Days before Saturday's kickoff of the Women's World Cup, the big news is the announcement Monday that WUSA, the host nation's pro soccer league and easily the premier women's league in the world, has suspended operations, effective immediately. It's a PR person's nightmare, no doubt. But league officials -- able to draw only two of the eight major sponsors they needed (Hyundai and Johnson & Johnson) and stuck on the heretofore unknown PAX cable network -- may have seen the dramatic announcement, along with World Cup tie-in, as their last, best chance to grab some visibility, and perhaps a last-minute corporate savior or two. Hey, how about Michael Dell?
As for the WWC competition itself, the USA's Group A appears to be the "Group of Death," as the top-ranked Americans drew Sweden, the best team not to get a top seed, plus North Korea and Nigeria, each the best team from its continent. The USA-Sweden game this Sunday should be a corker, with Wednesday's Norway-Brazil the other key showdown of the first week. With all respect to Mia Hamm, Kristine Lilly, and the other U.S. stars, Brazil's wonderfully creative Katia may be the top individual player in the tournament.
Meanwhile, over in Europe, Champions League play started this Tuesday-Wednesday, with Manchester Utd. apparently not missing David Beckham in a 5-0 thrashing of Greece's Panathinaikos, and Italian clubs going 4-0, highlighted by Inter Milan's 3-0 upset on the road over Arsenal.
WWC First Round Groups (with world ranking in parentheses)
Group AUSA (1)
N. Korea (7)
Group BNorway (2)
S. Korea (24)
Group CGermany (3)
Group DChina (4)
Each team plays one game with each of the other teams in their group; the top two finishers in each group advance to the quarterfinals.
This Week's TV Schedule
ABC, ESPN, and ESPN2 will show 18 of the 32 matches live, including all three of the USA's first-round games and all the later-round games.
Sun., Sept. 21
USA-Sweden (Washington, D.C.) 11:30am, ABC
China-Ghana (Carson, Calif.) 10:00pm, ESPN2
Wed., Sept. 24Norway-Brazil (Washington, D.C.) 3:55pm, ESPN2
Thu., Sept. 25Sweden-N. Korea (Philadelphia) 3:30pm, ESPN2
USA-Nigeria (Philadelphia) 6:25pm, ESPN2
China-Australia (Carson, Calif.) 8:55pm, ESPN2
Sat., Sept. 27Argentina-Germany (Washington) 2:25pm, ESPN2
Sun., Sept. 28Sweden-Nigeria (Columbus, Ohio) Noon, ESPN
USA-N. Korea (Columbus, Ohio) 2:30pm, ABC
China-Russia (Portland, Ore.) 9:55pm, ESPN2
Eight of the 16 teams will advance to the quarterfinals, being played Wed.-Thu., Oct. 1-2; semis are Sun., Oct. 5, and the final is Sun., Oct. 12.
European Champions League
Sixteen games this Tuesday-Wednesday marked the start of the 2003-2004 European Champions League, as the top teams from around the continent play off against each other in a tournament that continues mid-week throughout the season.
First Round: There are eight four-team groups. Each team plays six games -- a home-and-away series against each of the other three in the group. The top two teams in each group advance to the second round.
Play continues through Dec. 10.
The next games are Wednesday-Thursday, Oct. 1-2.
Tuesday, Sept. 16
Glasgow Rangers - Stuttgart 2 - 1
Manchester Utd. - Panathinaikos (GR) 5 - 0
Real Madrid - Marseille 4 - 2
Partizan Belgrade - Porto (POR) 1 - 1
Sparta (Athens) - Chelsea (London) 0 - 1
Besiktas (TUR) - Lazio (Rome) 0 - 2
AC Milan - Ajax Amsterdam 1 - 0
Club Brugge - Celta (POR) 1 - 1
Wednesday, Sept. 23
Lyon - Anderlecht (BEL) 1 - 0
Bayern Munich - Glasgow Celtic 2 - 1
Arsenal (London) - Inter Milan 0 - 3
Dinamo Kiev (UKR) - Lokomotiv Moscow 2 - 0
PSV Eindhoven - Monaco 1 - 2
AEK Athens - Deportivo La Coruña (SP) 1 - 1
Real Sociedad (SP) - Olympiakos (GR) 1 - 0
Juventus (Torino) - Galatasaray (TUR) 2 - 1
Women's World Cup TV Schedule
ABC, ESPN, and ESPN2 will show 18 of the 32 matches live, including all three of the USA's first-round games, and all the later-round games.
