The U.S. just puts more resources into the women's game
Big odds await when it's the U.S. against the world
Even though the U.S. team has recently lost Abby Wambach and three players from the winning World Cup team to retirement ...
Even though one of those retiring is the greatest goal scorer on this planet ...
Even though star midfielder Megan Rapinoe just tore her ACL ...
Even though Sydney Leroux is just coming back from ankle surgery ...
And even though no one has ever done the double (win a Women's World Cup and then win the Olympics the following year) ...
The U.S. women's national team should absolutely win the Olympic gold medal in Rio, because well, it is the U.S. team. This isn't me being patriotically swayed (although it does happen on occasion), but rather, realistic. Factual. The U.S. women's team has more funding, more players, more support, more everything than every other women's team in the world. And not by a little. By a lot.
The U.S. team should win every title out there, for eternity (or at least until the rest of the world decides to support their girls and women playing soccer).
Just one example: U.S. Soccer told me there are more than two million girls playing soccer in the U.S. -- that's almost as many as the number of registered female players in the entire world.
Add in cultural acceptance and it almost seems unfair. The U.S. women's national team is light years ahead of the world with women's soccer, and until those inside FIFA and other federations show some urgency to develop girls on the soccer field, the United States should win. And win and win.
'Merica -- the land of badass soccer-playing girls.
Two million-plus of them. And growing. Boom.
The United States? Or everyone else?
You don't have to choose one of those Olympic challengers; you get all of them -- host Brazil, France and Germany, as well as potentially Canada and Japan.
I'll take the field.
The United States earned the World Cup title it reclaimed, both the trophy itself and the less tangible status of world's best team. The U.S. women earned it in a difficult group, an additional knockout game, and by beating both Germany and defending champion Japan in successive games. But put aside the magic of the final, and there was more determination than domination.
Nor will it be the same group that attempts to win in Brazil. Put whatever value you choose on Abby Wambach's leadership, given that her on-field role in the World Cup was minimal, but Lauren Holiday's retirement and Megan Rapinoe's ACL injury (if she isn't able to return to 100 percent form by August) are tangible. The U.S. team wasn't exactly an offensive juggernaut when it played without those two in the World Cup quarterfinal against China.
The Americans could be better in 2016 than in 2015. Maybe another year of experience for the already preternaturally mature Morgan Brian in the middle, the inclusion of Crystal Dunn out wide and a stretch of health for Alex Morgan complements Carli Lloyd's goal-scoring form.
But maybe doesn't trump the rest of the world.
It is difficult to win back-to-back major titles. In five attempts, no women's team won first the World Cup and then Olympic gold the next year. When the Spanish men's team claimed both the World Cup and European Championship, some suggested it was the best soccer the world has seen at the international level.
Is this that?
The United States has a better chance of winning Olympic gold than any other nation. It is the favorite. But it doesn't have a better chance than the rest of the tournament field put together.