Let’s begin by getting caught up on the Olympic women’s soccer final Thursday.....
The match between the United States and Japan at Wembley Stadium is approaching a sellout of 90,000 — a remarkable achievement considering the host team is not playing. In 1999, when the USA hosted the Women’s World Cup, the final between the hometown Americans and China filled the Rose Bowl with 90,185.
Some have been clamoring for NBC to show this championship live on the main network. But the expectation from the very start was a U.S. appearance in the gold medal match, so if NBC wasn’t going to adjust its schedule for Usain Bolt in track and field’s glamour event, the 100-meter final, it’s not going to change the soccer game now. (Fortunately for soccer fans, this game is available on live TV, unlike the 100-meter TV travestry).
NBC is also attempting to build the new NBC Sports Network brand, and presenting a high-profile final from a sport to which it has committed (MLS and other U.S. events) is good for long-term strategy.
The match will appear live without commercial interruption on NBCSN, NBC Olympic Soccer Channel and nbcolympics.com beginning at 2:45 p.m. ET tomorrow.
My Post colleague Barry Svrluga, who has juggled various Olympic events but has still produced some of the finest stories about the USA women’s team, profiles Alex Morgan.
More top-notch coverage has been provided by Michael Lewis, who reports that a decision about Coach Pia Sundhage’s future, regardless of tomorrow’s outcome, will be made in the coming months. Her contract expires Nov. 30.
Canadian outrage about the semifinal officiating boiled over after the match, but FIFA will not discipline any of the outspoken players ahead of the bronze medal match against France tomorrow. Disciplinary action could come later on, however.
In non-Olympic news.....
*The U.S. men’s national team remains No. 36 in the FIFA rankings. Spain and Germany top the list. Upcoming USA opponents: Mexico (next Wednesday at Azteca) is up one to 18th and Jamaica (World Cup qualifiers Sept. 7 and 11) is down three to 66th.
*The Seattle Sounders seek a record fourth consecutive U.S. Open Cup title tonight (9 p.m. ET, GolTV) at Sporting Kansas City, which is pursuing its second USOC crown. They would also become just the seventh team in the 98-year history of the tournament to win four championships — and they will have done it in just four years in MLS.
*Other soccer on TV today:
Manchester United vs. Barcelona friendly in Gothenburg, Sweden, 2 p.m. ET on Fox Soccer and Fox Deportes
Real Madrid vs. AC Milan at Yankee Stadium, 8 p.m. on ESPN2, ESPN Deportes and ESPN3.com
*Americans in UEFA Champions League qualifying:
MF Sacha Kljestan and Anderlecht take a 5-0 lead into the second leg at Ekranas (Lithuania)
F Josh Gatt and Molde face a 1-0 deficit in their away leg at Basel
In Copa Sudamericana, American goalkeeper Diego Restrepo is expected to serve a back-up role when Tachira visits Barcelona (Ecuador) in the second leg following a 0-0 draw in Venezuela.