By Michael Lewis
During my time on this planet, I have tried not to put too many carts in front of those proverbial horses.
But due to human nature and an insatiable curiosity about the future, I still occasionally like to play “What If” scenarios.
With the 2020 Tokyo Olympics (or is that 2021?) set for Japan from July 21-Aug. 21, let’s see what the U.S. women’s national team’s possible schedule might look like.
Yes, I know the Olympic draw isn’t until April 21, but we can dream, can’t we?
The Olympic women’s soccer tournament is a mini-Women’s World Cup with only 12 teams in three groups. The top teams cannot be spread out over several groups, so there can be challenges and pitfalls in the group stage. There is no Round of 16. The top two teams from each group will qualify for the quarterfinal, including the two best third-place finishers.
Translated: eight of the dozen teams have a fighting chance to reach the medal round (semifinals and beyond).
Win your semifinal match and you are battling for a gold, silver or bronze medal.
Let’s use some logic (yes, I know, logic and soccer don’t always mix very well).
If Japan is the No. 1 seed in Group E – E1 – that leaves F and G open.
Given what the USWNT has accomplished recently and since the advent of the Women’s World Cup in 1991 and the first Olympic women’s soccer tournament in 1996 (four gold medals and a silver), it would be quite surprising.
So, it’s time to play “What If?”
If the USA is F1
The Americans would play their first two matches at Miyagi Stadium in Rifu July 21 and 24 before traveling to Yokohama July 27 to close out the opening round.
Let’s assume the USA finishes first in the group. That would pit them against the second-place team from Group G at Rifu on July 30.
If the USWNT wins, it would meet in the Aug. 2 semifinal in Kashima. The bronze medal match is in Kashima Aug. 5, the gold medal match at National Stadium in Tokyo Aug. 6.
If the USA is G1
They would start at Tokyo Stadium July 21, play in Saitama July 24 and close out the group in Rifu July 27.
Again, assuming the Americans take the group, they would meet the third-place team from either Group E or F in Saitama July 30 in the quarterfinals. Win and they’ll reach the medal round and semifinals in Yokohama Aug. 2.
The bronze medal match is in Kashima Aug. 5, the gold medal match at National Stadium in Tokyo Aug. 6.
If, for some reason, the USWNT is placed in Group E with Japan, then will know the world is officially upside down and crazy (I know that already, but this will punch that ticket).