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U.S. Women's Soccer Team Prepares For World Cup

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

The Women's World Cup begins in Canada in a few weeks. All eyes will be on the U.S. team, which won the tournament twice in 1991 and in 1999. The team is ranked as the second best in the world according to FIFA. Megan Rapinoe is a midfielder for the Seattle Reign and is part of the U.S. national team. This will be her second World Cup. Megan joins us on the line from California. Hey, Megan, welcome to the show.

MEGAN RAPINOE: Thank you.

MARTIN: So what's going on with the team at this point? I mean, do you start to taper down your practice tempo?

RAPINOE: Yes. Definitely. At least we'd hope so. Sometimes it doesn't feel like it, but they're like, trust us, we're tapering. And I'm like, I'm so tired.

MARTIN: (Laughter). This is not a taper.

RAPINOE: Yeah. No, we are starting to kind of taper down. This is sort of our last kind of, like, you know, major preparation camp. We have a game at the end of this camp, and then we have one more game in New York. So this is kind of our last thing, and then we'll really be properly tapering off after that.

MARTIN: So I know you've talked a lot about this because it's been a big headline in the sports world. Some of our listeners might not have heard about this, though. There is a controversy surrounding this World Cup over the playing field, over the turf because this is going to be the first international tournament played entirely on artificial turf. You and others have been really critical about this. Why? How is that going to affect the games do you think?

RAPINOE: I just think that it's - and I don't really think this can be argued with. I just think it's a second-rate surface. And if FIFA is really serious about arguing that it wasn't a second-rate surface, well, then they would put other major championships or other major games around the world - not just men's games, but women's game as well - I think they would put those all on turf.

MARTIN: Does it say anything about the status of the women's sport? I mean, do you think this would be happening to the Men's World Cup?

RAPINOE: Well, no, it would never happen to the Men's World Cup. I think - I don't know if it says to the status of the women's game because I think we've come a long way. And I think a lot of people really respect it, and it's such a high level. But I think it says a lot about what FIFA thinks about the women's game.

MARTIN: Let's talk about the tournament, the games, the teams you're going to face. Who are you most worried about?

RAPINOE: You know, I think within our group, I think Nigeria's going to be a really interesting team to watch. They've done really well at the last couple youth championships. France has played extremely well all year. They gave us a hell of a game back in February. So I think that they are still there just with a lot more experience under their belt.

MARTIN: And lastly, can I just have you describe the U.S. game? You know, every team has kind of a style or adjectives people use to describe the game that the team plays. How is the U.S. women's team described? What's your game like?

RAPINOE: I think traditionally, we've always been very fit and fast and physical, and we have that sort of physical element that we can just outlast teams. And we have that grit and that mentality that we're never going to quit. But I think that we've added a lot of flare and creativity. And I don't think we get enough credit for how technical we are across-the-board.

MARTIN: Megan Rapinoe. She'll be competing with the U.S. national team at the Women's World Cup next month in Canada. Megan, good luck.

RAPINOE: Thank you very much. And thank you for having me on. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.