy by Sunday’s final.
Some tactical notes from the wild win over England and how the US can improve as they head into a pressure-packed final. I’ll end with some final notes on the importance of the team in general.
Phil Neville wins the strategy game over Ellis
US coach Jill Ellis did not play her best strategic cards. She set the US up in a base 4-3-3 and allowed England to control the tempo of the game, playing heavily up the right flank through star right back Lucy Bronze and searching for diagonal switches. Too often, England disjointed the US with interplay down the right flank followed by a switch to a wide open Beth Mead. They created their goal through such a pattern of play.
The US’s biggest weakness became a leaky midfield. Without strong ball-winning and ground-coverage down the spine, Ellis’s team allowed England to transition possession into the attacking half too easily. Passes into advanced midfielders (like Nikita Parris, who was influential) unlocked meaningful attacking sequences.
Julie Ertz has to be better as the US’s defensive midfielder, and whoever plays alongside her — most likely two of Lavelle, Lindsey Horan and Sam Mewis — have to be stronger. The US have to be smarter with their pressing triggers and trapping. Much of that falls on Ellis.
Credit to England’s Phil Neville for setting his team up for success.
2. Improvements in possession
England would not have controlled the game to such an extent had Ellis designed a more effective possession shape. When the US took the ball in their defensive half, they spread wide and trusted the center backs to carry the ball forward and lead distribution. Lavelle, who has good vision and ideas, should be on the ball deeper. The full backs have to have more of a role.
It was bizarre watching the US set up when Becky Sauerbrunn or Abby Dahlkemper had the ball. The formation was an exaggerated 4-3-3, with the midfield barely visible. Ertz ranged forward consistently, which works only when the US actually get the ball forward. They did not do that well enough.
To possess the ball, you have to have a discernible midfield. Ellis appeared overly concerned with the flanks, which makes a fair bit of sense against an English team that loves its overloads and switches, but the way she set the US up with the ball resulted in low-percentage long balls. There has to be more meaningful possession.
3. US destroys opponents in transition.
The US thrive in transition play and counter-pressing. Losing the ball in your own end against the USWNT is death. The wingers are skillful and Alex Morgan is a cerebral hold-up striker, particularly when she finds the ball in tight spaces around the 18-yard box. Tobin Heath, despite a subpar performance against England, is arguably the US’s best overall player, and disintegrates hopeless defenders off the dribble with regularity. The US will combine and overlap with ferocity, and whip deadly crosses into the box once they’ve thoroughly disjointed you.
Whichever team the US face in the final will be at a real and noticeably talent deficiency. All of the US’s opponents in this tournament have been. Against England, talent won out.
4. Press good, but Rapinoe was missed.
Starting Christen Press on the left wing proved a downgrade to Rapinoe, though Press did score the US’s first goal. Rapinoe is a better passer and connector, and was scorching hot heading into the semifinals. Press sometimes misses passes and runs. She does track back well and did in this game.
5. US good and killing the clock
It will be interesting how aggressive Ellis is willing to be against the Netherlands or Sweden. The US’s 4-1-4-1 defensive shape (which sometimes looked like a flat 4-5-1) was conservative, and Ellis designed it to flummox a possession-happy England. It mostly succeeded in that goal.
That defensive set-up proved helpful once the US resorted completely to time-killing mode after Alyssa Naeher’s heroic penalty-kick save. It was bold to carry the ball to the corner as early as the US did, but it worked, and England barely generated any meaningful chances late in the contest. France ran into similar problems.
Let’s take a moment to recognize the pressure on this USWNT team.
They’ve ruffled plenty of feathers this tournament, from celebrations against Thailand and England to Rapinoe’s political activism to the enduring fight for equal pay. Everyone expects them to win, and plenty may delight in their losing — curmudgeonly Brits, and hardcore Trump supporters who hate Rapinoe, and men who refuse to accept equal pay.
A loss in the final should not diminish their multiple worthy fights, but in the brutal, volatile world of public opinion, a defeat would undoubtedly be devastating. Primarily, it would be used as ammo by opponents of equal pay. However flawed (both morally and economically) arguments against equal pay are, they will hang around.
