1. United States
The defending champions— and the top-ranked team of FIFA — are looking to add an unprecedented fourth world title in France this summer. For all the talk about how other nations have caught up with the U.S., what sets Jill Ellis ‘ side apart is depth. No other tournament team can summon game-changers from the bench like explosive youngster Mallory Pugh or 2015 Golden Ball winner Carli Lloyd.
Tough, technically gifted and almost as athletic as the Americans, the hosts pose the greatest threat to the hope of repeating the USA. Although France lacks experience, it also boasts top ten talents in the Lyon trio of forward Eugenie Le Sommer, midfielder Amandine Henry and defender Wendie Renard. In January, Les Bleues also trounced the Yanks 3-1 in La Havre.
Sleep not on the Germans. A fashionable pick to win it all in 2015 before being eliminated four years ago by the U.S. in the semifinals in Canada, Germany— the 2003 and 2007 champion and the only nation besides the U.S. to win multiple titles — will arrive in France with a deep, battle-tested roster and the second-ranked FIFA team.
The Lionesses approached the final four years ago, finishing third in Canada. With strong supporters Lucy Bronze and Captain Steph Houghton anchoring a stingy backline, six forward capable of choosing from the front, and a good mix of youth and experience, England, It’s one of the most balanced teams in the tournament, run by former men’s World Cup player Phil Neville.
The beautifully named Matildas head to France, led by all-planet captain Sam Kerr, will be a real opportunity to advance past the quarterfinals, where they went out for the first time at the last three World Cups.
After winning it all in 2011, Japan hasn’t completely replaced its golden generation by the losing finalist four years ago. But with tons of technical ability and defensive organization, they will be a tough out in the knockout phase for any of the more fancy sides.
The European champion of 2017 has almost missed out on this World Cup somehow. They beat Switzerland and Denmark in the UEFA playoffs to claim the continent’s final berth at the end, and boast two of Barcelona’s most dangerous attackers, Lieke Martens, and Vivianne Miedema, an arsenal striker.
The Canucks may have been disappointed on home soil in 2015, getting in the quarters bounced by England, but in each of the last two Olympic tournaments they took home the bronze medal. They are going to hope to replicate this summer’s success through the goals of Christine Sinclair ;With 181 career strikes, the veteran forward is just three shy of the all-time international record of American legend Abby Wambach.
At the 2016 Rio games, the Swedes shocked the United States and will have the opportunity to do it again as the teams square off to close the group stage. But this is a reconstruction squad. In 2017, Peter Gerhardsson replaced Pia Sundhage as manager and last year, Lotta Schelin, the all-time top scorer, retired.
Talented enough to win it all, at last year’s Copa America Femenina, which serves as South America’s World Cup qualifying tournament, Brazil steamrolled the competition, outscoring foes 31-2 along the way. Legendary striker Marta will seek to add 15 goals to her record in France, playing in her fifth and likely final World Cup.