London 2012: 5 Reasons You Don't Want to Miss Olympic Women's Soccer
The United States women enter the 2012 Summer Olympic games in London as the favorites to take the gold medal.
Some familiar faces will be back for the Yanks, who will be trying to eradicate their heartbreaking World Cup loss to Japan.
Meanwhile, the rest of the world is far from content to lay down and let the US claim the Olympic gold once again.
The Ballon d'Or winners (given to FIFA's top player) from 2011 and 2010 will represent just two of the 11 other squads looking to knock off the heavily favored Americans.
Read on to find out why you should keep your eyes on the ladies on the pitch in London this summer.
Can Marta and Brazil Make the Golden Jump?
The No. 1 female player in the world from 2010 will be out to prove that the Brazilian women are as much of a gold medal threat as their male counterparts.
Marta out-shined American star Alex Morgan (and the rest of the Women's Professional Soccer league), scoring 10 goals while leading the Western New York Flash to a WPS title in 2011.
However, Brazil has dropped to fifth in the FIFA world rankings after losses to Japan, the U.S. and Canada.
Brazil had to settle for silver in 2004 and 2008, falling to the US in both Olympic finals.
Marta will need all the help she can find from fellow forward Cristiane and others if Brazil expects to make the jump and take home the gold in London.
Will Homare Sawa and Japan Trump the US Again?
Homare Sawa, the winner of FIFA's Ballon d'Or for 2011, was probably the main reason for Japan's colossal upset victory of the US in the 2011 World Cup.
Her equalizing goal in the 117th minute sent the match into penalty kicks, where Japan ultimately earned the World Cup title in stunning fashion.
Sawa missed a great deal of time this year due to vertigo, but has since made a return and expects to be back in London.
If she does indeed return, Japan could be the United States' toughest opponent this summer.
Either way, one of the most interesting storylines in this summer's competition will be whether or not the U.S. can exact revenge for its disappointing World Cup loss.
The World's Best Goalkeeper
You've seen her, you know her, you love her: Hope Solo.
She's the best female goalkeeper in the world and she's out to prove it once again in London.
She is second all-time in U.S. women's soccer history in caps, wins and shutouts by a keeper, and despite having shoulder surgery in late 2010, she took home the Golden Glove award for the best goalkeeper at the 2011 World Cup.
The ultra-competitive Solo wasn't satisfied with a silver finish at the World Cup, and you can bet she will do whatever it for her squad to win gold this summer.
Solo is one tough customer and seeing her square off with Sawa and Marta is definitely going to be something you won't want to miss.
Alex Morgan and Abby Wambach
Forward Alex Morgan has been scoring at a blistering pace in 2012, finding the net an astonishing 14 times to go with eight assists in just 12 matches.
In just 39 career caps, she has 24 goals.
She is the bonafide real deal up front for Team USA.
If you Google "Alex Morgan," you may get more hits for her body paint appearance in Sports Illustrated's swimsuit issue, but Morgan can really play and will be fun to watch in London.
Meanwhile, her counterpart up front Abby Wambach can score a little bit too.
She has 10 goals in 13 matches in 2012, which puts her at 135 goals in 179 caps in her tenure for Team USA.
No, that isn't a typo. Wambach really knows how to find the net—135 times over.
She was also forced to miss the 2008 Olympics due to injury, so you can bet she'll be itching to put up some points for the U.S. in London.
The Next American Star
Remember the name Sydney Leroux.
The 22-year-old goal-scoring menace out of UCLA is new to the U.S. roster and will likely be a staple on it for some time to come.
She is no stranger to international play, however, as she led the U.S. to the U-20 World Cup title in 2010.
Leroux has scored more goals at the U-20 World Cup (10) than any other American player and has seven goals in nine appearances for the women's national team in 2012.
She has the talent to make a serious impact this summer in London and in years to come.
Can't get enough of the USWNT? Check out this Team USA analysis by Neri Stein for an in-depth look at the American Olympic squad and its prospects in London.