The pressure mounts on a team that is becoming a phenomenon. It is not often that we see an international side this controversial and polarizing. The spotlight will be on when they take the Lyon field for the World Cup final.
What. A. Game.
England heard for days how the USWNT vs France was “the real World Cup final.”
The Lionesses heard those pundits and said, “Hold my Guinness.”
In an open, physical, controversial thriller, the USWNT defeated England 2-1. The win sends the US to the 2019 Women’s World Cup final.
Press starts for Rapinoe, makes her presence felt early
The pre-match shocker was Christen Press getting the start over Megan Rapinoe.
While early reports indicated that Rapinoe was not injured, she didn’t warm up with the team and didn’t sub in. It later came out that she was nursing a possible hamstring injury.
The pressure was on Press to deliver, and she wasted no time. In the 10th minute, Kelley O’Hara delivered a beautiful service to Press who buried home a header, giving the US a 1-0 lead.
England wasted little time to respond. Ellen White leveled the game in the 19th minute. The goal was her sixth of the tournament, giving her the Golden Boot lead over Alex Morgan.
With the game all square at 1-1 in the 31st minute, Morgan reclaimed the Golden Boot lead. Press found Lindsey Horan who delivered a laser perfect pass to Morgan’s head. Morgan became the first player to score a goal on her birthday (30th) in Women’s World Cup history.
Alex Morgan scores her first goal since the opening game and retakes the lead in the Golden Boot race (6 goals, 3 assists)— FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) July 2, 2019
She's the first player in #FIFAWWC history to score on her birthday 🎂 pic.twitter.com/EGWBNIyaxI
Scrappy and controversial second half
The intensity leveled up in the second half, as both squads got scrappy.
The intense play was over-shadowed by more frustrating VAR controversy.
First, Ellen White’s second goal of the game was called back on an inexplicable VAR off-side ruling.
Then White was awarded a penalty in the box off a phantom contact call. It felt almost like a make-good by the ref.
England has struggled on penalties all tournament. Once again, the penalty opportunity was all for naught as US keeper Alyssa Naeher saved Steph Houghton’s shot from the spot. This was England’s third pk miss of the World Cup, the first time that’s happened.
NAEHER SAVES!!!!!!!!!! pic.twitter.com/h4JqFFLylY— FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) July 2, 2019
The save secured the US’ victory, moving them into the World Cup finals. They await the winner of Netherlands vs Sweden on Wednesday.
Updated title odds
Having now vanquished FIFA’s #2 (France) and #3 (England) teams, the US are heavy favorites to repeat as World Cup champs. The latest odds:
- USA -455
- Netherlands +600
- Sweden +900
Fox drew 6.12 million viewers for Friday’s match, and peaked at 8.24 million. The game was the most-watched English-language soccer telecast in the country since last year’s men’s World Cup final.
The game also drew over 211,000 live stream views.
This isn’t a one-time fluke either. The USWNT game vs Chile averaged 5.74M viewers.
While the US squad pulls a huge audience in America, interest in the Women’s World Cup isn’t just a stateside phenomenon. FIFA estimates over 1 Billion people will watch the Women’s World Cup across all platforms.
How Women’s World Cup stacks up against other sports
While these are not all apples-to-apples comparisons, the numbers do show an impressive level of interest in the women’s game at the World Cup. Consider the following:
- MLS: The typical MLS broadcast averages around 290,000 US viewers.
- Premier League: The average Premier League game draws approximately 428,500 US viewers.
- Champions League: The 2019 Champions League final brought in an audience of 2.9M in the US. Imagine how much lower that number would’ve been had Manchester City made the finals.
- MLB: The most watched MLB team is the New York Yankees. Their average game draws 277,000 viewers. Depending on the match-up, MLB playoffs attracted 2.4M – 6.4M viewers last year. However, the 2018 World Series deciding game drew over 10M viewers.