Sunday, Sept. 21
USA vs. Sweden (Washington, D.C.) 11:30am ABC
China vs. Ghana (Carson, Cal.) 10:00pm ESPN2
Wed, Sept. 24
Norway vs. Brazil (Washington, D.C.) 3:55pm ESPN2
Thursday, Sept. 25
Sweden vs. N. Korea (Philadelphia) 3:30pm ESPN2
USA vs. Nigeria (Philadelphia) 6:25pm ESPN2
China vs. Australia (Carson, Cal.) 8:55pm ESPN2
Saturday, Sept. 27
Argentina vs. Germany (Washington) 2:25pm ESPN2
Sunday, Sept. 28
Sweden vs. Nigeria (Columbus, Ohio) Noon ESPN
USA vs. North Korea (Columbus, Ohio) 2:30pm ABC
China vs. Russia (Portland, Ore.) 9:55pm ESPN2
Eight of the 16 teams will advance to the quarterfinals, being played Wednesday-Thursday, Oct. 1-2; semis are Sunday, Oct. 5, and the final is Sunday, Oct. 12.
Wednesday, Oct. 1
Quarterfinal 1: B1 v. A2 (Foxboro) 3:30pm ESPN2
Quarterfinal 2: A1 v. B2 (Foxboro) 6:25pm ESPN2
Thursday, Oct. 2
Quarterfinal 3: C1 v. D2 (Portland) 6:25pm ESPN2
Quarterfinal 4: D1 v. C2 (Portland) 9:25pm ESPN2
Sunday, Oct. 5
Semifinal: Q1 vs. Q3 (Portland) 6:30pm ESPN2
Semifinal: Q2 vs. Q4 (Portland) 9:30pm ESPN2
Saturday, Oct. 11
Third Place Match (Carson, Cal.) 2:25pm ESPN2
Sunday, Oct. 12
Final (Carson, Cal.) 11:30am ABC
U.S. Lineup for WWC 2004
1. Briana Scurry (GK)
18. Siri Mullinix (GK)
2. Kylie Bivens (D)
3. Christie Pearce (D)
4. Cat Reddick (D)
6. Brandi Chastain (D)
14. Joy Fawcett (D)
15. Kate Sobrero (D)
17. Danielle Slaton (D)
5. Tiffany Roberts (M)
7. Shannon Boxx (M)
10. Aly Wagner (M)
11. Julie Foudy (M)
13. Kristine Lilly (M)
19. Angela Hucles (M)
8. Shannon MacMillan (F)
9. Mia Hamm (F)
12. Cindy Parlow (F)
16. Tiffeny Milbrett (F)
20. Abby Wambach (F)
Women's Top 25 FIFA Rankings
1 United States
4 China PR
7 North Korea
21 New Zealand
22 Chinese Taipei
24 Czech Republic
25 South Korea
See the full list at fifa.com.
A few suggested links:
Official FIFA World Cup site -- the world cup is run by the Federation Internationale de Football Association.
The U.S. Soccer Federation is the governing body for both the men's and women's national teams.
ESPN/Soccernet's WWC page -- ESPN / ABC is carrying the games on TV; they've also got a good collection of stories and info, mostly from the AP.
CNN/SI's Soccer page has good info as well, including handy rosters and capsules on each WWC team.
The official WUSA (Women's United Soccer Association) site has league info, and the full text of their announcement that they've suspended operations.