Before the opening ceremonies have even taken place, the soccer competition will begin at the 2012 London Olympics, with group play kicking off (so-to-speak) on July 25th.
The United States men's national team will watch events unfold on television, after failing to qualify for the Olympic tournament. However, the women's team returns most of its players from a squad that advanced to the finals of the Women's World Cup in 2011.
The US women's team is considered one of the gold medal favorites in soccer, and if Team USA is to achieve that lofty goal then they will need big contributions from the following trio of stars.
One of the stars of the United States World Cup run a year ago, 32-year-old striker Abby Wambach has additional motivation pushing her at the London Games. Just prior to the Beijing Games four years ago, Wambach broke her leg, costing her a spot on the women's team that went on to win the gold medal.
Wambach has been the centerpiece of the U.S. offensive attack for the better part of a decade, scoring 138 career goals for the national team. As Wambach recently told Ives Galarcep of FOX Sports, she's fully aware that this could be her last bite at the Olympic apple.
“With my history (after being injured before the 2008 Olympics), and with the recent World Cup coming so close, I think all of us are really motivated to win gold,” Wambach told FOX Soccer. “It gives me more motivation because I wasn’t part of the last Olympics, and let’s face it. You don’t know how many more chances like these you will have in your career.”
If Abby Wambach represents the past for the women's national team, then 23-year-old forward Alex Morgan would appear to offer a glimpse into the team's future. Morgan has paced the women's team with 17 goals in 15 matches this year, and the relative youngster appears to set to take the mantle of world's best player from Wambach.
A prolific scorer with a knack for coming through with a big goal when needed most, Morgan had a goal and an assist in the World Cup final last year. While Morgan has attracted more media attention with her modeling than her soccer play, Morgan recently told Mike Foss of USA Today that right now her main focus is on one thing and one thing only.
My playing time has increased over the year, but for me, it's just knowing when to say no to media or work like that and just focus on soccer and make soccer a priority.
With glamorous looks, sticky hands and world-class skills, 30-year-old U.S. goalkeeper Hope Solo is not only the "face" of the United States women's national team but also arguably the finest female netminder in the world.
However, Solo heads to London riding a wave of recent controversies. As ESPN recently reported not only was Solo given a warning by U.S. Anti-Doping Agency after taking a PMS medication that contained a banned diureti,c but she also recently admitted in an interview with ESPN The Magazine that she and her teammates appeared on the "Today" show drunk after winning gold in Beijing four years ago.
"I probably shouldn't tell you this, but we met a bunch of celebrities. Vince Vaughn partied with us. Steve Byrne, the comedian. And at some point we decided to take the party back to the village, so we started talking to the security guards, showed off our gold medals, got their attention and snuck our group through without credentials -- which is absolutely unheard of." And, she adds, "I may have snuck a celebrity back to my room without anybody knowing, and snuck him back out. But that's my Olympic secret." The best part, according to Solo? "When we were done partying, we got out of our nice dresses, got back into our stadium coats and, at 7 a.m. with no sleep, went on the Today show drunk. Needless to say, we looked like hell."
Solo's candor and honesty is refreshing, if somewhat ill-advised. Here's hoping that when the women's soccer competition at the 2012 London Olympics concludes on August 9th, that the U.S. women's team has a reason to cut loose once again.