PRINCETON, N.J. – I don't think I have to do much to introduce U.S. women's national team coach Pia Sundhage to you. So let's get straight to the questions and answers. There's plenty to digest.
What does Women's Professional Soccer shutting down do not only for this group of players, but for the next generation of women's national team players that is looking for a place to develop?
Well, it's a question I have not thought about, because I'm in the process of preparing for the Olympics. So there has to be some thinking about that, what we want the players to do next year.
But I have to say, as an ambassador for women's soccer, it's sad. You would like to have many professional leagues in the world. Hopefully at some point we do have a professional league in this country.
Do you think that American women's soccer players, whether of the current generation or future generations, will end up going to Europe? Or will they go to the semi-pro W-League? What do you see in the future?
It all depends on the women's [national team] program. It's something where U.S. Soccer has to decide what's the next step for the U.S. national team. Will there be a lot of camps and games, or will players play in club teams?
Right now I don't know, because it's all about the Olympics. But at the end of the day, we need to look at what's good for the players.
In that context, how nice is it to have the national team together for two full weeks of training?
It's absolutely wonderful, and they really are doing a good job to compete for Olympic [roster] spots. They are getting to know each other on the field, playing games. It's very good.
This roster will end up at 18 players instead of the usual 23 players that go to FIFA tournaments. How hard is that for you?
It's very hard. It's really tough. The fact that we played good soccer in the World Cup makes it really hard, because not only that, but we have some new players as well. So we have to leave some really good players in the States.
You will play France to open the Olympics, and you will play Japan in a friendly tournament before the Olympics begin. How nice is it to have that Japan game before the Olympics start, and to kick off the Olympics with such a hard game?
I think it's really good. The fact that we've played Japan a couple of times this year – we've played against the world champions, and that's always good competition.
Having a chance to play France in the first game [of the Olympics], we can do a lot of scouting and we will have fresh legs. We will be prepared. So I think that's the best opening game, to be honest.
Playing against North Korea [first], as we did last year [at the World Cup], was hard because we had to do the scouting. So I'd rather have one of the best teams. It's good to have that game [first], because we will be prepared for that game.
In the past, the United States and China have had a rivalry in women's soccer, and going back a long time the U.S. and Norway had a tremendous rivalry. Is there a rivalry now between the U.S. and Japan?
I think it's bigger than that. The U.S. played against Brazil in the World Cup and the Olympics a couple of times as well. The good part of this is that the women's game has developed so much that you can't talk about only two teams.
Back in the old days, you could, but today you can't. There are a handful of teams that can win the Olympics, and that is good for the women's game.