If you're a fan of United States team sports and in a lingering patriotic mood, the 2014 World Cup of Softball has got you covered. Team USA will look to capture its seventh title in this event starting July 7 at Bill Barber Park in Irvine, California.
This isn't a tournament that leaves the masses wanting for four years like the FIFA World Cup or the Olympics, but the burgeoning event is growing into an annual summer tradition for softball fans.
The inaugural World Cup of Softball was in 2005, and the tournament has run every year since then save for a single hiatus in 2008. West Coast fans of the sport should consider themselves lucky as this will be the largest World Cup of Softball ever, with seven national teams participating from across the globe.
Here are picks for the entire tournament, followed by a preview of who and what to watch for in this event.
|2014 World Cup of Softball Schedule and Predictions|
|July 7||11:00 a.m.||Philippines vs. Venezuela||Venezuela|
|July 7||2:00 p.m.||Venezuela vs. Chinese-Taipei||Chinese-Taipei|
|July 7||4:30 p.m.||Canada vs. Japan||Japan|
|July 7||7:00 p.m.||USA vs. Mexico* (exhibition)||USA|
|July 8||11:00 a.m.||Venezuela vs. Japan||Japan|
|July 8||2:00 p.m.||Philippines vs. Mexico||Mexico|
|July 8||4:30 p.m.||Canada vs. Chinese-Taipei||Canada|
|July 8||7:00 p.m.||USA vs. Venezuela||USA|
|July 9||11:00 a.m.||Philippines vs. Canada||Canada|
|July 9||2:00 p.m.||Canada vs. Venezuela||Venezuela|
|July 9||4:30 p.m.||Japan vs. Mexico||Japan|
|July 9||7:00 p.m.||USA vs. Philippines||USA|
|July 10||12:30 p.m.||Chinese-Taipei vs. Mexico||Chinese-Taipei|
|July 10||6:00 p.m.||USA vs. Canada (Pink Game)||USA|
|July 10||8:30 p.m.||Japan vs. Philippines||Japan|
|July 11||10:00 a.m.||Mexico vs. Venezuela||Mexico|
|July 11||12:30 p.m.||Chinese-Taipei vs. Philippines||Philippines|
|July 11||6:00 p.m.||USA vs. Japan||USA|
|July 12||10:00am||USA vs. Mexico||Mexico|
|July 12||12:30 p.m.||Mexico vs. Canada||Canada|
|July 12||5:00 p.m.||USA vs. Chinese-Taipei||USA|
|July 12||7:00 p.m.||Chinese-Taipei vs. Japan||Japan|
|July 13||10:00 a.m.||No. 1 USA vs. No. 2 Japan||USA|
|July 13||12:30 p.m.||No. 7 Philippines vs. No. 6 Venezuela||Venezuela|
|July 13||2:00 p.m.||No. 5 Chinese-Taipei vs. No. 6 Venezuela||Chinese-Taipei|
|July 13||4:00 p.m.||No. 3 Canada vs. No. 4 Mexico||Canada|
|TeamUSA.org, *exhibition, does not count toward standings|
Live Stream: TeamUSA.org
This is an event the United States almost always dominates from the first pitch to the final out. They've won six of the eight World Cups and never finished worse than second place.
In fact, the United States took first and third place in 2010, as the Futures squad entered the tournament and proved they were nearly as strong as the senior team.
Japan is the only other winner of this tournament, and the defending champions are the favorites alongside the host nation. They defeated the United States 6-3 in the final of the 2013 World Cup of Softball.
Lauren Gibson will lead the way for the United States in the batter's box. The former University of Tennessee Volunteer was named the 2013 SEC Player of the Year after posting a .401 batting average, 19 home runs, 68 RBI and just 17 strikeouts. She was a member of Team USA for the 2011 and 2012 World Cup wins.
On the mound, look for Sara Nevins, a key member of last year's squad, to reestablish her dominance. The left-handed Nevins is a former University of Oregon standout. She posted a 26-9 record with a 1.20 ERA as a senior for the Ducks in 2013.
Sara Groenewegen will establish herself as a key threat for Canada. She's coming off a stellar freshman season for the University of Minnesota, going 14-3 with a 2.23 ERA on the mound while slugging 11 home runs and posting a .418 on-base percentage.
Canada will look to break up the stranglehold Japan and the United States have on this tournament; they've never finished better than third place in this event.
Kana Nakano will return to play for Japan; she was the pitcher of record in Japan's win over the United States in the 2013 title game.
As for the remaining teams, this is the first World Cup of Softball appearance for Chinese-Taipei, Mexico and the Philippines. Venezuela will participate in this event for the first time since 2011.
Look for the United States and Japan to run the table, with the host nation getting a revenge victory and taking the title in this year's competition.