Whether you're up on every World Cup roster and kit—France's polka-dotted home whites: Ooh, la la!—or you're the type to check in quadrennially, you'll want to know these basics
PLOTLINES FOR FRANCE
The stories that will dominate 31 days in Juin and Juillet
1 No country has held the men's and women's titles simultaneously. One year after the French men prevailed, Les Bleues have a winnable group and abundant confidence after beating the U.S. 3--1 in January. Those teams would meet again on June 28, in the quarters, if each won out.
2 Notably M.I.A.: U.S. goalkeeper Hope Solo (who's on the outs with the team) and forward Sydney Leroux-Dwyer (pregnant); Germany's '15 Golden Boot winner, Celia Sasic (retired at 27); and Norway's '18 Ballon d'Or winner, Ada Hegerberg (protesting gender disparities).
3 Of debuting nations Chile, Jamaica, Scotland and South Africa, you'll hear the most about the first Caribbean team in the tournament. The Reggae Girlz are being backed by Bob Marley's daughter Cedella, after the Jamaican federation cut women's funding nine years ago.
4 Much will be made of FIFA's doubling the Cup payout from 2015 to $30 million (with the winners getting $4M)—but that's peanuts compared to the men's pool of $400M. There's been progress in gender equality, but players' unions are far from satisfied.
5 ... On that note, U.S. players filed a gender-discrimination lawsuit against their own federation in March. Could it distract, as a similar dispute did the 1995 squad? Or is this just the platform they need to finally get their grievances addressed?
HOW IT'LL ALL GO DOWN
[The following text appears within a chart. Please see hardcopy or PDF for actual chart.]
SOUTH KOREA A3
NEW ZEALAND E3
*One of four third-place teams to advance
SI's Grant Wahl sizes up the 24-team field and sees the Stars and Stripes waving after the final
PROJECTED GROUP STANDINGS
3. SOUTH KOREA*
4. SOUTH AFRICA
3. NEW ZEALAND*
5 TEAMS TO WATCH
Who could stand in the way of a fourth U.S. Cup win? These challengers
Les Bleues have a rep of crumbling under tight scrutiny—hello, hosts!—but Eugenie Le Sommer & Co. are strong enough to buck that trend.
From Steph Houghton to Jill Scott to Fran Kirby, there's talent on a balanced side that has improved in every step of the qualifying cycle.
The biggest question for the 2016 Olympic champions is on the bench. Martina Voss-Tecklenburg took the coaching gig only in February.
The dangerous Sam Kerr leads one of the most experienced teams in the field, but this one, too, comes in with a newly appointed coach.
Winner in 2011, runner-up in '15, Japan eyes a third straight final with a fine blend of experience and youth, led by captain Saki Kumagai.