The Women’s World Cup is next June and the countdown is already on to see if the U.S. Women’s National Team can defend their world title. You may be unaware of this but the U-20 U.S. Women’s National Team is in a World Cup of their own, and the pressure is on for them to get out of the group stage.

In the U-20 Women’s World Cup, 16 teams face off in four groups and the top two in each group advances to the quarterfinal. Unlike the men’s World Cup where they want to include a lot of teams and risk oversaturation, the women’s version, and especially the U-20 one, only has so many teams and the competition can be wide open.

The USWNT was drawn to Group C with Japan, Paraguay and Spain. Japan has never won a U-20 World Cup but the senior team has proven that they can be formidable. And in their first match, Japan defeated the United States 1-0.

Next was Paraguay, and if there’s any team of the four who would be considered the “weakest,” it would be Paraguay. The USWNT took their Japan defeat and soundly won over Paraguay 5-0.

Now here is where things get interesting.

Spain beat Japan 1-0, so the current table entering Monday’s final group stage matches is as follows

1) Spain – 6 pts, +4 goal differential, 5 goals scored
2) United States – 3 pts, +5 goal differential, 6 goals scored
3) Japan – 3 pts, +0 goal differential, 1 goal scored
4) Paraguay – 0 pts, -9 goal differential, 1 goal scored

This means that there is real possibility that the USWNT fail to advance to the knockout stage and possibly even have a three way tie at the top, with one team being eliminated on six points.

Because the U.S. faces Spain last and they already have a higher goal differential, the task becomes easy. Win and you’re in. Because if the USWNT wins over Spain, they are guaranteed to have the tiebreaker over them. The focus then goes to Japan, who have to make up a bunch of goals against Paraguay to catch up and that’s certainly possible.

Japan will want to make up whatever goal difference the U.S. has and get the top spot of the group. Because the runner-up in this group is likely to get Germany in the quarterfinal.

A draw or loss by the USWNT will still give them a chance to advance. So I wouldn’t really say this is a “must-win,” but it’s as much of a must-win as it can be before it actually being one. Because Japan against Paraguay is all but a certain win for Japan. Essentially, whatever the United States does, Japan cannot better that. If both draw, the U.S. advances. If both lose, the U.S. advances as long as they don’t lose in a blowout.

It’s going to be some pressure on these women until gametime Monday at 7:30 AM ET on FS2. But a little bit of pressure never hurt anyone, especially for a group of players who have aspirations to be future members of the national team. Now is their time to shine.

About Phillip Bupp

News editor for The Comeback and Awful Announcing, highlight consultant for Major League Soccer as well as a freelance writer for hire. Opinions are my own but feel free to agree with them.

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