USA have long been one of the heavyweights of women’s football, though when it comes to the Olympic Games they are quite simply in a league of their own. The gold medal they won on home soil in the inaugural Women’s Olympic Football Tournament at Atlanta 1996 marked the start of a lengthy period of international domination for the Stars and Stripes, who followed up by winning the FIFA Women’s World Cup™ in 1999, again in their own backyard. Yet by the time they came to defend their Olympic title at Sydney 2000 several of their leading players had retired, with a transitional side coming off second best to Norway in the final. The Americans were back on top of the podium at Athens 2004, however, and retained the title at Beijing 2008 and again at London 2012.
The road to Rio
USA were in typically commanding form in the CONCACAF qualifiers, continuing their longstanding dominance of the regional scene. After outclassing Costa Rica, Mexico and Puerto Rico in the group phase, Jill Ellis’s side cruised to a 5-0 win over Trinidad and Tobago in the last four, sealing their place at Rio 2016, and then kicked on to beat Canada 2-0 in the final.
England-born Ellis took over from Tom Sermanni as USA coach in 2014, though she had been working for the United States Soccer Federation since 2000, occupying a number of positions and also serving as the senior national team’s caretaker coach for seven matches in 2012. Since her official appointment two years later, Ellis has taken the opportunity to prove what she can bring to the job. She began by guiding her side through a tough group phase at the Women’s World Cup Canada 2015. The Stars and Stripes then saw off Colombia, China PR and Germany before clinching their third world title with a stunning 5-2 defeat of Japan in the Final.
Hope Solo, Carly Lloyd, Alex Morgan
2,060 - the number of passes attempted by the Americans in all their games at the recent CONCACAF qualifying competition, 85 per cent of which reached their target.