You’re in for the US, of course, but you could use a side team to root for. Picking a country that’s won or made it to the final game at a World Cup or the Olympics would be a snooze and/or a serious threat to our homegirls (sorry, Germany, Japan, Norway, Sweden, Brazil, and China), so here are a few other options.
You just have to decide if you want to ...
... pretend you’re at a Thorns game: Australia
Picture it: Ellie Carpenter powers a throw-in to the feet of Caitlin Foord, who weaves around defenders and sends a cross to Hayley Raso (above) for a goal. Is this the World Cup, or just another Saturday at Providence Park with these three Thorns? The Matildas have made it to the quarterfinals in the past three World Cups and the 2016 Olympics. Most of them have played in the US, splitting the year between the NWSL and the October–February W-League in Australia, where about two dozen American NWSL players also spend the off-season. This could be the Aussies’ cup. Watch for Sam Kerr hat tricks and backflips. Will the Matildas win Group C or will Marta and Co bring the magic? Australia vs. Brazil, 9 a.m.
Pacific time Thursday, June 13.
... roar with the Indomitable Lionesses: Cameroon
With a euphoria-inducing hat trick from Gaëlle Enganamouit and a clutch goal from Gabrielle Onguéné, Cameroon made it past the group stage in its first-ever World Cup in 2015, the best performance since 1999 for a team from Africa, where money to support the women’s game has been infamously scarce. Most of the 2015 squad is on hand for 2019. Enganamouit plays in Spain, Onguéné in Russia, but a handful of their teammates play professionally in France and should feel quite at home. The Indomitable Lionesses have already won the nickname battle with New Zealand’s Football Ferns, and they face off on the pitch on the last day of group play, 9 a.m. Friday, June 20.
... with glowing heart, see Christine Sinclair rise: Canada
She’s won pretty much every individual award there is. She might break Abby Wambach’s record for most international goals scored by any human ever. She lost a “most underrated Canadian” poll only when matched against a Nobel Prize winner who saved millions of lives by codiscovering insulin. She’s been on a fricking postage stamp. But this former Portland Pilot and OG Portland Thorn, who turns 36 this month, has never gotten to hoist the trophy. The closest the Canadians have come is a loss in the semis in Sinclair’s first World Cup, in 2003, and in the quarterfinals in her fourth Cup, in 2015. Watch Canada vs. Netherlands in a likely battle for the top spot in Group E, 9 a.m. Thursday, June 20.
... root, root, root for the home team: France
France’s storied development center, Clairefontaine (basically a soccer Beauxbatons, complete with a castle), opened a women’s program in 1998. Today nearly every national team player is part of France’s Division 1 Féminine league, so they don’t need no stinkin’ NWSL. (A rare exception is Amandine Henry, who spent two seasons with the Thorns in part to, she said, pick up some of the US women’s “warrior” mentality.) Les Bleues finished fourth in the 2011 Cup and 2012 Olympics. More recently, they blasted the US 3–1 in a January friendly. Plan a long lunch: if the US and France both win their groups and their round-of-16 games, they’ll meet in the quarterfinals in Paris at noon Friday, June 28.
... cheer on a team that’s basically the US, but underdogs: Jamaica
A lot of the Reggae Girlz (the team is backed by a daughter of Bob Marley) are US-born dual citizens, with many having played at American colleges—including lead scorer Khadija “Bunny” Shaw (pictured), a Tennessee Lady Vol. Ranked 53rd in the world by FIFA this spring, they’ve made it to their first-ever Cup as the biggest underdog in the tournament. Least likely to be a blowout: Jamaica vs. Italy, 9 a.m. Friday, June 14