U.S. is drawn to play North Korea, Colombia and Sweden in 2011 Women's World Cup
The draw, which was the focal point of a 45-minute ceremony at the Congress Center in Frankfurt, provides an interesting challenge for the U.S. in its quest for a place in the quarterfinals of next summer's 16-team, 32-match event.
Coach Pia Sundhage's U.S. team, ranked No. 1 in the world, has lost only once in the last two years (to Mexico in World Cup qualifying), but the Koreans and the Swedes (Sundhage's former team) could prove difficult to overcome.
The Americans won the World Cup in 1991 and 1999 during the heyday of such players as Mia Hamm, Michelle Akers, Julie Foudy and Briana Scurry. The team finished third in 1995, 2003 and 2007, when Norway, Germany and Brazil, respectively, eliminated them before the final.
Two-time champion Germany, the winner in 2003 and 2007 and runner-up behind Norway in 1995, will open the tournament against Canada at the Olympiastadion in Berlin on June 26.
Favored as the hosts and defending champions, the Germans also will play Nigeria and France in the first round and are considered a good bet to reach the July 17 final in Frankfurt.
Germany was seeded as the top team in Group A, and the U.S. was the top team in Group C.
Monday's ceremony also saw Japan, Asia's highest-ranked team and top-seeded in Group B, drawn to play New Zealand, Mexico and England.
Brazil, featuring four-time FIFA world player of the year Marta, was the top team in Group D and will play Australia, Norway and Equatorial Guinea in the first round.
The top two teams in each group will advance to the quarterfinals, when the tournament becomes a knockout competition. If the U.S. advances, as expected, it would play the winner or runner-up from Group D.
For a more detailed report on the draw and reaction to it from players and coaches, please see www.latimes.com/sports/soccer/ later on Monday.
-- Grahame L. Jones
Photo: U.S. soccer head coach Pia Sundhage, left, gives instructions to players Amy Rodriguez and Yael Averbuch during a practice session in Cancun on Nov. 4. Credit: Henry Romero / Reuters