The 2018 FIFA World Cup is now officially over. It was an entertaining tournament, filled with surprises and upsets, but, at the end, one of the favorites took home the trophy. Between Croatia’s magical run, video review, and breakout stars like Kylian Mbappe, this World Cup will not be forgotten.
Now it is time to move on and look to the future at the next World Cup. No, not the one in Qatar four years from now, but the one next year in France. The Women’s World Cup kicks off in 11 months and, as always, the U.S. will be one of the favorites. It’s a nice feeling having the Americans in a World Cup.
The U.S. is the reigning champion, beating Japan in the 2015 final in Vancouver. Carli Lloyd dominated the game and made history with the fastest goal and fastest hat trick as the USWNT cruised to a 5-2 victory.
Some of the players on that championship team included Abby Wambach, Hope Solo, Megan Rapinoe, Meghan Klingenberg, and four current Pride players in Ali Krieger, Alex Morgan, Sydney Leroux, and Ashlyn Harris. However, much has changed since then as Mallory Pugh was still in high school, Savannah McCaskill was still three years away from making her USWNT debut, and Sofia Huerta was part of the Mexican National Team.
While there are a handful of players that are as close to a lock as possible with the tournament still a year away — such as Crystal Dunn and Rapinoe — it is crunch time for players to prove they should be in Jill Ellis’ plans. The first big look will be at the 2018 Tournament of Nations, which kicks off next week. The U.S. will face Australia, Brazil, and Japan in a round-robin system. Each of the teams playing in the Tournament of Nations are among the favorites to win the World Cup, along with other countries such as England, Canada, France, and Germany.
Next year’s tournament will be hosted by France. After just winning the men’s World Cup, it will no doubt be a great time to visit as the country looks to be on top of the men’s and women’s soccer world. The French National Team is ranked fourth in the world, according to the FIFA rankings.
Games will be played in Paris, Lyon, Valenciennes, Reims, Le Havre, Rennes, Grenoble, Montpellier and Nice, with Paris hosting the opening game on June 7, 2019 and the semifinals and final being played in Lyon on July 7. The best part of these venues is that they all have real, natural grass. In the 2015 World Cup hosted by Canada, all six venues had artificial turf, which brought outcries of sexism and discrimination against female players.
So who will be playing? At this stage, only 10 teams have qualified out of the 24. France, as the host nation, automatically qualified. Asia gets five teams, all which have already qualified — China, Thailand, Australia, Japan, and South Korea. UEFA sends eight teams, — Italy and Spain secured their places — Africa gets three, South America two, — Brazil and Chile have qualified — Oceania one, and Concacaf three.
The dates to pay attention to are Oct. 4-17 of this year. That is the duration of the Concacaf Women’s Gold Cup 2018, which is how the U.S. will qualify. The top three teams go to France while the fourth-place team will go to a playoff against Argentina, the third-place side from CONMEBOL.
The start of the Gold Cup comes at a perfect time. The NWSL Championship will be on Sept. 22 so Ellis will finally call players into camp without it interfering with league play.