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USWNT road to the World Cup title: Sweden awaits in Round of 16

(Zhizhao Wu/Getty Images )

The U.S. women’s national team closed out the 2023 World Cup group stage with a disappointing 0-0 draw against Portugal on Tuesday in New Zealand. With the Netherlands defeating Vietnam 7-0 in the other Group E match, the USWNT falls to second place in Group E on goal differential and will face the winner of Group G in the Round of 16.

As a result, the USWNT’s next opponent is Sweden, which won Group G with a perfect 3-0 record. The Netherlands will face Group G runner-up South Africa.

Beyond the Round of 16, who could the USWNT face in the knockout stage? We break down down the two-time defending champion’s potential path to the 2023 World Cup title.

Round of 16: Sweden

While the USWNT offense has sputtered since its opening 3-0 win over Vietnam, Sweden exploded in their second match, defeating Italy 5-0. That result followed a shaky start against South Africa, in which the Swedes went down early before winning 2-1.

By finishing as runner-up in the group, the U.S. now faces a much sterner test in Sweden than it would have against South Africa. The USWNT has a long history against Sweden, having lost to the No. 3 team in the world most recently in the group stage of the 2021 Tokyo Olympics and the quarterfinal of the 2016 Olympics.

The USWNT’s Round of 16 game takes place Sunday at 5 a.m. ET (FOX).

Quarterfinal: Japan-Norway winner

Japan, the winner of Group C, and Norway, the runner-up in Group A, will meet in the Round of 16 on Saturday. If the U.S. gets through its own Round of 16 matchup, the winner of this game will be waiting, and neither will be easy.

Japan has scorched their competition in the group stage, scoring 11 goals and conceding none. That included a surprising 4-0 win over Spain, the No. 6 team in the FIFA rankings, in their group-stage finale. Meanwhile, Norway rebounded from a tense start to the World Cup to dismantle the Philippines 6-0 and advance to the knockout stage.

Semifinal: South Africa-Netherlands winner or Spain-Switzerland winner

The other Round of 16 matchups on the USWNT’s side of the bracket are set. If the U.S. advance to the quarterfinal and then the semifinal, they’ll face one of these four teams.

The USWNT drew the Netherlands 1-1 in their second group-stage game last week, after defeating the Dutch to win the World Cup title in 2019. The Americans recently fell to Spain 2-0 in an October friendly, during a stretch that saw them lose three straight games for the first time since 1993.

So far at this World Cup, South Africa has defeated Italy 3-2 and lost to Sweden 2-1, while Switzerland has beaten the Philippines 2-0 and managed scoreless draws against Norway and New Zealand.

Final: TBD

On the other side of the bracket, only Australia and Nigeria have advanced out of the group stage. Top-ranked FIFA squads England, Germany, France and Brazil are also poised to advance to the knockout rounds and could all pose problems for the USWNT in a championship match.