- NBA: Playoff ratings for the NBA dropped to 2.92 million viewers this year. The NBA Finals peaked with a US audience of over 10M.
- Super Bowl: While a one-game championship isn’t a fair comparison to a one-month spectacle, this one is interesting. The total Women’s World Cup viewership of 1B far eclipses the NFL’s Super Bowl. The most watched Super Bowl ever (2015 Patriots vs Seahawks) attracted a total global audience of approximately 164M people.
The 2019 Women’s World Cup semifinals are set.
One side of the bracket went as expected as top-seeded USWNT face off against FIFA #3 England.
The other half of the bracket had more volatility.
We identified the Netherlands (FIFA #7) as a darkhorse candidate to reach the finals at the start of knockout round play, and that’s a strong possibility now. They defeated Japan (FIFA #7) in the Round of 16. They caught a break by getting Italy (FIFA #15) instead of Australia (FIFA #6) in the quarters.
Now, they’ll face a surprising Sweden (FIFA #9) instead of Germany (FIFA #2) in the semifinals.
Women’s World Cup Semifinal Game Times
The Women’s World Cup semifinal games take place on Tuesday, July 2nd and Wednesday, July 3rd.
- Tuesday, July 2nd at 3pm ET: USWNT vs England (FOX)
- Wednesday, July 3rd at 3pm ET: Netherlands vs Sweden (FOX)
Women’s World Cup Semifinal Odds
The latest odds for the Women’s World Cup semifinals at DraftKings Sportsbook are:
|England +330||Draw +225||USA -112|
|Netherlands TBD||Draw TBD||Sweden TBD|
These should both be close, competitive match-ups. FiveThirtyEight has more favorable probabilities of the US winning than oddsmakers, and Netherlands vs Sweden as a virtual coin-flip:
Women’s World Cup Title Odds
Visit: 2019 Women’s World Cup title odds for updated pricing.
At the completion of the quarterfinal games, title futures are:
- USA – 120
- England +380
- Netherlands +450
- Sweden +650
Women’s World Cup Title Probabilities
Over at FiveThirtyEight, the US are essentially 50/50 to win the World Cup now. If England were to pull an upset in the semis, they’d be prohibitive favorites against Netherlands or Sweden.
So much for Megan Rapinoe’s war of words with President Donald Trump being a distraction.
Rapinoe has scored four straight goals for the USWNT, the first time that’s happened in the squad’s history. She’s also the first women’s national player to ever score two goals in consecutive World Cup knockout games.
Rapinoe delivers bigly again
The US got off to yet another fast start in this one.
In the fifth minute, Rapinoe converted a free kick (thanks in part to a great shield and leave by Julie Ertz) to give the US a 1-0 lead.
Both teams created a number of opportunities but neither could break through.
That changed and escalated quickly beginning in the 65th minute.
Tobin Heath drove forward and found Rapinoe on a cross, giving the US a 2-0 lead.
Heath almost scored one of her own in the 76th minute, but it was called back after a questionable off-sides call.
France got one back on yet another Wendie Renard set piece header in the 81st minute.
Both teams played on their front foot the rest of the game, but time expired with the US holding on to a 2-1 win.
With her two goals today, Rapinoe ties teammate Alex Morgan for the Golden Boot lead.
US now odds-on favorites
The US advance to the semifinals of the World Cup for the eight straight time. They’ll play England on Tuesday, July 2nd.
With the win, the US find themselves as odds-on favorites to repeat as champs. England will be the second consecutive game against the #2 favorite they’ll play. Here are the latest Women’s World Cup title odds:
|USA -120||England +400||Germany +420|
|Netherlands +900||Sweden +2100||Italy +2300|
The US and France are strong favorites to win the World Cup. Whoever advances will see their World Cup title odds spike.
With a variety of daily fantasy contests covering today and tomorrow’s quarterfinal match-ups, we’re going to take a different approach to selections in this post. The focus today will just be on players (not pricing). DraftKings has a number of different contests with varying player values. We’ll isolate and discuss players (or teams) we believe will get you points regardless of their price tag.
