(Photo: David Richard-USA TODAY Sports)
After their team failed to qualify, U.S. soccer fans have had to find other teams to root for in the 2018 FIFA World Cup.
In the 2019 Women’s World Cup, however, the United States is the favorite a year away from the tournament in France.
The U.S. women’s national team is ranked No. 1 in the world. The team beat Japan in the final to win the 2015 Women’s World Cup, becoming the first three-time winner in tournament history. The Americans will host Japan, Australia and Brazil this summer for the Tournament of Nations beginning July 26.
Christen Press was a key contributor on the World Cup team. Press, a forward who has 44 international goals in 100 appearances, said the World Cup is the pinnacle of a women’s soccer player’s career.
“I think, for all the fans, we’re really excited to have the opportunity to represent this country, to compete for the biggest trophy in the game,” Press said.
Press recently joined the Utah Royals of the National Women’s Soccer League as part of a three-team trade.
Press had been playing her club season with the Swedish team Goteborg FC after her stint with the Chicago Red Stars of the NWSL. Her decision to play overseas came after declining a trade to the Houston Dash when she was on the Red Stars.
Though Press, 29, was uninterested in playing for a NWSL team in 2018, Royals coach Laura Harvey said she wasn’t concerned about acquiring the striker.
Christen Press of the United States looks for a pass during the first half against China at FirstEnergy Stadium on June 12, 2018 in Cleveland. (Photo: Jason Miller, Getty Images)
“It was always known that we were on her list of places she wanted to go,” Harvey said. “After speaking to Christen, she’s really excited to be part of our club.”
Press has now been playing professional soccer since 2011, but when she was younger, she didn’t always have a professional soccer league to watch.
The Women’s United Soccer Association folded in 2003 followed by Women’s Professional Soccer, which ended in 2012 after six seasons. The league was succeeded by the NWSL.
Press said the resources and opportunities for women’s soccer players are growing and changing every day.
“When I was 6, when I was 7, I wasn’t watching professional women’s soccer and I wasn’t dreaming of being a women’s soccer player because I didn’t even know it existed,” said Press, who is Stanford’s all-time leading goal scorer. “Now, for the girls who are just starting to play soccer, they can go out and watch their local team play.”
After its World Cup victory, the U.S. national team suffered an upset loss to Sweden in the 2016 Summer Olympics. The U.S. outshot Sweden 27-6, but fell 4-3 on penalties in the Olympic quarterfinals.
The U.S. national team has found its stride since the defeat. The team has not lost in its last 16 matches. The U.S. also defeated Sweden after the two met in the Olympics.
“I think with a top ranking comes a lot of pressure,” Press said. “A lot of teams take that pressure and it haunts them, but our national team has always used that as fuel.”