The 2015 FIFA Women's World Cup kicks off Saturday in Canada. Once again, the favorites of this competition are Germany, Japan, and the United States. Any of those three winning the competition would not be a big shock, as they have won five of the six World Cups that have been held.
Women's World Cup updates
Women's World Cup updates
However, for the first time, there are legitimate "dark horses" that could win the entire competition. Women's football on the international stage is deeper than ever before, and that will be on display. While there may be some blowouts due to the expansion of the tournament to 24 teams, more countries are involved in the World Cup than in years past, and growing the game is the most important thing.
Bayern Munich are well represented at the World Cup with eleven players taking part and representing their country. As expected, the largest contingent hails from Germany, but FC Bayern's international flavor is on full display in Canada.
Germany - Group B
The proverbial favorites, Germany could put up some massive scorelines in the group stage. Don't expect them to be truly tested until the latter stages of the knockout rounds. The DFB will be pushing hard for this title coming one year after the men won their World Cup.
Netherlands - Group A
Seemingly, the real battle for Vivianne Miedema and the Netherlands will be to knock off New Zealand and capture a second place finish in the group. While the finished in dead last in 2011, Canada will have that "home crowd" bump that you see at most World Cups.
Switzerland - Group C
Getting out of the group will likely not be a big issue for the Swiss, so it's the knockout rounds which will be a concern to them. If the tournament goes as expected, they'll have a tough Round of 16 match against the Dutch. Success there means a quarterfinal match against the United States.
Japan - Group C
Matches: Switzerland (June 8), Cameroon (June 12), Ecuador (June 16)
Players: Mana Iwabuchi
Mana Iwabuchi and Japan are one of the three favorites in the competition. She wad only 18 years old in Germany 2011 and will be targeting a leading role on this Japanese team. Her footwork is immensely impressive, and if Japan are going to repeat as world champions, expect Iwabuchi to be the reason why.
Norway - Group B
Matches: Thailand (June 7), Germany (June 11), Ivory Coast (June 15)
Players: Nora Holstad Berge
Being drawn in the same group as Germany isn't a good feeling to have. However, finding out that your other two opponents are Thailand and Ivory Coast should ease that burden a bit.
Spain - Group E
FC Bayern's newest signing has the opportunity to surprise everyone this group by leading Spain to a first place finish. Talent-wise, they're not as good as Brazil, but as we'e learned in major tournaments over the last decade, Brazil can make a deep run or be knocked out early. Boquete's Spain isn't near the top of the favorites list, but they have the potential to make a decent run into the latter stages of the knockout rounds.