Women’s World Cup Quarterfinal Games
As we’ve been doing, before getting to recommended selections, we’ll review lines for each game as well as goal scoring props.
For a refresher, read up on how to bet soccer. The home team is listed first. The “-” means that team is favored.
Quarterfinal games for selection on DraftKings are:
|Friday, 3pm ET||USA +128||Draw +225||France +225|
|Saturday, 9am ET||Italy +260||Draw +215||Netherlands +118|
|Saturday, 12:30pm ET||Germany -134||Draw +255||Sweden +390|
The Netherlands are 79% to advance. Germany (63%) and the US (54%) are slighter favorites. If you’re in a legal sportsbetting state, that +118 on the Netherlands looks like a strong play.
For daily fantasy, none of the three above games are favored to go over 2.5 goals. There are some goal scoring props though we’ll discuss in the following section.
Our WWC Quarterfinal DFS Picks
For a refresher: Typically, contests have 8 position selections. You have $50,000 to spend with a $6,250 average salary.
Given the way contests are split over the next two days, there are Showdown entries where the salary varies from Classic games.
Double-check line-ups an hour before game time for any player rotations / non-starters.
- FW: Vivianne Miedema, Netherlands. In Classic contests including today’s US vs France game, she’s only the 9th most expensive forward. However, she’s the second lowest odds (behind only Alexandra Popp) to score the first goal in her respective game.
- FW: Alexandra Popp, Germany. Speaking of Popp, Germany is the most likely team to win according to bookmakers. She’s the most likely to score. Don’t overthink this one.
- MID: Sara Däbritz, Germany. She’s been awesome. Over the last three games, she’s averaging over 20 FPPs. She’s had a goal in each of the last three, and fills up the box score even if she’s not finding the net. In Classic contests, she’s the 8th (!!!) most expensive midfielder.
- MID: Lindsey Horan and Rose Lavelle, USWNT. Neither are among the most expensive mids, and both have looked consistently like the US’ best player(s). Selecting either one is a good play.
- DEF: Magelena Eriksson, Sweden. Low cost. Gets double digit points. Will be active against Germany.
- GK: Almuth Schult, Germany. For your keeper, focus on who has the best shot at winning the game. Over the next two days, that’s Schult.
- Alex Morgan has seen her price go down since her ridiculous five-goal out-burst against Thailand. We’ve advised staying away since then given her cost. Her price has course corrected now and she’s worth a look.
- If you like France, midfielder Amandine Henry is second on her squad in FPP. And she’s not even priced in the top 15 midfielders. An absolute must start if you think France is winning this game.
- Wendie Renard has been an every-other-game performer. After tallying zero points against Brazil, she could be in line for another double-digit showing against the US.
- Megan Rapinoe tends to show up in the biggest games. She’s always a threat when the stakes are highest.
The 2019 Women’s World Cup quarterfinal bracket is set.
Italy put on a impressive display to defeat China 2-0 today. Norway topped China 2-1 on two Lieke Martens goals. China was the better team overall, but thanks to a handball in the box, Norway came away with a 90th minute winner:
Here’s a look at the quarterfinal bracket, odds, and probabilities.
Women’s World Cup Quarterfinal Bracket
For the first time in Women’s World Cup history, no Asian teams advanced to the quarters. The field is dominated by European countries. Of the 8 teams in the quarterfinals SEVEN (!!!) come from Europe.
Credit to European nations for investing in the growth of women’s soccer.
Women’s World Cup Quarterfinal Match-Ups and Times
- Thursday, June 27th 3pm ET: Norway vs England on FOX
- Friday, June 28th 3pm ET: France vs USA on FOX
- Saturday, June 29th 9am ET: Italy vs Netherlands on FS1
- Saturday, June 39th, 12:30pm ET: Germany vs Sweden on FOX
Women’s World Cup Quarterfinal Odds
Here are the quarterfinal odds and probabilities for each match.
|Norway +260||Draw +240||England +108|
|France +225||Draw +225||USA +128|
|Germany -134||Draw +225||Sweden +390|
|Italy +340||Draw +245||Netherlands -118|
The only odds-on favorites to advance are the Netherlands and Germany.
