Team USA (3-0-0, 9 points) has once again reached the Round of 16 at the FIFA Women's World Cup. So that now means that the United States Women's National Team (USWNT) has reached this stage in every Women's World Cup ever contested. The U.S. team has already established itself as arguably the best women's team in the history of the sport. Now the Americans are just four wins away from claiming their fourth World Cup trophy.
To get there, Team USA must first get past Spain (1-1-1, 3 points), a team that barely survived its group and must take on the defending champions. The Spaniards need to put together a flawless game plan, and then execute it accordingly, if they want to pull off the monumental upset.
United States vs. Spain
When: Monday, June 24 at 12 p.m. ET
Where: Stade Auguste-Delaune (Reims, France)
TV: FS1 and Telemundo
Three Things to Watch
1. How Team USA got this far
The Americans put forth what could go down as the best group play performance in World Cup history. What they do from here out remains to be seen, but nobody has been able to touch them thus far. They swept through Group F by overwhelming Thailand, Chile, and Sweden, outscoring all three 18-0 in the process. Team USA has already set several records to this point, their opponents have barely been able to cross midfield, and they are shooting the ball at will.
To put it another way, the Americans not only outscored every team entering the knockout phase, but they also topped the collective output of the four teams in Group A. Same goes for Group B, and Group D, and Group E. Group C (made up of Australia, Brazil, Italy and Jamaica) was the only group that outscored the Americans, and it took three teams (Australia, Italy and Brazil combined for 21 goals) to do so.
2. How Spain got here
Spain survived Group B to reach the knockout stage but it hasn't been easy. The Spaniards started things off with a 3-1 win over South Africa back on June 8, got shut out by Germany 1-0 four days later, and then played China to a scoreless draw last Monday. Scoring early and often will be the key to at least keeping pace with the Team USA. But the bigger challenge for Spain will be on the other side of the pitch.
3. Not too much history between these squads
Team USA won the only meeting (a 1-0 friendly) between these teams back in January. The USWNT has ramped up its play since then. Overall, Team USA is 135-20-20 against European teams and has outscored UEFA competition 501-127. This will be just the fourth time that Spain has faced a Concacaf member. Aside from the previous loss to Team USA, the Spaniards have a draw against Costa Rica, along with both a win and a draw against Canada.
Nothing's a given in the knockout stage, but I'll be shocked if the United States doesn't win. And I won't be alone in that respect.
Prediction: United States 4, Spain 1
— Gabe Salgado is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. He's also written for NBC, Fox, The Sporting News, The Sports Journal, The Undefeated and Complex. He's a co-host of The Rewind Sports: 60. Follow him on Twitter @GabeSalgado82.