Fans of U.S. soccer couldn’t ask for a more exciting day than Sunday. The USWNT (-500) will attempt to become the first team since Germany in 2007 to repeat as FIFA Women’s World Cup champions, when they take on the Netherlands (+400). Later that day, the USMNT (11-8) take on arch-rival Mexico (4-7), for their eighth CONCACAF Gold Cup title. If successful, it would be the first time the men’s and women’s teams won their respective tournaments since 1991.
The USWNT advanced to the World Cup final by outlasting England, 2-1 on Tuesday. Star winger Megan Rapinoe was held out of the semifinal due to a hamstring injury, but she insists she’ll be ready for the final. Her replacement, Christen Press, scored the opening goal 10 minutes into the match, giving the U.S. its customary early lead. England’s Ellen White equalized in the 19th minute, taking the lead in the tournament’s Golden Boot race in the process. In the 31st minute, Alex Morgan celebrated her 30th birthday in style, to put the Americans ahead (and tie White with six goals). However, it was goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher who provided the save of the tournament on a penalty, which sealed England’s fate.
Their opponents in Lyon will be the Orange Lionesses of the Netherlands, who needed extra time to dispatch Sweden, 1-0 on Wednesday. After 99 grueling, scoreless minutes, Jackie Groenen struck home to send the European champions to their first World Cup final. It was the midfielder’s first shot on target all tournament. Equally as surprising as Rapinoe’s absence on Tuesday, Olympique Lyonnais star Shanice van de Sanden was benched due to subpar play. She got the message, and subbed on in the 71st minute, providing a much needed spark to the Orange Army.
It took a while Wednesday night, but the Yanks took the final step toward their Gold Cup title defense, with a 3-1 victory over Jamaica. Weston McKennie put the USMNT on the board early, before a 90 minute weather delay brought things to a halt. Skipper Christian Pulisic added a goal in the 52nd minute, then another in the 87th, to send the Stars and Stripes to Chicago. Sunday will be the biggest game, by some margin, in Manager Gregg Berhalter’s brief tenure— and neither the fans nor the players would have it any other way. “We want Mexico,” the thousands in attendance in Nashville chanted.
That team down south had already punched their ticket to the final, thanks to a 1-0 victory in extra time over Haiti. A penalty, converted by Raul Jimenez in the 93rd minute, was all El Tri needed in front of 60,000 friendly fans in Glendale. It was Mexico’s second consecutive extra time affair, after beating Costa Rica in a penalty shootout. Whether the tournament’s decided favorites are struggling, or the Ticos and Grenadiers played up to Mexico’s level in the knockout rounds, will be dissected until kickoff. El Tri is bringing an all-star cast to Soldier Field, but their tired legs might not hold.