U.S. soccer vs. Sweden schedule, start time, how to watch, TV, channel, preview

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Both the United States and Sweden will advance to the Women’s World Cup knockout stage regardless of the result of Thursday’s final group-stage match. So why is it important? Two reasons.

The first is seeding for a potential championship run. One of these teams will win Group F and face Spain, the world’s 13th-ranked team, in the round of 16, followed by the prospect of France, the world’s No. 4 team, in the quarterfinals. The other team will be Group F’s runner-up and face either No. 5 Canada or No. 8 Netherlands, and then likely No. 2 Germany. The easier path is in the eye of the beholder. It might be nice to stay away from Germany, which won the Olympic gold medal in 2016 in Rio de Janeiro. It also might be nice to avoid host France, considered one of the tournament favorites.

And yet the Americans have rejected the idea of easing up.

“For us to throw a game and not want to win right before a knockout round,” defender Crystal Dunn said, “is crazy.”

As center back Abby Dalhkemper added, “It’s in our team’s DNA to want to win.”

Bragging rights are the second reason. Simply, the Americans and the Swedes don’t care for one another (on the pitch). In Rio, Sweden knocked out the United States in the quarterfinals by playing conservatively on offense in an effort to push the game to a shootout. It worked, and Sweden won on penalties. U.S. goalkeeper Hope Solo called the Swedes “a bunch of cowards” for employing the tactic. Sweden’s coach responded, “I don’t give a crap.”

Players on both sides leading up to this match have had plenty of time to refresh their memories.

“Just that feeling, it still hasn’t left,” American midfielder Allie Long said.

“They don’t have that mental advantage they had before,” Swedish goalkeeper Hedvig Lindahl said of the Americans.

The U.S. is far ahead on goal differential and would win the group with a victory or a draw against Sweden.

What you need to know

When: Thursday, 3 p.m. Eastern.

Where: Stade Oceane, Le Havre.

TV: Fox, Telemundo.

Streaming: Fox Sports.

Pregame reading

Sweden’s rivalry with the United States simmers heading into World Cup match

Every single word leading up to Thursday’s match has been scrutinized, and there seems to be tension bubbling beneath. “Although it was such an upsetting feeling, I feel like this team needed that,” Long said of its 2016 loss. “You’re going to learn more in your failures than in your successes and I think that we needed that to kind of shape us into this powerful, united team.” (Read more)

U.S. soccer trashes any talk of tanking vs. Sweden

The idea the Americans would take into consideration potential matchups in the knockout stage is far-fetched. Their intended message: Bring on all comers. In describing the competitive nature of her squad, which has won eight straight and has not conceded a goal in the past six, Coach Jill Ellis said, “I struggled to tell my team not to tackle each other in training the day before” a game. (Read more)

U.S. goalie Alyssa Naeher should face first real World Cup test vs. Sweden

The knock on the world’s top-ranked team is Naeher’s lack of experience at the World Cup or Olympics. Given the ease of victories against Thailand and Chile — and her need to make three routine saves — some might snicker and say she still hasn’t played in the World Cup. That should change against Sweden. (Read more)

On Women’s World Cup rosters, the global impact of Title IX is clear

At the World Cup, it’s not just the United States that’s reaping the long-established benefits of Title IX, the federal legislation that in 1972 required equal opportunity for girls and women and, in doing so, laid the foundation for soccer dynasties at North Carolina, Stanford and Portland. Nations around the world have rosters sprinkled with athletes who were recruited by U.S. colleges and have been shaped, in meaningful ways, by NCAA competition. (Read more)

Carli Lloyd and the U.S. women golf-clap back at critics of their celebrations

Mindful of the controversy that engulfed the U.S. team after it repeatedly and joyfully celebrated goal after goal after goal in a 13-0 shellacking of Thailand last week, Lloyd and her teammates exchanged hugs and congratulations after the team’s first goal against Chile. But then Lloyd and Lindsey Horan did something else — and it sent a message to all of their critics. (Read more)

Mallory Pugh and Rose Lavelle are best friends, roommates and now, World Cup goal-scorers

Pugh and Lavelle, both goal scorers against Thailand, are teammates not just for this French odyssey but with the Washington Spirit, the National Women’s Soccer League organization based outside the nation’s capital. They share an apartment in Rockville, Md., with another player and are roommates on the Paris leg of the group stage. (Read more)

Alex Morgan is the face of U.S. soccer and now its golden boot

Long before she blistered the nets Tuesday night with five goals, Alex Morgan had taken a leading role in the run-up to the Women’s World Cup with her voice and presence away from the soccer field. She had become one of the strongest and most eloquent advocates for gender equality within both the U.S. program and global circles. As one of the world’s most recognized female athletes, she had appeared in TV spots and magazine covers, both in uniform and bikini. With nearly 10 million combined followers on Twitter and Instagram, her life and career are open books. On Tuesday, Morgan’s full attention turned to soccer. (Read more)

The U.S. World Cup team’s greatest challenge: Rising European powers

Even if the 2019 U.S. Women’s World Cup team is as formidable as its victorious predecessors in 1991, 1999 and 2015, its road to the tournament’s final weekend is likely to be far more difficult, given the rise of women’s soccer in Europe. (Read more)

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