The United States will go into the 2023 FIFA Women's World Cup in Australia and New Zealand with the ambitious goal of the become the first team — men's or women's — to win the World Cup three consecutive times. And the good news for them is, it's totally feasible they pull it off.
The USWNT is ranked No. 1 in the world, according to FIFA, and has been installed as the betting favorite to win it all Down Under. Even with a new generation of players at the forefront, the U.S. is the team to beat.
But there's no denying the competition will be as it tough as it has ever been. Outside the fact that this year's tournament will be the first Women's World Cup with 32 teams, the talent at the top is capable of giving the might U.S. problems.
We asked our panel of FOX Sports soccer experts to predict which team has the best chance at spoiling things for the USWNT. Here's what they had to say:
Carli Lloyd: I would say Spain. Spain had a great 2019 World Cup, and they're coming into this World Cup with a lot of youth. France has got a new coach — can he inject a new mindset for them to reach the final? England, they're European champions, and they're continuing to do well and are in form and then Australia. We knew back in 2015 at the World Cup in Canada how important a crowd is, and that was our 12th man of the tournament. Can Australia get the crowd behind them and make that final game?
Alexi Lalas: I'm going to go with France. They had a mini revolt and got rid of the coach. Now, they have Herve Renard, who we just saw six months ago do good things with Saudi Arabia, and I think he's a leader, I think he's going to give them focus and because the players got what they wanted with the coaching change, it puts the onus on these players. This is already a good team individually and collectively, so it might be more of a mental battle than a physical battle. I'm really interested to see what France does.
Leslie Osborne: Germany. They have a real chance to win it all after failing to make it to the final in the last three World Cup cycles.
Jimmy Conrad: Just to throw a different name out there, I'm going to say Australia. The Matildas beat Spain 3-2 back in February, beat England 2-0 in April and beat France 1-0 this week. Plus, they have one of the best players in the world in Sam Kerr, and they have the added benefit of being the host nation, so every game will be a home game for them. That makes them dangerous.
David Mosse: Sweden. They always play the U.S. tough and beat them 3-0 in the last Olympics.
Laken Litman: England. Yes, The Lionesses have been hit hard by injuries, but if they make it to the final and face the U.S., all bets are off. This team is talented, feisty and hungry to win its first World Cup. And it would be extra spicy coming at the expense of the USWNT.
Doug McIntyre: Spain. For all the talk about England, I think the injuries to three key players will hurt the Lionesses more than most realize. Meanwhile, Spain is capable of upsetting the U.S. before they even reach the final. La Roja were the Americans' toughest knockout opponent four years ago in France, and they beat the USWNT in a friendly last year — without most of their first choice starters. And they also have Alexia Putellas, perhaps still the world's best player even after ACL surgery, back in the fold.
Martin Rogers: Spain. I picked them as my overall winner and here is part of the reason why. I see a potential USA-Spain semifinal, head to head, as a true 50/50 pick ‘em. One thing to bear in mind is the structure of the tournament; if these teams meet in the last four, the fact that the USA will have a trip to and from Australia behind them, whereas Spain would have remained in New Zealand throughout, might be enough to tilt the edge in the European side's favor.
If there's one reason people should believe in the USWNT, what is it?
Lloyd: They have the depth and talent to win it all.
Lalas: The depth. It comes down to how much Vlatko Andonovski has done over the last few years in terms of creating that depth but also creating that belief with a younger generation, and maturing and motivating this team going forward.
Osborne: It's the U.S. The Americans have the DNA that no other team has. It is the difference and gives them the very slight edge. The standard is to win and nothing else.
Conrad: Two words: "Experience" and "Belief." They know what it takes to be on top at the end, and they believe they can do it, which they have proven is a winning combination.
Mosse: Simply put, they know how to win.
Litman: There's no reason not to believe in the USWNT. This team's identity is to be ruthless and relentless. From 18-year-old Alyssa Thompson (the youngest player) to 38-year-old Megan Rapinoe (the oldest), everybody exhibits those qualities and understands the task at hand, which is to win.
McIntyre: Depth. There is no other team in the 32-nation field that could lose two of the best attacking players on the planet in Catarina Macario and Mallory Swanson and replace them with the likes of Trinity Rodman, Sophia Smith and Lynn Williams. And it's the same in the back, where Alana Cook and Naomi Girma will be able to overcome the loss of starting center back and captain Becky Sauerbrunn.
Rogers: Ferocity. Even as the rest of the world has caught up and maybe even surpassed the Americans in certain technical facets, the relentless aggression of this squad is something that no team is able to match.