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Sam Mewis breaks down the USWNT’s World Cup opponents

(left to right) USA’s Lindsey Horan, Emily Sonnett, Sam Mewis, Mallory Pugh and Rose Lavelle celebrate with the FIFA Women’s World Cup Trophy after beating the Netherlands 2-0 in 2019. (Photo by John Walton/PA Images via Getty Images)

U.S. women’s national team star midfielder Sam Mewis will not be with her teammates as she continues to recover from a lingering knee injury. But the 2019 World Cup champion is confident about the squad’s chances as they head to New Zealand and Australia for the 2023 Women’s World Cup.

On the latest episode of Snacks, Mewis broke down each of the USWNT’s group stage opponents and other teams they could face in the knockout rounds. The U.S. will have to get through Vietnam, the Netherlands and Portugal in Group E in order to earn a place in the Round of 16.

“I think that the World Cup is just such an elevated spectacle, like this is really just the highest level you can be playing it. And if you can do well here, you can do well anywhere,” she said. “Can the U.S. win three? Yes. Will Europe get in there and have one of those teams who’ve been at the top get over the hump? Or is there another breakthrough team outside the U.S. and Europe?

“I’m obviously rooting for the U.S. If I had to make a prediction, of course it would be them. [That] doesn’t mean that it’s going to be easy. I don’t think winning a World Cup should be easy, but I 100 percent think that they can do it. I’m rooting for them. I’ll be cheering for them in the middle of the night.”

So, what about the USWNT’s opponents? Mewis analyzes the contenders in her own words.

USWNT group stage

Vietnam

This is their first World Cup. They did just win the Southeast Asian Games, where they triumphed over Myanmar, their longtime rivals. And they do have a leading goal scorer, a key to their squad, 32-year-old Huỳnh Như. I think for the U.S., as any commentator would say it’s a great opportunity to come out on your front foot, set a tone for the tournament.

I would love to see a lot of goals. I would love to see just like the World Cup last time — the U.S. playing with a ton of confidence, putting some goals in the back of the net, celebrating. I’m really excited for them to come out and set the tone for the tournament and earn some confidence as they go on to play some teams that will really test them. I’m really excited for Vietnam to have the chance to play at the World Cup. And this is going to be an awesome showcase for both teams to see what happens to start us off.

Netherlands

We’ve played them a lot recently. We played them obviously in the 2019 final, which was a crazy game we won 2-0. We scored on a PK by [Megan Rapinoe], and then Rose [Lavelle] scored that legendary, epic goal that I think everybody can picture. And then we also drew the Netherlands at the Olympics, but we weren’t on PKs so that game was a little bit closer.

It seems like this game is going to be the biggest test, but the Netherlands do have one of their best players, Vivianne Miedema, out with an injury. She’s been on that list of players we keep seeing who unfortunately are injured and will be missing this World Cup. But they have some other big-time players like Lineth Beerensteyn who plays for Juventus; she’s scored in four of her last five international matches. And then Lieke Martens, whose name has been at the top of the lists of great players for years. She’s at PSG, and she’ll definitely be instrumental for them as well.

I’m really excited to watch this game … this is one that everybody’s gonna be tuning into. I think when you play a team that is a great matchup for you, it sets you up to have your best game because you know that you have to. So I feel like we’ll actually see great soccer from both teams here. And the U.S. performance in this game will be super telling of how they’re doing in the tournament. I’m really confident that they’re gonna pull it out and come out at the top of the group.

Portugal

This is also Portugal’s first trip to the World Cup. A name people might recognize, Jéssica Silva, who played for Kansas City for a year, she’s their key striker. I think having two teams in your group who are at their first World Cup is a positive thing. But I wouldn’t count anybody out. I think this could be a tricky group.

I think the U.S. knows exactly what to do. They’ve been here before. Coming out on the top of the group is obviously a goal going into it. But you just take it one game at a time, you keep everybody healthy, you try to get some goals on the scoresheet. Super confident in the U.S. But I think this will be a really fun group to watch the other contenders.

The teams worth a 3 a.m. wake-up call

This is not an exhaustive list, but these are some teams that I think will give everybody a little helpful guide as you’re picking out games to watch and which games to set your alarm for.

Australia

This team starts and ends with Sam Kerr. Sam Kerr, just my favorite. I love her so much. She’s someone who can score on anyone in the world. She’s dominated every domestic league she’s ever played in. She is also super experienced.

She’s played in a bunch of World Cups, a bunch of Olympics. She’s played in the Champions League, she’s played for Chelsea. She’s played in the NWSL. She went to her first World Cup at age 17. So she’s a part of this group of Australians who have a ton of veteran experience, even though they’re still in the middle of their careers.

Another thing to note about Australia is their coach, Tony Gustavsson, who worked with the U.S. team during the last two World Cups. I think Tony is like a tactical wizard. And so much of these tactical, technical things that I’ve learned about soccer actually came from doing film with Tony. So much respect for him, so much respect for Australia, always a really hard team to play against.

