The road to the Summer Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil begins now for Hope Solo and the United States Women’s National Team.
The CONCACAF Olympic Qualifying tournament kicks off in Frisco, Texas on Wednesday night, when the USWNT will meet with 34th ranked Costa Rica. The No. 1 ranked defending FIFA World Cup champion U.S. women are the team to beat in Group A, which also includes 26th ranked Mexico and No. 108 Puerto Rico. Group B features No. 11 Canada and is filled out by Guatemala, Trinidad & Tobago and Guyana. The top two teams in each group will advance to the semifinals, and the two teams to win in the semis and advance to the final are both guaranteed spots in the Olympics.
For the USWNT the tournament offers an opportunity not only to book their spot in the Olympic Games in Rio, but also to extend their reign atop the . The U.S. is the three-time defending champion of this qualifying tournament, having bested Mexico for the crown in 2004, then Canada in 2008 and 2012 to make it three straight tournament titles.
Hope is one of three goalkeepers on the USWNT Olympic Qualifying roster. She’s joined in the net by Ashlyn Harris and Alyssa Naeher. The defensive line in front of No. 1 should be with its full complement of players. Meghan Klingenberg, Ali Krieger, Julie Johnston and Becky Sauerbrunn all return after a tremendous World Cup and are joined by Kelley O’Hara, Jaelene Hinkle and Emily Sonnett.
World Cup hero Carli Lloyd highlights the group of midfielders along with Morgan Brian and Tobin Heath. They’re joined by newcomers in Lindsey Horan and Samantha Mewis. The front line features Alex Morgan, Christen Press and Crystal Dunn. Two more newbies fill out the attack: Stephanie McCaffrey and 17-year-old phenom Mallory Pugh.
Because of the structure of the tournament, each opponent the U.S. will face along the way in the tournament, which runs from Wednesday through Sunday, Feb. 21 is a familiar one, including Wednesday’s challenger Costa Rica.
In the last CONCACAF women’s olympic qualifying tournament, Hope pitched a semifinal shutout against Costa Rica in a 3-0 win for the USWNT that secured their spot in the London Olympics. Then in October 2014, Hope and Co. blanked Costa Rica once again to take home the CONCACAF Women’s Championship.
Both the U.S. and Costa Rica secured spots in the FIFA World Cup through that tournament, but the two sides never met during the World Cup. Costa Rica was left out of the Round of 16 after fighting to draws with Spain and Korea and falling to Brazil. They ended up third in Group E while the U.S. won Group D and went on to take the tournament.
The USWNT most recently matched up with Costa Rica during their 2015 World Cup Victory Tour. The Americans blasted the Costa Ricans 8-0 in Pittsburgh and 7-2 in Chattanooga, Tenn.
Kickoff of the latest matchup between the U.S. and Costa Rica is set for 7:30 p.m. CT from Toyota Stadium in Frisco and will air on NBC Live Extra.