As of right about now you can purchase Women's World Cup 2015 single match tickets. It's technically a 'pre-sale' for Visa card holders. But I'm going to go out on a limb and say that if you were planning to buy tickets online you probably have access to a Visa card. So now's the time.
Given that most of our readers are in Seattle, and given that the vastness of Canada means that the only venue within easy traveling distance is Vancouver, I thought it'd be worth previewing the matches that will be played in the Couve.
June 8 - Cameroon v Ecuador / Japan v Switzerland
For those looking to squeeze two games in at once, Vancouver's hosting duties start off with a couple of doubleheaders for Group C play. And there are discounted tickets if you want to catch both games at once. The first doubleheader is on Monday, June 8, featuring:
Cameroon v Ecuador - A soccer hipster's delight. These are two of the three lowest ranked teams in the tournament (only Ivory Coast ranks lower), which is one of the reasons Japan is predicted to glide through the group. This is the first World Cup appearance for either team. Cameroon lost in the final of the African Women's Championship to qualify and is driven by two 30-year-olds: top scorer Madeleine Ngono and defender Christine Patience Manie. Ecuador finished third in the Copa America Feminina, which they had the benefit of hosting, to earn a playoff with CONCACAF's Trinidad and Tobago. They won that 1-0 on aggregate and have now achieved their World Cup dream, though I wouldn't expect it to last long.
Japan v Switzerland - The winner of the group will come out of this match, and let's be honest. Barring something incredible from Switzerland, it's going to be Japan. The Nadeshiko are the reigning World Cup champs thanks to their defeat of the US in penalties in 2011 and are currently the 4th ranked team in the world after winning the Women's Asian Cup to qualify. They also feature ex-Reign (and maybe future Reign?) superstar Nahomi Kawasumi.
Switzerland needs something from this game to have a chance to top the group (though they'll be strongly favored to advance regardless). They blew away their competition in their UEFA qualifying group, scoring 53 goals in 10 games and conceding only one. Despite their quality, this is also their first ever World Cup appearance. They're led in the attack by Frankfurt's Ana-Maria Crnogorčević (current teammate of Jess Fishlock).
June 12 - Switzerland v Ecuador / Japan v Cameroon
Friday of the same week sees another Group C doubleheader. And these ones aren't going to be as competitive. Switzerland will be heavily favored against Ecuador and Japan will be even more heavily favored against Cameroon. If you like to see a lot of goals (or if you're just more available on a Friday) this might be your best day. But if you want to see tenser matches, I'd look to Monday.
June 16 - Nigeria v USA
Only a single group match on this Tuesday, but it's a biggie. It's the only guaranteed appearance for the US team in Vancouver, so expect it to be a big draw. The Americans are almost certainly the most talented team in the world, but they're in the middle of multi-year disfunction that's created some doubt as to whether this will finally be the year that they win the States' first World Cup since 1999. And there will be Reign representation aplenty as Megan Rapinoe, Sydney Leroux, and Hope Solo are all expected to be on the Cup roster.
Nigeria is by far Africa's best women's team — they've won the CAF championship 9 of the 11 times it's been held (including in 2014 to qualify for the Cup). But they're far from a world power. They've appeared in every World Cup since 1991, but have only made it out of the group stage once — in 1999 only to be beaten by Brazil in the first knockout match. Now they're in a brutal Group D with the US, Sweden, and Australia and it would be a shock to see them advance to the knockouts again. The team's mostly made up of domestic players, but they're led by Asisat Oshoala, who plays for Liverpool.
This will be the last match of the Group and it's likely that Nigeria will need a win to advance either in second place or one of the best third place teams. But given the difficulty of the Group, I think the US will have something to play for as well. A draw or loss in an earlier game against Sweden or Australia could mean they would need a win against Nigeria to win the group. So this could be a match with a lot on the line.
June 21 - 1st A v 3rd C/D/E
This is where we enter the world of speculation. Buying tickets for these games (as I'm doing) means you're going in not knowing who you'll see. But you can make some pretty good guesses. Canada is in Group A. Canada's a pretty good team. The World Cup is being played in Canada. You see where I'm going with this. I expect a lot of people will be buying tickets to this match anticipating that Canada wins Group A. If they don't, you could be watching any of China, New Zealand, or the Netherlands. They're all ranked between 10-20 in the World and if it isn't Canada it's really a toss-up as to who it might be.
Their opponent will be one of the top 3rd place teams in the tournament. Since there are only 6 groups, FIFA needs to take 4 of the 6 3rd place teams to add to the top 2 in each group to make 16. Yes, that means two-thirds of the teams in the tournament advance to the knockouts. Drama! It would be foolish to even try to speculate who the opponent might be, so I'm obviously going to do it. I'm going to guess that given quality in Group A, the winner won't come out with a dominant record and will get one of the tougher 3rd place teams. So I'll guess Australia.
June 23 - 1st C v 3rd A/B/F
Two days later we get another mystery matchup. I covered Group C at length for the Group Stage matches, so we know Japan is heavily favored to win the group and appear in this match. Switzerland appearing here instead is possible, but would be a pretty big upset.
In fact, Japan is so heavily favored that I think it's likely they finish with a perfect record and are one of the top, if not the top, group winners in the bracket. That means they'd face the worst performing of the 3rd place teams out of groups A, B, or F. So once again I will extract a prediction from my posterior and say this will be Japan versus Mexico.
June 27 - Quarterfinal
Predicting group winners and (especially) third place teams is kind of dicey. Predicting specific quarterfinal games is madness. At this point you just know that you're going to get a good game. This match includes the winner of the June 21 match, so barring upsets it's pretty likely that this game includes Canada, which should amp up the excitement level with the home crowd. The opponent is the winner of a match between the runners up in B and F, which you'd predict to be England and Norway.
July 5 - Final
This doesn't need much explaining. Attending this means you get to see a World Cup being won in person, which is an experience I recommend. These tickets are also the most expensive by quite a bit. But how often will there be a World Cup final within driving distance? The men's Cups are permanently assigned to 2nd World petrostates. The next women's cup will be in France, South Korea, or South Africa. And who knows where our alien robot overlords will let us play after that. So if you can afford it, this will be a pretty cool experience.