Canada

The reigning Olympic champions, they are another team to watch. They’re still led by Christine Sinclair … Their group has Australia, Nigeria and the Republic of Ireland. You would think Australia and Canada are favorites coming out of this group, but this is kind of a crazy group. So we might get some results that people don’t expect. And these are definitely games that people are going to want to watch.

Germany

They were runners-up at the Euros in 2022. They lost in extra time to England in that crazy game that Chloe Kelly scored the game-winning goal right at the end. They don’t have as many players with household names that we probably all know. But I feel like this team has experience, they all have great club experience. Alexandra Popp is the captain and the leader. She’ll be the most-capped player on the field for Germany. And Lena Oberdorf is a rising star. She’s 21, she was named the Young Player of the Tournament at the 2022 Euros. So definitely don’t sleep on Germany.

I think they’re a very clinical team. They’re disciplined, super athletic. Definitely a great history there, too. So, they will know what they’re doing.

Spain

Spain is another team that would have been a favorite. They’ve been dealing with this roster turmoil situation. They’ve had 15 players step away from the team and protest over conditions and coaching. Some of those players have come back, but a lot of them have not. Super disappointing because Spain was considered a young and rising team and could have had an awesome performance at this World Cup. They still could — we had a super close game with them in the Round of 16 in 2019. And they’ll still be competitive.

I think with teams like this, who either have a ton of injuries or have had a lot of roster changes, it’s hard to expect what we would have expected. But I feel also sometimes that lends itself to a new freedom or a new creativity or something that the world didn’t expect. So, I definitely wouldn’t count them out.

France

France is another team that’s been dealing with player protests, but they did change coaches. … Their new coach is Hervé Renard — he led the Saudi Arabian men’s team to the biggest upset of the Men’s World Cup last year over Argentina. Everybody probably remembers that game. That was wild. This team won’t have a ton of time together before the tournament, but they have talent, they have experience. I’d say they have a good coach. So France, another great side that historically is at the top of the list of top teams.

England

We’ve talked so much about England, they’re also a little bit injury-plagued. They’ll be missing Fran Kirby, Beth Mead and Leah Williamson, unfortunately. They just won the Euros. They have all this momentum coming into the tournament. They have players playing all over the world in different leagues, really improving a young squad that just feels like it has such an energy about it.

I think they’ve been a little bit of a favorite along with the U.S. A really good team, really great manager, really exciting to watch. Some of my favorite players on that team are Keira Walsh and Georgia Stanway, who I played with at Man City. Lauren Hemp is so good, [and] Chloe Kelly. These girls are so fun to watch, so I’ll be trying to watch all of England’s games.

Sweden

Always a threat. They beat us at the last Olympics. They fell just short in the gold-medal game after really being the top team all tournament. They’re No. 3 in the world right now. A small country, but they must have a great program. They’re always really good. They have top, top players, and I expect them to do well this summer. They’ll have five players with at least 100 caps and 10 players who have all scored 10 or more international goals.

Brazil

People are going to recognize a ton of names from the NWSL. Leading scorer currently is Kerolin; obviously, Debinha; everybody loves Marta; Brunhina has been scoring for Gotham. So, Brazil is another team to look out for. They’ve had up-and-down performances in world tournaments over the years. But if they really get together and perform the way that they can, they’re for sure a team to look out for.

New Zealand

I just want to say don’t sleep on New Zealand. We’re so excited that they’re hosting. Their group definitely has a pathway to advance. Our girl Ali Riley is ready to lead them to greatness. So we’re super excited for New Zealand, one of the host teams at this tournament.

Esme Morgan Signs With Washington Spirit

Esme Morgan of England inspects the pitch prior to the UEFA Women's EURO 2025 qualifying match between England and France
The England national will join the Spirit in DC on July 15th. (Naomi Baker - The FA/The FA via Getty Images)

English defender Esme Morgan has signed with the Washington Spirit, the club announced Thursday. 

Morgan had been with WSL side Manchester City since 2017, with one year remaining on her contract. She’ll now make a move to the NWSL, with City receiving a fee for the move. 

"I wanted to join the Spirit because they have the ambition and tools to be the best team in the NWSL, and trying to achieve that will be a great but enjoyable challenge," Morgan said in a club statement.

"On an individual level too, the opportunity to work under Jonatan [Giráldez], one of the world's best coaches, is really exciting and I look forward to learning from him and pushing myself to become the best player I can be, hopefully helping the team to success."

According to ESPN, Morgan’s lack of playing time under City manager Gareth Taylor played a key role in her decision to leave the league championship runners-up. She’ll join the Spirit in Washington, DC on July 15th, but won’t be able to begin play until August. 

Spirit president Mark Krikorian called Morgan an "exceptional talent" and added that the club is "thrilled" to add her to the roster.

"I think she’s pretty talented," Giraldez told reporters on Friday. "A young player with a great future, but with experience already in a great league and with the national team. She’s been surrounded by great players and also great coaches, so she can give us experience."

Ledecky Goes for 4 at Olympic Swimming Trials

Swimmer katie ledecky swimming at Toyota US Open
Decorated swimmer Katie Ledecky is aiming to make her fourth-straight Olympic squad. (Jacob Kupferman/Getty Images)

The US Olympic Swimming Trials begin this weekend, running from June 15th through June 23rd in Indianapolis, with Katie Ledecky eyeing her fourth-straight Summer Games.

