• Joey Lynch, Australia Correspondent


Joey Lynch is a Melbourne-based sports journalist, AYA Cancer advocate, cynical centre-half and Zack Ryder mark. Primarily working on football, he has covered the Socceroos, Matildas, A-League, W-League, Y-League, the Australian grassroots and beyond.

Aug 3, 2023, 06:28 AM ET

The knockout stage of the 2023 Women’s World Cup is all-but set, which means United States’ path to the final has been made clear.

After Tuesday’s surprise 0-0 draw with Portugal, a match which saw the USWNT come a post’s width from exiting the tournament, Vlatko Andonovski’s side finished second in Group E.

**- Women’s World Cup:Home Squads Fixtures Podcast**

The Netherlands smashed Vietnam 7-0 in the simultaneous kickoff to lock in their place atop the group, meaning the U.S. must now take a different road to the one that they likely envisioned when they headed Down Under – and a harder one, after just their second runner’s-up finish in Women’s World Cup group play.

Back in 2011, when they finished second to Sweden in the group stage, the USWNT still went on to reach the final of the tournament in Germany before losing to Japan. And perhaps there’s some level of serendipity to be found here, given the likely opponents that await the USWNT this time around if they hope to match that feat or, indeed, go one better.

Who will the USWNT play in the Women’s World Cup Round of 16?

First up for the U.S. will be a meeting with a very, very familiar foe: Sweden. Yes, them again. No fixture has been played more at Women’s World Cups than this one, with Sunday’s meeting (5 a.m ET) representing the seventh time the two nations have locked horns on this stage, as well as the sixth time in succession.

The U.S handily leads the all-time World Cup series with four wins – Sweden have won one game, with one drawn – but the Europeans won the last competitive meeting between the two sides in 2021, when they ended the USWNT’s 44-game unbeaten streak via a comprehensive 3-0 win in the group stages of the Tokyo Olympics.

Who would the USWNT play in the Women’s World Cup quarterfinals?

Should Vlatko Andonovski’s side find a way past their old rivals they will then move on to a final-eight meeting against either Norway or the side that beat them in the 2011 final, Japan.

Nadeshiko Japan has hardly set a foot wrong across its opening three games of the tournament, thrashing Zambia 5-0 in its opening game, easing to a 2-0 victory over Costa Rica in its second, and then firing an ominous warning shot to the rest of the competition when they outclassed contenders Spain 4-0 last Monday.

Futoshi Ikeda’s side had only had 22% of the ball in that contest, but in a masterclass of controlling games without the ball, they proved far more effective with it than the Europeans, their five shots on target compared with just two from Spain just one telling example.

Norway, meanwhile, has looked far from convincing through the tournament, losing to New Zealand in its opening game, grinding out a 0-0 draw with Switzerland in its second, and proving unable to mask signs of bubbling discontent such as when star player Caroline Graham Hansen took public issue with coach Hege Riise’s decision to bench her against the Swiss.



What’s next for USWNT after advancing to Round of 16?

Alexis Nunes breaks down the next few days as the USWNT prepares for the Round of 16.

Who would the USWNT play in the Women’s World Cup semifinals?

At this point, predicting who will emerge from the crucible of knockout football to meet the USWNT, should they prove themselves capable of doing that, is difficult.

Spain, the Swiss, the Netherlands and South Africa are all on the side of the draw that produces the opponent, with a clash with Spain or a re-match with the Dutch the most likely of the possible scenarios.

The USWNT and the Netherlands played out a 1-1 draw in Wellington during the group stages of the tournament, while La Roja was one of the three European foes that combined to hand the U.S. its first three-game losing run since 1993 last year with Laia Codina and Esther Gonzalez lifting the Spaniards to a 2-0 win in Pamplona.

Who would the USWNT play in the Women’s World Cup final?

If the USWNT is somehow able to turn its form around and reach this point they will have to face the pick of the litter from a side of the bracket containing the likes of Germany, France, reigning European champion England and co-host Australia.

None will be easy. And based on form right now, backing the USWNT to get to this point isn’t the good bet it once might have been.

But winning World Cups isn’t supposed to be easy now, is it?