U.S.-Japan at Wembley

LONDON – It feels like nothing less than the hour before a Super Bowl starts. A sea of people flowed from Wembley Park tube station to the 83,000-seat stadium – festooned for the evening with Olympic banners and flags. The press box was packed early with some of the best-known sports writers in the U.S. (and probably Japan, too).

Abby Wambach wasn’t exaggerating when she said the Olympic gold medal soccer game was going to be a “great night for women’s sports.”

Why these same athletes can’t draw enough fans to sustain a major soccer league in the States is a story for another time. For tonight, it’s just a treat to be here, keenly anticipating a promising sporting event that happens to involve women.

The U.S. starting lineup in front of goalkeeper Hope Solo:

Captain Christie Rampone, Kelley O’Hara, Amy Lepeilbet and Rachel Buehler are back on defense. Delran’s Carli Lloyd, Shannon Boxx, Megan Rapinoe and Tobin Heath are in the midfield. Abby Wambach and Alex Morgan – who scored the game winner in the semifinal against Canada – are at forward.

Japan’s forwards, Shinobu Ohno and Yuki Ogimi, will be the focus of the U.S. defense, along with playmaking midfielder Homare Sawa.

Wembley Stadium has a rich history in soccer, the Olympics and rock music. This is not that Wembley Stadium.

The place Pele called “the cathedral of football” was demolished in 2003. That Wembley hosted the 1948 Olympics, the 1966 World Cup final (won by England) and the non-Philadelphia half of the 1985 Live Aid concerts. This Wembley was built on the same site and opened in 2007. From inside, with its retractable roof open, it looks a little like the old Texas Stadium, a cathedral of that other kind of football.