(Reuters) - The United States have their eyes firmly set on a third Women’s World Cup title, and with a squad loaded with experience the Olympic champions are rightly among the favorites to triumph in Canada.
The United States have dominated at the Olympic Games, winning four of the five gold medals that have been contested, but that success has not been replicated in the World Cup since 1999 when they won their second title.
Four years ago, the Americans were highly fancied to triumph in Germany but fell at the final hurdle, suffering a 3-1 defeat on penalties to Japan after the game ended 2-2 after extra-time.
The bulk of that team is back again forming a squad that boasts an impressive amount of World Cup experience.
Defender Christie Rampone will be playing in her fifth World Cup, while Shannon Boxx and Abby Wambach will be making their fourth finals appearances.
Goalkeeper Hope Solo and midfielders Carli Lloyd and Heather O’Reilly enter their third World Cup but the squad also has some exciting younger talent, with eight players set for their first tournament.
Coach Jill Ellis believes she has the right mix of youth and experience and knows that the physical demands of competing during a Canadian summer means she may well need to call on most of her 23 women.
“We’re going to need a lot of bodies up there in Canada, out in the heat, and over the past six or seven months, we’ve been able to play a lot of players and give a lot players experience,” said Ellis. “I truly feel that we’ve vetted these players through this and feel truly confident and excited about the group we have.”
While there is solidity at the back with Solo long regarded as the world’s top keeper and the back-line full of experience, it is in the attack where the team’s strengths lay.
Morgan has pace and skill, Leroux brings directness and energy and Wambach, with 182 goals in 241 international appearances, is a natural finisher.
“We are so diverse in attack, they all have tremendous assets and experience and we are really stacked at that position,” said Ellis. “We have proven goal scorers, great options and it is certainly one of our strengths.”
The United States are the favorites but have a tough group with Sweden, Australia and Nigeria all ranked in the top 10 in the world.
Reporting By Simon Evans in Miami; Editing by Frank Pingue