The NWSL is taking a nearly month-long hiatus, but women’s soccer isn’t going anywhere.
Actually, it’s going to Rio de Janeiro, where the Summer Olympics Opening Ceremony is just three days away, and Orlando City SC will be well represented.
All four Orlando Pride starting defenders were selected to their respective national teams. Australians Steph Catley and Laura Alleway, Brazilian Monica and Canadian Josée Bélanger will all make their Olympic debuts. They’ll join American striker Alex Morgan, who will lead the United States’ in their quest to repeat as Gold Medalists.
The Opening Ceremony isn’t until Friday, but the soccer kicks off in less than 24 hours.
Bélanger will face off against teammates Caltey and Alleway when Canada and Australia begin Group F play tomorrow at 2 p.m. Brazil gets started at 3 p.m. against China before the United States plays Group G rival New Zealand.
The U.S. will be favored throughout the tournament, but they don’t have the easiest route to the knockout round. The Americans will face France, Colombia and New Zealand in Group G. The U.S. came back to beat France 4-2 before shutting out Colombia 2-0 in London in 2012.
The most interesting group in the tournament is Group F. Germany, Australia and Canada are all in the top 10 in the FIFA Women’s World Ranking. The top two teams are guaranteed passage to the knockout round, but two best third place teams also get through.
Group E is also up for grabs. No 6 Sweden could win the group, but they’ll have to beat out the host Brazilians. Look out for China as this group’s dark horse. They’ll be looking to build on last year’s 1-0 quarterfinal loss to the United States.
Also selected to the Olympic squads as alternates for the Pride were American goalkeeper Ashlyn Harris and Canadian midfielder Kaylyn Kyle. Harris is with the team in Rio while Kyle is staying in Orlando to continue focusing on the Pride’s push for the playoffs.
After the 26-day break, the Pride returns to Camping World Stadium to take on the league leading Washington Spirit on Aug. 26.