Rose

Canada’s Deanne Rose battles Cameroon’s Estelle Johnson in a FIFA Women’s World Cup match on Monday. Rose, the 2017 SEC Freshman of the Year, is a rising junior at UF.

With 24 teams representing six continents, women’s soccer’s premier tournament returns this week in France with the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup.

Four years ago in Vancouver, Canada, the United States Women’s National Team closed its championship run with a punishing 5-2 victory over Japan, securing a record third World Cup title.

This year, the United States again enters as the No. 1 team in the world, with a balanced roster of veteran leadership and youth setting it up as the preeminent favorites to capture its fourth World Cup.

A dozen players from that 2015 run remain on the United States’ current roster, including star forwards Carli Lloyd (now the oldest player on the team, making her fourth World Cup appearance), Alex Morgan and Megan Rapinoe.

The USWNT also has a solid contingent of young players making their World Cup debuts, including midfielders Rose Lavelle and Samantha Mewis and forward Mallory Pugh. All three have developed and further enhance the efficiency and production of the U.S. team.

This updated team, headed by coach Jill Ellis, also carries with it recent momentum.

Following a January defeat to host-country France, the U.S. has rattled off six-straight victories entering the tournament. It hosted the CONCACAF Women’s Championship (North America’s FIFA qualifying route) last October and outscored its opponents 26-0 on its way to the championship and a World Cup berth.

The United States is placed in Group F alongside Chile, Sweden and Thailand. The Americans should face minimal adversity in advancing to the knockout stage — Sweden is the No. 9 team in the world according to the FIFA rankings, while Thailand is No. 34 and Chile is No. 39. The USWNT takes the pitch for the first time today at 3 p.m. to open up World Cup group play against Thailand, followed by meetings against Chile and Sweden.

Though former Gator and USWNT all-time leading scorer Abby Wambach is not on the U.S. World Cup roster for the first time since 1999, there are four current and past Florida soccer players representing their countries in this year’s World Cup.

Deanne Rose, a rising junior on the Gators soccer team, is making her first World Cup appearance for Canada. The forward and 2017 SEC Freshman of the Year is competing alongside Canada teammate and Florida alum Adriana Leon, who scored four game-winning goals as a forward for Florida’s 2012 SEC champion team and is making her second World Cup appearance.

Also representing UF are Lauren Silver and Havana Solaun, both playing for Jamaica, the first Caribbean team in history to advance to the Women’s World Cup.

Silver donned orange and blue from 2011-14 and appeared in 82 matches as a midfielder for the Gators before transitioning into a professional. Solaun, a midfielder for Jamaica, served as co-captain for Florida while earning back-to-back All-SEC First Team honors in 2013-14.

Follow Jack Braverman @jack_braverman. Contact him at [email protected].