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The World Cup Is Heating Up: What You Need to Know to Watch Tonight’s Game

The World Cup Is Heating Up: What You Need to Know to Watch Tonight’s Game

By Kristin Canning

You can't escape the buzz over the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2015 action right now — even Tom Hanks is a fan. But if you're new to soccer, it's not too late to get caught up. Here's everything you need to know so you can head to the bar tonight ready to cheer for Team USA.

Where the USWNT Stands Now
A Tuesday night win against Nigeria in Vancouver left Team USA the winners in Group D (also known as the "Group of Death"). Now they're taking on the third-place finisher from Group F, Columbia, tonight at 8 p.m. ET. The South American team upset France, winning 2-0 during an earlier match. If Team USA wins tonight, they'll advance to the quarterfinals against China.

Our History at the World Cup
The women's team have a long history as contenders for the Cup. We won in 1991 and 1999; took third place in 1995, 2003 and 2007. In 2011, we fell just short of the win to Japan and became runners-up.

Other Contending Teams
This year Germany, Japan and France are our biggest competition.

Team USA Players to Watch
Alex Morgan (13): She’s a speedy and aggressive striker for the USWNT. She was the youngest player on the 2011 team and scored in the final against Japan. She was part of the gold medal team in the 2012 Olympics. A bone bruise injury made her a bit of a question mark at the beginning of the tournament, but she’s been playing well, and you can bet she’ll be aiming for a goal in tonight’s match.

Christie Rampone (3): This 39-year-old defender for the USWNT made her first appearance of the tournament in Tuesday’s match against Nigeria, becoming the oldest player to step on the field in a Women’s World Cup match. She’s a veteran on the team, a captain and mother of two. She’s won the cup before (in 1999) and has racked up three Olympic gold medals.

Megan Rapinoe (15): Just look for the platinum blonde pixie cut flying down the field. This midfielder/forward has gotten a lot of attention lately for being the spunky player the US team needs right now. She has impeccable instinct and technical ability. An injury put her on the sidelines for  2006-07, but she was back as a crucial player in the US’s runner-up finish in the 2011 World Cup.

Game Basics
Each team will have 11 players on the field at a time. Game time consists of two 45-minute halves plus overtime. If a tie still remains after 120 minutes of play, a penalty shootout will determine the winner. A penalty shootout involves five different players from each team kicking at the opposing goalkeeper one at a time from 12 yards out with all other players behind the 18-yard box. The team that scores the most out of these kicks is the winner.

The Controversy
The teams have been playing on fake turf, which has caused some issues: players had filed a lawsuit saying the artificial surface was discrimination. Players are claiming that elite men’s teams would not be required to play on this type of surface. "The achiness, taking longer to recover than on natural grass, the tendons and ligaments are, for me at least, I feel more sore after turf. It takes longer to recover from a turf field than natural grass," Alex Morgan told USA Today. The suit has just been withdrawn, but Team USA player Abby Wambach released a statement noting, “I am hopeful that the players’ willingness to contest the unequal playing fields — and the tremendous public support we received during the effort — marks the start of even greater activism to ensure fair treatment when it comes to women's sports."

Lingo to Know
Attacker: The player with the ball.

Advantage: When a team has possession of the ball and outnumbers the opponent near their goal.

Breakaway/Fast break/Counterattack: The attacker moves in fast behind the defenders, leaving only the goalkeeper to protect the goal.

Corner kick: This is a way to restart the game after a ball goes out-of-bounds. The offensive team kicks the ball inbound from the nearest corner.

Caution/Yellow Card: A card held up by the ref to warn a player of unsportsmanlike conduct. Two cards on a player may get them kicked out of a game.

Hacking: Kicking another player’s legs.

Indirect free kick: A kick given to a player for a foul by the opponent.

Service: Passing the ball. 

Related Stories:
7 Historical Fun Facts About the WWC 
The WWC Champs of '99: Where Are They Now?
WWC: U.S. Victory Against Nigeria Puts Team in First Place in Group D
Where Were You When Mia Hamm Led Team to World Cup Victory?