2015 FIFA Women's World Cup: 5 Reasons to Watch
The American women are contenders to lift the World Cup.
— -- While women's soccer doesn't generally get a lot of attention, fans do get excited when the World Cup rolls around every four years.
The Women's World Cup, which kicks off Saturday in Canada, features the United States and 23 other teams vying to be the best team on the planet. The United States, World Cup champions in 1991 and 1999 (those were the days of Mia Hamm and Brandi Chastain), are hoping to add a third title to its trophy case.
With soccer one of the fastest-growing sports in this country (remember how popular the game became last summer when the men's team competed at the World Cup in Brazil), there certainly will be excitement around the U.S. team as the tournament progresses.
Here are five reasons why you should follow the Women's World Cup this year:
The USA Could Win It
Unlike the U.S. men’s team, the American women are contenders to lift the Cup. Several players on the team are already household names, including goalkeeper Hope Solo and strikers Abby Wambach and Alex Morgan. The Americans lost in the final to Japan on penalty kicks at the 2011 World Cup and will be looking to exact some revenge this time around while also hoping to end a 16-year trophy drought.
"Competition is what makes us all better. That's not cliché. That’s how our team operates," Solo said. "But it’s a competition that’s healthy. We know that to win the World Cup it’s going to take all 23 players."
Will the U.S. party like it's 1999? That remains to be seen. The Americans are in Group D -- the tournament's "Group of Death" -- along with Sweden, Australia and Nigeria.
Favorable Time Zones
As mentioned, the tournament will take place just north of us in Canada. That means kick-off times will occur when most of you, especially on the East Coast, can actually watch games. Forget about calling out sick or trying to watch on your phones at work.
The United States takes on Australia on June 8 at 7:30 p.m. ET, Sweden on June 12 at 8 p.m. ET, followed by its final first round match on June 16 versus Nigeria at 8 p.m. ET.
The field is packed with world-class players. Move over Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, this tournament will feature Marta of Brazil (considered the best female player in the world), Homare Sawa of Japan and Christine Sinclair of Canada, just to name a few.
"I think that for the general public, they’re going to see an amazing level of athleticism," said U.S. coach Jill Ellis.
Artificial Turf Controversy
Long a point of debate between many players and FIFA, the tournament will be played on the fake stuff. The players even filed a lawsuit against FIFA, but it was later withdrawn.
Players have complained for years of injuries from playing on artificial turf, while some have compared it to playing on cement. FIFA's decision, critics claimed, smelled of sexism since the the sport's global governing body would never consider holding a men's tournament on fake stuff.
There are plenty of Cinderella teams. France, Spain and Nigeria could very well stun the competition over the next few weeks. It remains to be seen whether those three nations -- or any other team for that matter -- can change the the current power structure in women's world soccer.