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United States vs. New Zealand 2016 Olympics: Game time, TV schedule and live stream

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The USWNT starts their pursuit of a fifth gold medal today against a physical, determined New Zealand side

There have been five previous women’s soccer competitions in Olympic history, and the United States has won four gold medals. The one time they didn’t bring home the gold, in 2000, they still took the silver after taking the final against Norway to extra time. The USWNT has dominated women’s soccer internationally, but they’ve dominated at the Olympics. It’s no surprise, then, that the defending World Cup champions and defending gold medal winners will arrive for Rio 2016 as the prohibitive favorites to win yet another big tournament.

It doesn’t hurt that, as Kevin McCauley argues, they’re now a better team than they were at last summer’s World Cup. Let’s use Megan Rapinoe an an example. Last summer, if Rapinoe had been potentially unavailable until the knockout stages - as appears to be the case this time around - American fans would justifiably be bordering on panic. Let’s not forget how critical Rapinoe was in the World Cup opener, turning some hard work and some brilliance into two goals in what was otherwise an even game.

This time around? The questions have been far less about what the USWNT will do without Rapinoe, and far more about whether they should have brought another, fully fit player due to the compressed rosters required (for some reason) by the Olympics. The emergence of players like Crystal Dunn and Mallory Pugh, along with Tobin Heath fulfilling her potential at just the right time, have calmed fears about this team’s ability to create and convert scoring chances.

There are questions in the back, but we’re still talking about a team that has the world’s best center back, the world’s best goalkeeper, and the ability to move a player like Ali Krieger to the bench without raising a major fuss among the fanbase. While the USWNT may not be quite the brick wall they were in 2015, their attacking prowess and increased technical ability further forward will make them better at making games easy on their back four.

Still, the US is looking to make history. No defending World Cup champion has ever won the gold medal in the following year’s Olympics. They’ve come close: the US and Japan both took silver in those circumstances, while Norway and Germany (twice) ended up with bronze. Germany and France - who await in the USWNT’s second group game - are both capable of beating anyone on the planet, while the hosts Brazil have put real resources into their women’s program in an effort to stand atop the medal stand in the nation’s favorite sport.

Before they get to that point, though, the USWNT will have to deal with New Zealand in Group G’s opening game. Few are giving the Ferns much of a chance of getting to the medal round, but they’ll still field a roster featuring numerous players currently suiting up for clubs in the NWSL as well as first division teams in Germany and Sweden. Forwards Amber Hearn, Sarah Gregorius, and Hannah Wilkinson all have over 20 international goals, and many of their players have NCAA experience. If New Zealand can keep this game physical and direct, they’ll give themselves a chance of pulling off a shocking result.

Location: Minerão (Belo Horizonte, Brazil)

Kickoff time: 6:00pm Eastern

Available TV: NBCSN (English), NBC Universo (Spanish)

Available streaming: NBCOlympics.com (English), NBC Sports Live Extra app (English)

Canada also kicks off today against Australia in what should be a very stiff challenge. With a Germany side expecting a medal and minnows Zimbabwe making up their group, this opener is pivotal for both the Canadians and the Matildas.

This being a site that favors the Washington Spirit, we would be remiss in not highlighting how vital three players from the local woso concern are for Canada. Diana Matheson is her nation’s top creative force, and her ability to link up with captain Christine Sinclair will be vital if they’re going to get a much-needed win. At the back, Spirit starter Stephanie Labbe is also first choice for Canada after Erin McLeod’s injury, while Shelina Zadorsky has been a starter this year for both club and country as well.

Location: Arena Corinthians (São Paulo, Brazil)

Kickoff time: 2:00pm Eastern

Available TV: NBCSN (English), NBC Universo (Spanish)

Available streaming: NBCOlympics.com (English), NBC Sports Live Extra app (English)

For listings in other countries and for the day’s other games, check out LiveSoccerTV.com.