Women’s World Cup Title Odds
Heading into the quarterfinals, only the Netherlands have seen their title odds jump. Drawing Italy for the quarterfinals, the Netherlands have gone from +1200 to +900 in the past 24 hours.
|USA +150||France +350||Germany +500||England +750|
|Netherlands +900||Sweden +1900||Norway +2300||Italy +2500|
Women’s World Cup Probabilities
The USWNT are still seen as probability favorites on FiveThirtyEigtht. Like with betting odds (and in spite of arguably a lucky win against China), the Netherlands have seen the biggest jump, leap-frogging England as the 4th favorite.
The USWNT concluded a statistically perfect Group F campaign with Thursday’s steely 2-0 win over Sweden at Stade Oceane, a deep-blue pearl in northern France’s maritime hub of Le Havre where Bob Bradley once coached the local side.
One way or another, both the location and nature of that swashbuckling defeat of their Viking bogey team lent a seafaring tint to our thinking about the journey ahead for the defending champions as they begin the Women’s World Cup knockout stages with Monday’s round-of-16 match vs. Spain in Reims.
The US are heavily favored in this one (although they’ve been bet down from -310 to -270 over the past 24 hours). This a match-up for the US against a fast-rising women’s soccer protagonist that probably arrives a bit too soon for the Spanish success story.
But even if you buy into the conventional wisdom, it’s only the first of four high-stakes chapters for the Yanks if they are to keep hold of their trophy. So please, come sail away with us.
The enemy armada
Finally pushing past their nation’s outmoded notions of proper femininity, La Roja have risen in the women’s game in recent years. They’re powered by the same technical craftsmanship and loving relationship with the ball that earned their men’s national team a World Cup and two Euro titles from 2008-12.
They can pass as well as anyone. Growing up immersed in a deeply soccer-reverent culture, their tactical understanding is high. Like others at France 2019, their players carry a flinty (and inspiring) chip on their shoulders wrought by years of dealing with institutional sexism. But unfortunately for Spain, the key to their hopes of upsetting the USWNT revolve around a skill set that has proven to be their weakest link: Finishing
It’s often the centerpiece of an aspiring underdog’s game plan, not just in terms of their own ability to efficiently convert scoring chances but also the disruption of the favorites’ attack. Despite plenty of possession and interplay, Spain have scored just three goals in three games at this tournament to date, all of them in their 3-1 defeat of South Africa – and two of those from the penalty spot.
La Roja can control the tempo and create chances. They lack a clinical striker capable of converting all that into advantages on the scoreboard. Meanwhile the USWNT are blessed with a wealth of that type, from the starting trio of Alex Morgan, Megan Rapinoe and Tobin Heath to menacing reserve options like Carli Lloyd and Christen Press to the all-around talents of Lindsey Horan and Julie Ertz.
I am the captain of my soul
Confidently sweeping aside Sweden, even given the Norse side’s less-than-full-strength lineup, posted a potentially powerful message from the USWNT. Never mind all that talk about dodging a quarterfinal meeting with France: We’re the reigning champs, and the rest fear us, not the other way around.
“They [the USWNT] love being favorites, they love the spotlight and attention, they accept the pressure and enjoy it. They have won everything and are still hungry,” wrote Spanish playmaker Vero Boquete, a national-team icon who currently plays in the NWSL with Utah Royals FC, in a pregame column for Madrid-based publication El Pais.
“In English, the word ruthless defines them well, they do not have or feel compassion and pity for anyone.”– Vero Boquete
Boquete is pointing out a persistent advantage for the Americans, whose history of success and relentless mentality typically provides the psychological equivalent of a one-goal lead at the opening whistle.
