The United States lost to Sweden in the Four Nations opener, though it did go on to win the tournament, and then was beaten by England for the first time since 1988.
"That's a sign of how strong the sport has become," said captain Christie Rampone, the only current player left from the '99 squad. "International teams have more money invested and more of a commitment to women's soccer. "There's not a team out there you can overlook."
Germany has lost just three games since February 2009 — though all three were to the Americans — and looks particularly potent after spending more than two months in training camps. Coach Silvia Neid's team played four warm-up games and won them all, scoring a combined 15 goals and conceding none. That's not surprising, seeing that Germany won the title four years ago in China without conceding a goal.
Brazil, runner-up at the last two Olympics and the 2007 World Cup, is unbeaten since April 2009 and has Marta, the five-time FIFA player of the year.
"It's very important because I've won individual titles," Marta said of winning the World Cup. "Now I want to get a team medal, not just for me, but for the entire team, the athletes, the coaches and everyone. And for Brazil."
The U.S. could see Brazil as early as the quarterfinals, and a showdown with Germany looms in the semifinals. While those three teams are the heavy favorites, Foudy said there are others to watch. England has impressive depth led by Kelly Smith, part of FIFA's All-Star team at the 2007 World Cup. France has 10 players from Lyon, which just won the women's version of the Champions League. Canada was the top team in CONCACAF qualifying, scoring 17 goals and conceding none as it won all five of its games.
But France and Canada are in the same group as Germany, along with Nigeria. The United States also has a tough draw, facing North Korea in the first round for a fourth straight World Cup along with Sweden and Colombia.
England is in Group B with Japan, New Zealand and Mexico. Brazil has Norway, Australia and Equatorial Guinea in Group D.
"This is the best World Cup I've ever seen in terms of the depths of teams," Foudy said. "It's nice to see the women's game continue to grow and get better."
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