The U.S. Women's National Team have already secured their ticket to Rio after defeating Trinidad & Tobago 5-0 on Friday evening, thanks in large part to an Alex Morgan hattrick. Now, the U.S. face Canada in the CONCACAF Olympic Qualifying final. The game kicks off at 2:00 p.m. PT on NBCSN and NBC Sports Live Extra.
The match doesn't have significant implications for the Olympics. The winning side will earn the top CONCACAF seed. The most important thing on the line is pride.
Virtually every recent battle between the U.S. and Canada has been heated. Neither team seems to play their best against their rivals, but the games always seem to be physical, intense, and exciting. Here's what Seattle Reign goalkeeper Hope Solo had to say about playing Canada when asked after Friday's match against T&T.
"I love playing Canada. It always tends to be a bloodbath. I don't think it's necessarily the most prettiest games when we play Canada, but hopefully with this new group of players, we'll find a way around that, we'll find a way around their kind of American football style of play."
This rivalry has been pretty one-sided: the U.S. have won 46 meetings, while Canada has just three victories against the Americans. But Canada comes to this match playing some strong soccer. Captain Christine Sinclair just surpassed Mia Hamm to become the second leading goal-scorer, behind Abby Wambach, in women's soccer history, and Canada scored 24 goals in their last four outings.
In the last Olympics, the two sides dueled in the semifinals for one of the best matches in recent history, with the U.S. coming out on top 4-3, thanks to an Alex Morgan goal in the 123rd minute. We might not be blessed with a match that fun, but today's game is sure to be physical and exciting.
What to Watch
Battle of young talent: Until this year, one could easily argue that Canada was outpacing the U.S. when it came to developing young talent. That is, until Jill Ellis surprised everybody and began to give promising young stars the chance to prove themselves on the senior team. Ellis has twice started 17-year-old Mallory Pugh in Olympic qualifying matches, while Canada has seen strong performances from 16-year-old Deanna Rose.
Who controls the midfield: The U.S. will likely rest some starters today, but one big question has been how the U.S. midfield plays against tougher competition. Morgan Brian has been paired with forward-turned-holding-midfielder Lindsey Horan, and they've partnered well together so far. But the Canadian midfield is aggressive, and will be a good test for the U.S.
What comes next: The U.S. will be playing their fifth match in 12 days, and they hardly get a break after today. The Americans kick off the She Believes Cup on March 3, where they'll face England, France, and Germany -- teams ranked 5th, 3rd, and 2nd in the world, respectively. Canada is the first tough competition the U.S. have faced in awhile, but it's how they perform in these next three matches that will give a real indication for their chances in Rio.
How to Watch
Date/Time: Sunday, February 21, 2:00 p.m. PT
Location: BBVA Compass Stadium, Houston, Texas
TV: NBC Universo, NBCSN (at 7:00 p.m. PT on delay)
Online: NBC Sports Live Extra