Who's going to win gold at the Rio Olympics? Well, even with injuries, retirements, pregnancies, lawsuits, and gender discrimination complaints, I still am taking the U.S. women's national team to win it all. And if they do, they will make history in the process. No other women's team has won at the World Cup and then turned around a year later to win Olympic gold. But there are a handful of players who want that gold for their own squads, too. Here are the five who will make a difference for their countries come August.
The 31-year-old German forward has won a U-20 Women's World Cup (2004), a Women's World Cup (2007), three European Championships (2005, 2009, 2013), and Bundesliga and Swedish Pro League titles. What's missing? Olympic gold. She moved over to play for Paris Saint-Germain in France this season and, earlier this year, set a Champions League record with her 49th career CL goal. Mittag has 137 caps and 42 goals for Germany. She and now-retired striker partner Celia Sasic combined for 11 of Germany's tournament-high 20 goals at last summer's World Cup.
Eugenie Le Sommer
The French midfielder/forward is one of the best in the world in that seam between midfielders and forwards. She is great in tight spaces, skillful, and not afraid to unleash shots from distance as she did with her great goal against England in the 2015 Women's World Cup. A member of the FIFPro Women's World XI in 2015, Le Sommer has maintained her World Cup form (three goals and two assists) at the club level, scoring 24 goals this season in all competitions for Champions League finalist Lyon. France had a terribly unlucky draw at the 2015 World Cup and the reward for winning its group meant it met Germany in the quarterfinals. France will be one of the hardest teams to beat at the Olympics, and it happens to be in Group G with the United States.
At 30 years old, the record five-time FIFA World Player of the Year has yet to win a world title with Brazil, finishing second at both the 2004 and 2008 Olympics. Winning at home at the Rio Olympics would be extra sweet for Marta and Brazil given how this soccer-crazed country has failed to properly support its women's team. In her fourth Olympics, Marta will look to get the Brazilian program back on track after a poor showing at the World Cup in Canada and add to her career tally of eight Olympic goals. On the back side of a phenomenal career, this may be Marta's last chance as well.
The 26-year-old silver ball winner from the 2015 World Cup recently signed with NWSL's Portland Thorns and will join Portland following her appearance in the Champions League final with Lyon. A box-to-box player, the midfielder is one of the biggest signings in NWSL history and to this point has amassed 48 caps and six goals for Les Bleues.
Lisa De Vanna
A longtime star in the United States at the club level, De Vanna oftentimes gets overlooked internationally in conversations surrounding the world's best. The Australian is known to be quite mercurial, but when she is on, she can flip a game on its head like no other. When channeled in the right direction, De Vanna has lightning speed and a competitive fire that can lift her team to great heights. De Vanna showed that fire at the 2015 World Cup, scoring two goals for the Matildas and playing a central role in Australia's giant upset of host Brazil in the Round of 16. De Vanna is one of the Aussies' best all-time players and, with 38 international goals, is just four goals shy of becoming her country's all-time leading goal scorer.