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U.S. Women prepare for critical Olympic showdown with France

U.S. Women prepare for critical Olympic showdown with France

As evidenced by their showdown earlier this year at the SheBelieves Cup, the U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team and their French counterparts are not very far apart. At Nashville’s Nissan Stadium, it took an all-world performance from goalie Hope Solo and a stoppage time strike from Alex Morgan to give the U.S. a narrow 1-0 victory.

The two sides meet again Saturday (NBCSN, 4 P.M. ET) in a critical group phase match at the Rio Olympics.

While there may not be much of a difference in talent between the two sides, there’s a massive difference in international results. The U.S. have won four of five Olympic tournaments and are the reigning World Cup champions. France reached their high-water mark at the 2011 Women’s World Cup and 2012 Olympics - finishing fourth in each tournament.

One way to explain the difference in international success, is to compare the two domestic leagues. 17 of 18 (exception 18-year-old Mallory Pugh) U.S. players ply their trade in the National Women’s Soccer League, while 16 of the 18 players on Philippe Bergeroo’s squad play in France.

“They’re very different the two leagues,” says U.S. midfielder Megan Rapinoe, who played for Olympic Lyon in 2013 and now plays for the NWSL’s Seattle Reign FC.


“The parity in the NWSL is ridiculous,” Rapinoe said Thursday from the U.S. team’s hotel in Belo Horizonte. “I think that you can look to different teams and say - they have better players or play a better style - but still the competitive nature of every single game is there for 90 minutes and they are extremely tough games.”

Rapinoe also said she believes NWSL games are more physically taxing than a lot of the matches the U.S. women play at the international level.

“The French League is not on par in the parity sense,” continued Rapinoe, who went to a Champions League Final with Lyon in 2013. “You don’t get that sort of competitive game all the time. You get ten to twelve [competitive] games a year and that’s including a Champions League if you make it all the way to the final.”

While the 31-year-old may give NWSL an edge from a competitive standpoint, she has little doubt that the top teams in France could hold their own against the best clubs in the United States.

“I think the team at the top, Lyon, is a fantastic team,” Rapinoe says of her former employer - a club where twelve of this summer’s French Olympians currently play. “They would easily rival any of the teams that we have in the NWSL.”

Overall, Rapinoe sees opportunities for growth in both countries - and says each could take a lesson from the other.

“We need to keep growing technically and tactically to be on par with the best teams around Europe,” concluded Rapinoe. “They need a little more competition to maybe help them grit out a few more games.”

In The Loop: NHL players back on the ice, Ja Morant's BIG surprise to dad

In The Loop: NHL players back on the ice, Ja Morant's BIG surprise to dad

First up in our look around the sports world, NHL players are back on the ice gearing up for the restart of the NHL season set to begin Aug. 1, but it’s almost like the guys never even left! Check out Chicago Blackhawks winger Alex Nylander putting in the work with these drills.


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Next up, surprise surprise! Memphis Grizzlies point guard Ja Morant is likely to win son of the year after we saw this video of him surprising his father with a brand new car. A white Dodge Charger complete with a big red bow on top. Jealous!



Lastly, check out this powerful moment that happened right before Orlando City SC and Inter Miami CF were just about to kick off their match at Disney’s Wide World of Sports in Orlando, Fla. An incredible act of solidarity to show support for the Black Lives Matter movement.


In The Loop: NBA bubble or Fyre Festival? Chargers' Austin Ekeler tours new SoFi Stadium

In The Loop: NBA bubble or Fyre Festival? Chargers' Austin Ekeler tours new SoFi Stadium

First up in our look around the sports world, Nashville Predators center Ryan Johansen's bulldog Dozer doesn’t seem to be phased as Ryan juggles a ping pong ball in his face. But let's just say Dozer isn't the best defender out there.



Next up, in this latest video posted on the Los Angeles Chargers Instagram page, running back Austin Ekeler received an up-close and personal tour of the team's new home at SoFi Stadium. He got to see the field, the epic locker rooms and everything in between!



Lastly, NBA players have started to arrive in Orlando, Fla. where the season is set to resume. If you're wondering what life in the bubble looks like though, here’s a sneak peek that some of the players gave of their views and meals. They weren't thrilled. Some are calling it Fyre Festival Part 2.