U.S. Women Face First Real Test vs Sweden

For practical purposes, the 2019 women’s World Cup starts Thursday for the United States. It faces Sweden, its first competitive opponent, in the final game of group play (FOX, 3 p.m. ET).

Both the U.S. and Sweden have already qualified for the 16-team knockout bracket. Each swept Thailand and Chile in Group F play, possibly the two worst teams in the full 24-team field.

To even refer to those games as “scrimmages” overstates their competitiveness. Moving beyond the well-publicized one-sided scores:

• The U.S. outshot Thailand and Chile 65-3, with a 30-2 edge in shots on goal. It won the “corner kicks” category 25-1. All that with a few stars sitting out vs. Chile.

• Sweden outshot Thailand and Chile 59-11, with a 22-4 edge in shots on goal. It won corner kicks 17-0.

Though USA-Sweden will be much more competitive, the Stars and Stripes are still prohibitive favorites by “normal” high-level soccer standards. (All odds from William Hill.)

• On the goal line, the U.S. is -1.5 goals, with slight vigorish to back the Americans. You have to lay -120 on the US (risk $120 to win $100 or anything in that ratio) at -1.5 goals. Sweden is even money at 1.5 goals (risk $100 to win $100, etc.).

• On the three-way line, the U.S. is -380 to win the game outright (risk $380 to win $100), or 79% in percentage terms. A draw is 475 (risk $100 to win $475), a 17% outcome equivalent. Sweden winning outright is 1050, or 9%. (Reminder: sports books build a universe larger than 100% to create a house edge.)

So, the first “competitive” game for Alex Morgan and Co. is still one they’re expected to win almost 80% of the time, with the opponent around 10%. If you want to bet on the U.S. to have something to root for, using the goal line is obviously much more affordable. Neither option is a bargain, as domestic sportsbooks must defend against patriotic fervor.

The Over/Under is a steep 3 goals. Under is currently favored at -145, with optimistic bets on Over returning 125. Sports books know that the public likes betting Over because it’s more fun to root for goals than to root for defense. It will take four combined goals to cash those tickets.

If the favorites win or draw Thursday, the U.S. will face Spain Tuesday in the Round of 16. The Spaniards were underdogs of just below half-agoal in group play vs. Germany, and the U.S. is power-rated better than Germany. A shocking loss, and the Americans would instead face the Group E runner-up that will be determined earlier Thursday (Netherlands or Canada).

For now, everything is still lined up for virtual tournament co-favorites France and the U.S. to meet in the quarterfinals on June 28. The U.S. is currently projected to be a slight “road” favorite in Paris.

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