FIFA Women’s World Cup Kicks Off

FIFA Women's Soccer
Fred Kfoury III/Icon SMI
FIFA Women's Soccer

The men’s World Cup in Brazil last year had a samba rhythm, but the players taking the field across Canada for the FIFA Women’s World Cup will march to a different beat as they drum up excitement for their game. Fox Sports, taking over from ESPN as the U.S. English-language broadcaster, will show all 52 matches in the monthlong tournament on its platforms, including 16 on Fox.

The Canadian team kicks off the action Saturday against China, while the United States begins play Monday, June 8 (7:30/6:30c, Fox Sports 1) against Australia, one of three opponents in the first-stage Group of Death, which also includes Sweden and Nigeria.

The U.S. has won the last three Olympic gold medals but hasn’t captured a World Cup crown since 1999, when Mia Hamm and Brandi Chastain were in cleats. In 2011, the U.S. lost the title game to Japan in a dramatic penalty kick shoot-out. “We’re always in the running; it’s pretty depressing,” says Heather Mitts, a triple Olympic champion and 2011 team member who is now working as a studio analyst for Fox. “It’s a huge motivational factor.”

The U.S. hopes for a healthy Alex Morgan, the forward who has struggled with injury the past two years. She scored in the semifinal and final of her first World Cup four years ago. Carli Lloyd “is the one player I just have so much confidence in right now,” Mitts says of the midfielder, who netted the game-winning goals in both the 2008 and 2012 Olympic finals. “She thrives off not getting the recognition that she deserves.”

On the other side of the field, controversial goalkeeper Hope Solo provides what Mitts calls “that calming aura that really helps the defense to play better.”

And Abby Wambach, the all-time international goal-scoring record holder known for her headers, will have a new role in her fourth World Cup at age 35: coming off the bench. “Hopefully, that will mean that she’s fresher and able to score the big goals when possible,” Mitts says. And maybe land the U.S. back on top of the world.

FIFA Women’s World Cup, Coverage begins Saturday, 5/4c, Fox Sports 1