While traditionally held in Omaha, Indiana's Lucas Oil Stadium, home of the NFL's Indianapolis Colts, has been fitted with a 50-meter pool to host the meet that will determine the 2024 Paris Olympics roster.

All eyes will be on seven-time Olympic gold medalist Katie Ledecky, who will be competing in the 200-meter, 400-meter, 800-meter, and 1500-meter freestyle — all events in which she’s been an Olympic champion. 

Rival Ariarne Titmus had her trials last week, breaking the world record in the 200-meter freestyle. Ledecky’s 200 is intended to qualify her for the Olympic relay. Meanwhile stateside, Katie Grimes stands to be a challenger in the 1500-meter freestyle has already qualified for the Paris Olympics in the 10km open water event.

Other competitors of note include 47-year-old Gabrielle Rose, who stands to become the oldest US Swimming Olympic qualifier in the 100-meter and 200-meter breaststroke.

Additionally, Kate Douglass — an NCAA and World Champion — is a favorite to make her first Olympic team in the 200-meter IM and 200-meter breaststroke. Simone Manuel, an Olympic champion in the 100-meter freestyle, is also looking to make her third-straight Olympics.

Where to watch: The Trials will be streaming all week on Peacock, with later qualifying heats airing live on USA Network and event finals airing in primetime on NBC.

Orlando and Kansas City Shoot for 13 in NWSL Weekend Action

NWSL's T. Chawinga #6 of the Kansas City Current passes the ball during the first half of their game against the Utah Royals FC
The Kansas City Current hopes to extend its NWSL unbeaten streak to 13 with a win over Chicago. (Chris Gardner/Getty Images)

The 13th match weekend is fast approaching in the NWSL, with two season-long unbeaten streaks on the line.

League-leaders Kansas City and Orlando will attempt to survive the weekend with their unbeaten runs intact, as the Current host Chicago on Friday and the Pride travel to North Carolina for Saturday's match.

But while Kansas City and Orlando have been the gold standard this year, they're still a number of wins away from tying Washington's record for longest unbeaten streak in a single NWSL season. In 2021, the Spirit went 20 games without a loss en route to the club's first NWSL championship.

Both Gotham and Louisville are carrying momentum into their matchup on Saturday. Louisville is unbeaten in three games, and they’re looking to finally leapfrog Chicago and claim sixth place in the league standings. Gotham, on a seven-game unbeaten run, is into fifth place.

Portland and Seattle will face off in the Cascadia Clash this weekend, with Golden Boot contender Sophia Smith absent, as the decorated forward was shown a red card last weekend for time-wasting on the bench.

The Reign could use a win against their long-time rivals, as a difficult start has 13th-place Seattle registering only two wins amid nine losses so far this season.

Elsewhere in the league, 2024 expansion teams Bay FC and Utah meet for the first time this weekend, as both look to rise from the bottom half of the standings. And Washington will ride a four-game winning streak into Saturday's game against a San Diego side that's earned two hard-fought draws in recent weeks.

Watch more: "Sophia Smith is INNOCENT!" on The Late Sub with Claire Watkins

WNBA All-Star Voting Starts on June 13th

Phoenix Mercury mascot Scorch waving a 2024 WNBA All-Star flag at a 2023 home game.
Phoenix Mercury will host the 20th-annual All-Star Game on July 20th, 2024. (Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Voting for the 2024 AT&T WNBA All-Star Game opened at 2 PM ET today and runs through June 29th.

All active WNBA players are eligible to make the All-Star Game, set for July 20th in Phoenix. Unlike previous formats that featured two voted-in All-Star squads, this year’s contest pits a single All-Star team against the already-decided Olympic-bound USA Women’s National Team.

Fans can submit a daily ballot nominating up to 10 athletes via WNBA.com or the WNBA App.

Fan-submitted ballots account for 50% of vote, with the other 50% split equally between current WNBA players and members of the media. The top 10 athletes will automatically make the All-Star Game, with league coaches then voting from a pool of the next 36 to complete Team WNBA’s 12-player roster. The final lineup will be announced on July 2nd.

This year's All-Star Game format presents an opportunity for fans to vote for players they might consider Olympic snubs. Indiana rookie Caitlin Clark and Dallas’s Arike Ogunbawole seem like shoo-ins given the discussion surrounding their Olympic omissions, while Connecticut stars Brionna Jones and DeWanna Bonner are also expected to snag All-Star nods.

And after a career-high 20-point, 10-rebound double-double in last night’s 83-75 loss to the Sun, Chicago rookie Angel Reese could also secure a spot.

Regardless, it won't necessarily be smooth sailing for Team USA, as history has tended to favor the underdog. 

The first USA vs. All-Stars matchup took place in 2021, with the league’s squad humbling the Tokyo Olympians 93-85. With 26 points, Ogunbawole was named All-Star Game MVP after barely missing the Olympic cut. Could she and Clark turn the tables on Team USA this year?

Watch more: "Were Caitlin Clark and Arike Ogunbowale snubbed?" by Expert Adjacent

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