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USWNT’s O’Hara begins World Cup prep with surgery, 8-12 weeks out

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Kelley O’Hara is set for some time on the mend as the United States women’s national team begins its preparation for this summer’s World Cup.

O’Hara, 30, will miss 8-12 weeks after undergoing surgery to remove “loose bodies” in her ankle, according to a U.S. Soccer press release.

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That means the 112-times capped defender will not play in next month’s newly-announced European friendlies against Portugal and Scotland.

“It’s all good. These kinds of things come with the territory,” O’Hara said. “This is just the best time to get the procedure done so I’m one hundred percent heading into 2019 and physically ready to perform at the level I want to and need to. It’s a bummer that I won’t get to Europe, but the most important thing is to be healthy for next year.”

O’Hara scored in the 2015 World Cup semifinal, and has an Olympic gold to go with that tournament title. She’s won two SheBelieves Cups and three Algarve Cups.

Jamaica edges Panama, earns first Women’s World Cup berth (video)

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Jamaica is joining the United States and Canada as CONCACAF representatives in this summer’s Women’s World Cup in France after a thrilling 2-2 draw gave way to penalty kicks in Wednesday’s third place match at the CONCACAF Women’s Championship.

It’s a first World Cup for the Reggae Girlz, who won 4-2 in kicks.

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Jamaica held a pair of leads but allowed equalizers in regulation and extra time to push the match into kicks.

That’s when Jamaica coach Merron Gordon rolled the dice, subbing out goalkeeper Sydney Schneider in favor of Nicole McClure.

The backup saved two of four Panama attempts, and Sheyla Diaz buried her attempt to clinch a spot in France.

Panama can still qualify via a two-legged playoff with CONMEBOL’s Argentina, so there’s still hope for one of the great stories in women’s soccer (headlined by 17-year-old goalkeeper Yenith Bailey).

USWNT guarding against overconfidence in WCQ

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FRISCO, Texas (AP) Defender Becky Sauerbrunn said the memories of 2010 still drive her as the U.S. women’s national team seeks to qualify for next year’s World Cup in France.

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The United States lost in the semifinals of that year’s CONCACAF qualifying tournament, sending the team to a third-place finish and a two-legged playoff against Italy to secure a spot in the 2011 World Cup in Germany.

Sauerbrunn was on that team.

“For me, you just never know on any day. I think you see it in soccer all the time where the lesser team beats the greater team and it’s the story and everyone loves it,” she said. “So there are going to be a lot of people rooting against us, who want to see this kind of drama. Who want to see us face that. We don’t want to face that.”

Of course, the U.S. went on to advance to the finals of the 2011 World Cup but fell to Japan.

Currently the top-ranked team in the world, the United States plays Jamaica on Sunday night in the semifinals of the CONCACAF women’s World Cup qualifying tournament.

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With a win, the United States will secure a spot in next year’s World Cup in France. The U.S. team in the defending champion of the sport’s premier event, having won the final in 2015 against Japan in Canada.

Canada, ranked No. 5 in the world, faces Panama in the other semifinal Sunday at Toyota Stadium, home of Major League Soccer’s FC Dallas.

The United States isn’t leaving anything to chance. The team averaged six goals a game in its group stage. They’ve taken 114 shots, far more than the second-best team in the field, Canada (77).

In their final group-stage match, the U.S. women outshot injury-depleted Trinidad and Tobago 59-0 and had an 18-0 advantage in corner kicks.

“The players know and obviously we know that this game is crazy. Every thing we have to do is earn the right to be there. So I don’t think they’re over confident,” coach Jill Ellis said. “I think there’s a tremendous confidence in the group, but before our first game actually, Carli (Lloyd), I asked her to speak to the group, and she said to take nothing for granted.”

All four teams could be impacted by rain forecast for Sunday in the area. Saturday’s heavy downpours forced the U.S. team to practice indoors at the Dallas Cowboys’ team facilities.

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“I think even if it is poor weather we can determine the tempo of the game, especially if we decide to go more direct. I think we can make it fast as we want or slow as we want,” Sauerbrunn said. “For us I think we thrive at keeping a higher tempo and being relentless in the attack, and not letting teams breathe and get into their big attacking shape. So that’s something I think we’ll consistently carry through, no matter the weather.”

The top three finishers in the CONCACAF Women’s Championship will represent the region in France, so the winners of both semifinals will earn a berth.

The finals and the third-place game are set for Wednesday in Frisco. The fourth-place finisher will face Argentina in a playoff for a spot in France.

USWNT wins Group A, Mexico eliminated from World Cup qualifying

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The United States women’s national team is one win away from clinching a spot in next summer’s World Cup, and it will have two chances to do it.

The Yanks pounded Trinidad and Tobago 7-0 on Wednesday to win Group A of CONCACAF World Cup qualifying in dominant fashion.

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Alex Morgan and Rose Lavelle each scored twice in the win, which sends the USWNT to Sunday’s semifinals.

Earlier, Panama stunned Mexico with goals in each half of a 2-0 win that eliminated Mexico from qualification for the World Cup.

Mexico had qualified for the last two World Cups and was one of three automatic qualifiers to the CONCACAF tournament.

Now Panama will meet the winner of Group B, while the USWNT will face the second place team in Group B.

The semifinal winners qualify for the World Cup, while the losers play a winner-take-all third place game for the third CONCACAF spot in France.

FIFA to upgrade flights, raise prize money for Women’s World Cup

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LAUSANNE, Switzerland (AP) In a concession to women’s football, FIFA will start funding business-class flights for some 2019 Women’s World Cup teams’ travel to France.

FIFA official Emily Shaw also tells a women’s sports law conference total prize money will “significantly increase” from $15 million shared among 24 teams at the 2015 edition.

She says the total sum will be confirmed by the FIFA Council, which meets from Oct. 25-26 in Rwanda.

FIFA has been urged to close an equality gap between women’s and men’s World Cups. The 32 men’s teams will share $440 million prize money in 2022.

Currently, FIFA offers “business-class return flights for 50 people” to all men’s World Cup delegations.

Shaw, FIFA’s head of women’s football governance, says flight upgrades will be paid except for team flights under four hours.

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