Even against a confident rival like Sweden, the US put their foot on the throat early – via that 3rd-minute set-piece tap-in goal for Lindsey Horan – and did not relinquish their superiority. They rode that mindset in a different way when they visited Spain for a friendly back in January:
That leg up tends to dissipate against the type of elite opposition you encounter in the World Cup’s latter rounds. But landing early blows is a key ingredient for any favored side and will continue to be important as the USWNT look ahead to a rugged European slate of likely knockout opponents (Spain-France-England-Germany, anyone?).
Don’t give up the ship
The USWNT’s chief availability concerns are apparently-minor injuries to influential starters Alex Morgan and Julie Ertz. Morgan has a reasonably decent backup in the form of the iconic Lloyd, but the situation around Ertz is more complicated.
Sam Mewis has been excellent in deep-lying and box-to-box midfield roles in her two matches. Has she been good enough, perhaps, to keep her on the pitch even if Ertz is ready to return to the No. 6 role? Can those two be sandwiched into a midfield also graced by the all-rounder Horan and playmaker Rose Lavelle? Or might one of the center backs make way so that Ertz can shift back into the defensive line?
These are knotty personnel and tactical questions for coach Jill Ellis, and that’s even before we arrive at potentially the most crucial one: How will she respond to the first real signs of adversity in this tournament?
Are players and coach alike ready to weather a salvo from an upstart like Spain and delivery a flurry of fire in response? Is the USWNT mystique still all-powerful, or a leakier galleon than it appears?
Even if Spain are sent tumbling to the ocean floor, rest assured that France, Germany and others are watching closely for signs of weakness or vulnerability as the US go about that task.
The 2019 Women’s World Cup knockout round bracket is set.
No major surprises or upsets through group play. The USWNT dominated–winning all three games and setting a record for most goals scored in the group round
Other contenders like France, England, and Germany all advanced undefeated–but at times looked vulnerable along the way.
Here’s a look at the teams with the toughest and smoothest paths to the finals, as well as an underdog who could make noise.
A lot of hand-wringing has been done over the USWNT’s path the finals. And for good reason–their path sucks.
But do you know who really was done no favors? Host nation France!
First, here’s a look at all teams with at least a 1% chance to win the cup this year.
There’s a reason why FiveThirtyEight only has the US at only a 24% chance to win the World Cup despite laying waste to their group. And there’s a bigger reason why France (FIFA #4) is only 19%. Both teams will have to run through a gauntlet of quality ranked FIFA teams just to reach the finals.
If you think the US has it bad, France has it worse:
- The US plays a solid Spain team (#13 FIFA) in the Round of 16. France? They draw a 10th ranked Brazil team who are battle tested after surviving the most competitive group in the qualifying round.
- If the US beats Spain, they get a quarterfinals match-up against host nation France. Tough! But if France beats Brazil, do you know who they get? The best team in the world who just set a goal scoring record in the group round–the US! No tiny violins for the US team here. France has it worse.
- Whoever wins that round then likely draws FIFA #3 England in the semis before (likely) playing FIFA #2 Germany in the finals.
The last time the Germans had such a cake walk through France…
Germany draws Nigeria (#38) in the Round of 16. Of all the top seeds, they have the highest win probability (91%) according to FiveThirtyEight (England actually has the best Round of 16 odds at -850 to Germany’s -600).
While the US and France are slugging it out in the quarters, Germany will play either Sweden or Canada. Formidable? Yes. Title contenders? No.
The semis will most likely pit the Germans against Japan (#7) or the Netherlands (#8).
Again, good teams. But not great teams.
While there’s no team with a realistic shot to win it all past the US, Germany, England, or France, some countries did receive favorable brackets and could make some noise.
The Netherlands have looked strong and have a clear path to the semis. In a knockout round format, anything can happen. They could certainly upset Germany and find themselves in the finals. It’s why they have the same probability to win it all (9%) as England.
To be fair, the same could be said for Japan if they got past the Netherlands. Japan doesn’t have the firepower though to defeat Germany in the semis.
On the US’ side of the bracket–forget about it. It would be fun to see Australia and Sam Kerr make some noise, but there are too many obstacles in their path to expect a realistic finals run.
This will most likely come down to a final between Germany and whoever survives between the US, England and France.