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The U.S. begins its quest for a World Cup three-peat by taking on Vietnam

The USA celebrates victory at the 2019 FIFA Women's World Cup in France. Will they repeat their success for a third time?
Richard Heathcote
/
Getty Images
The USA celebrates victory at the 2019 FIFA Women's World Cup in France. Will they repeat their success for a third time?

The World Cup has kicked off in Australia and New Zealand, commencing a glorious month of soccer.

For many fans stateside, the tournament begins in earnest on Friday, with the U.S.'s first match of the group stage. They'll take on Vietnam, which is playing in its very first World Cup. Here's what to know.

How to watch USA vs. Vietnam

The whistle blows in Auckland on Saturday at 1 p.m. local time – that's 9 p.m. ET on Friday in the U.S.

The players will take to the pitch in Eden Park, the national stadium of New Zealand. It's better known for hosting rugby's All Blacks and Black Ferns. And it's where New Zealand's Football Ferns beat Norway 1-0 in front of a record-setting audience in the tournament's opening match.

For fans at home, Fox Sports has the English-language broadcast rights in the U.S., while Telemundo has the rights in Spanish.

Friday's match will be broadcast in English on Fox. If you have a digital antenna for your television, you can watch the game free over the air. To stream it, go to FoxSports.com or the Fox Sports app. (If you need to consult with a family member about their cable login credentials, now is the time!)

The game will be carried in Spanish on Telemundo and Universo, and will be streaming on Peacock.

Here are the following games for the U.S. in the group stage:

  • USA vs. the Netherlands in Wellington on Wednesday, July 26 at 9 p.m. ET
  • USA vs. Portugal in Auckland on Tuesday, Aug. 1 at 3 a.m. ET (yes, 3 a.m.)
  • Rose Lavelle celebrates with Alex Morgan and Megan Rapinoe after scoring during the 2019 Women's World Cup final match. All three are back on the American squad this time.
    Maja Hitij / Getty Images
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    Getty Images
    Rose Lavelle celebrates with Alex Morgan and Megan Rapinoe after scoring during the 2019 Women's World Cup final match. All three are back on the American squad this time.

    With a mix of veterans and rookies, the U.S. is again favored to win it all

    The U.S. are ranked No. 1 coming into the tournament, with loads of talent and an unmatched reputation for excellence. They've won the last two Women's World Cups, and four overall – a record represented in the four gold stars on their jerseys.

    But victory is far from a sure thing, and no country has won the Cup three times in a row. The U.S. arrived in New Zealand without several veterans who are injured, including defender Becky Sauerbrunn, forward Christen Press and midfielder Samantha Mewis. Catarina Macario and Mallory (Pugh) Swanson were supposed to be central to the team's offense, but were left off the roster due to injury.

    Trinity Rodman will play in her first World Cup. She's seen here playing against Japan at the SheBelieves Cup in February.
    Andy Lyons / Getty Images
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    Getty Images
    Trinity Rodman will play in her first World Cup. She's seen here playing against Japan at the SheBelieves Cup in February.

    Still, the U.S. women's national team (USWNT) has nine players returning from team that took home the Cup in 2019 — including Megan Rapinoe, Alex Morgan, Rose Lavelle, Crystal Dunn and Julie Ertz. Rapinoe and Lavelle are recovering from injuries themselves, and could see limited minutes at first.

    The U.S. will need to rely on younger players with less international experience if they want to win the whole thing. Fourteen on the U.S. roster are playing in their first World Cup. Fortunately, the rookies are likely to come out blazing.

    Look for Trinity Rodman, a 21-year-old forward for the Washington Spirit. She was 2021 rookie of the year in the National Women's Soccer League, and she just scored two goals against Wales in the team's last tune-up before the Cup. (She also happens to be the daughter of former NBA star Dennis Rodman.)

    Then there's Sophia Smith, a forward for the Portland Thorns. She was the 2022 MVP of the NWSL last year, as well as U.S. Soccer's Player of the Year — and she's just 22.

    Naomi Girma, a defender for the San Diego Wave, was Smith's teammate at Stanford. The daughter of Ethiopian immigrants, she grew up in the Bay Area and was the number-one pick in last year's NWSL draft.

    A significant debut for Vietnam

    For Vietnam, this game will be both a triumph and a massive challenge.

    The field expanded from 24 to 32 teams at this World Cup, creating more space for up-and-coming programs like Vietnam, one of eight teams making their tournament debut.

    Vietnam qualified for its first ever World Cup – men's or women's – by winning the final direct berth from Asia at last year's Asian Cup playoff.

    As its reward, the team must face the mighty U.S. right out of the gate, and the 2019 runner-up, the Netherlands, later in the group stage. This will be the first-ever game between the USWNT and Vietnam.

    Huynh Nhu of Vietnam, in red, controls the ball during a Women's Asian Cup play-off game in February.
    Thananuwat Srirasant / Getty Images
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    Getty Images
    Huynh Nhu of Vietnam, in red, controls the ball during a Women's Asian Cup play-off game in February.

    Twenty-two of the team's 23 members play in Vietnam's pro league. Forward Huynh Nhu plays in Portugal for Länk Vilaverdense, and is the first Vietnamese woman to sign with a European club. She is the team's all-time leading scorer, with 71 international goals.

    This is the fifth consecutive World Cup in which the U.S. has had its group stage opener against a team from the Asian Football Confederation. In 2019, the USWNT trounced Thailand in its opener, 13-0.

    Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

    Laurel Wamsley is a reporter for NPR's News Desk. She reports breaking news for NPR's digital coverage, newscasts, and news magazines, as well as occasional features. She was also the lead reporter for NPR's coverage of the 2019 Women's World Cup in France.

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