By Michael Lewis

FrontRowSoccer.com Editor

The U.S. women’s national team learned its path in the 2023 Women’s World Cup at the final draw in Auckland/Tāmaki Makaurau, New Zealand on Saturday.

The two-time defending world champions will embark on their quest for a third consecutive crown in New Zealand, meeting the Netherlands, Vietnam and a team to be determined in a February playoff, in Group E. The group will be based in New Zealand.

This will be the first Women’s World Cup that will house 32 teams over two countries – Australia and New Zealand.

The USWNT will meet Vietnam on July 22.

In a rare confrontation of finalists from the previous competition meeting in the opening round, the USA will tussle with the Dutch in Wellington, New Zealand on July 27. the Americans defeated the Netherlands, 2-0, in the 2019 final in Lyon, France. The teams also met in the Tokyo Olympics last year, with the USA moving on in the quarterfinals via penalty kicks after a 2-2 tie.

The Americans will take on a foe to be determined on Aug. 1. It will be either Cameroon, Thailand and Portland, which will meet in a special playoff in New Zealand in February.

”I’m excited about our draw because this is where the real preparation starts,” head coach Vlatko Andonovski said in a statement. “Now, it’s about getting ready for the actual opponents.

Vietnam is a team we have never faced before but we know they came out of a challenging qualification process in Asia and will be incredibly energized to play their first ever match at the World Cup. The Netherlands is a team we know well so it’s two quality teams in the second match of the group stage and it’s going to be a fun, exciting game. And of course, we will have to wait until February to see our third and final opponent, but whoever makes it out of the playoff is going to be battle-tested and will present some unique challenges that we will need to be prepared to handle.”

“I know all the players and coaches are energized about our group and we’re really looking forward to getting to work to prepare for our three opponents.”

 

Andonovski told FS1 he was looking forward to playing most of the tournament in New Zealand.

“We’re actually excited that we’re going to stay in one side of this tournament, for the most part,” he told FS1. “So far, being here in New Zealand, they’ve been very, very good hosts.”

If the USA wins its group its path to the final will include a trip to Sydney for the Round of 16. If the team wins, it will return to New Zealand for the quarterfinals and semifinals. On the flip side, if Americans take second place, they will face a Round of 16 match in Melbourne before quarterfinals and semifinals in Auckland.

The championship game is set for Sydney on Aug. 20.

The U.S. placed was in the seeded pot with the co-hosts and the next five teams in the October FIFA rankings: Sweden, Germany, England, France and Spain.

The tournament will kick off with New Zealand meeting Norway in Group A at Eden Park on July 20 while Australia will take the Republic of Ireland later at the Sydney Football Stadium that day as well.

The draw

Group A: New Zealand, Norway, Philippines, Switzerland

Group B: Australia, Republic of Ireland, Nigeria, Canada

Group C: Spain, Costa Rica, Zambia, Japan

Group D: England, Group B playoff winner (one of Senegal, Haiti, or Chile), Denmark, China

Group E: United States, Vietnam, Netherlands, Group A playoff winner (one of Cameroon, Thailand, or Portugal)

Group F: France, Jamaica, Brazil, Group C playoff winner (one of Chinese Taipei, Paraguay, Papua New Guinea, or Panama)

Group G: Sweden, South Africa, Italy, Argentina

Group H: Germany, Morocco, South Korea, Colombia