Will the USA Win the Women’s World Cup? Expert Analysis & Prediction For USWNT

Will the USA Win the Women’s World Cup? Expert Analysis & Prediction For USWNT article feature image

Brad Smith/Getty. Pictured: Alex Morgan.

The life of a tournament favorite is not easy. Everyone is out to get you. If you do succeed, it is expected. And if you fail? It's a chorus of disappointment. 

The U.S. women’s national team is in pursuit of an unprecedented third World Cup title in a row in Australia and New Zealand.

Before a ball was kicked, oddsmakers had the USA at a very short +240 to lift the trophy in Sydney on August 20. But now, as the tournament heads into the round of 16, the Stars and Stripes are priced at +450. European champions England (+270) have emerged as the new favorite to win.

The flailing USA have successfully navigated through the group stage, albeit with an all-time historic low of five points. An acceptable 3-0 win over Vietnam, a stop-start 1-1 with Holland and a drab 0-0 with Portugal has resulted in hours of broadcast debate over whether the USA still has “it.”

Here is my analysis and verdict on the USWNT's chances.

Why You Should Buy Into The USWNT

It might be a cliche, but defense wins championships.

The doom and gloom surrounding the USA’s two consecutive draws have distracted from the impressive showings on the defensive side of the ball. 

Over 270 minutes of soccer, the USA have conceded the fewest shots (11) and shots on target (1) of any team at the World Cup. Unsurprisingly, the Americans also have the best xG against (0.7) of any side too. Their defense has a nearly flawless and very commendable record. 

Even that one single attempt on target that did find the back of the net was a precisely-struck shot from outside the box by Netherlands midfielder Jill Roord. The shooting position on the goal had an xG of 0.05. That's a chance where you would often back the goalkeeper to make a save. 

Center backs Naomi Girma and Julie Ertz have been very consistent at plugging running lanes and blocking shots. They engage in duels early when they need to press, and they have the awareness to drop into defending the box when teams break through the USA midfield.

Fullbacks Emily Fox and Crystal Dunn have also been resilient in one-on-one situations. With consummate off-the-ball play across the USA backline, there isn't really a weak link for opposing teams to target.

In the middle third of the pitch, holding midfielder Andi Sullivan – who has come under criticism for her on-the-ball work – has more interceptions (10) than any other at the World Cup. Dunn is second in that statistic with nine. This is also a strong indicator that the USA can win the ball back in transition. 

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Why You Should Sell on The USWNT

A lot has been made of Carli Lloyd’s comments about the team’s supposed lack of winning mentality. Her opinion was somewhat based on how she didn’t see enough anguish in the players' reactions after the Portugal draw. 

On Thursday, Captain Lindsey Horan clapped back at her former teammate turned broadcast pundit. She said the comments were “frustrating to hear” but ultimately were just “noise” and that the former USWNT player has “no idea” about what is going on “behind the scenes."

In my mind, Lloyd’s comments distract from the actual soccer. The USA are not going to lose the World Cup due to mentality. They're not going to lose because they weren’t angry at themselves after finishing second in the group standings.

They will lose the World Cup due to a simplistic game plan, unimaginative midfield and a lack of execution in key moments. 

Right now, head coach Vlatko Andonovski is asking his players to pass the ball forward a lot and without much polish or positioning. The soccer is sloppy. 

Heading into Sunday’s round of 16 match against Sweden, the USA had a 68% pass completion rate. That ranks 21st at the 2023 World Cup and is a significant drop from the 2019 edition where the USA averaged 76% (the fifth-best average in that tournament).

Andonovski unpacked this a little bit after the 0-0 with Portugal when journalists questioned his tactics. 

“If we have a lower pass percentage, it could be the weight of the pass, the technique of the pass or the area of where the pass is intended to go. I wouldn’t say the midfield three was disjointed,” he told the media.

The impatience and inaccuracy of the USA’s shooting is the aspect of their game that by far needs the most improvement if it is going to make a serious run at lifting the World Cup. 

Only Spain (77) have taken more shots than the USA (62). However, just 22.6% of the USWNT’s shots are staying on target, and just 6% of their total shots are ending up in the back of the net.

It’s quantity over quality. 15.5 shots are being taken for every goal scored. That's an incredibly low conversion rate.

The most damning statistic of all is that the USA are the No. 1 under-performer at the World Cup for Goals Minus Expected Goals. With -3.8, the Americas have scored nearly half as many goals (4) as they were expected to (7.8).

Will The USA Win The Women's World Cup?

You may not get another chance to bet on the USA at +450 again. In terms of value, this is the optimal time to jump on board and hope the team can 1-0 its way to glory.

Do keep in mind that the USA's Round of 16 opponent, Sweden, presents the toughest defensive challenge yet. The Scandinavians have a very good record against the Americans recently. That includes a 3-0 win at the Tokyo Olympics two years ago.

Set-piece defending could decide if the USA make it to the quarterfinals and beyond. Seven of Sweden's nine goals have come from set pieces – six of those from corners. In the group stage, the USA conceded just two shots from set pieces.

The knockout rounds might feel like an entirely new tournament. There is already a weight lifted for these USA players who have been carrying the pressure. But get past Sweden, and the USA have potentially daunting matchups versus Japan, Spain or Norway. Switzerland are a wild card in the mix that most people would expect the Americans to beat.

On the other hand, there are no easy games now. Andonovski’s team is playing below its potential while the likes of Japan, England and France have sizzled and thrived. 

In a World Cup that has brought plenty of upsets and freshness, there has never been a better time to back someone other than the four-time champions.

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