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Women’s Soccer: Solo, Morgan, Wambach, Lloyd, and Rampone Key to 2012 Olympic Hopes

International Business Times UK

The United States women's national soccer team will go into the 12-team tournament for the London Olympics atop the FIFA world rankings.

Their group stage Olympic opponents include France (ranked No. 6), North Korea (ranked No. 8), and Colombia (ranked No. 28).

The U.S. has three tune-up matches left before London. They are scheduled to play Sweden and Japan on June 16 and 18 in Halmstad, Sweden, then face Canada in Sandy, Utah, in their send-off match.

The women's team is expected to be highly visible during the tournament thanks in part to the men's failure to qualify for the London Games, as well as the star-studded lineup that includes three finalists for the 2011 World Player of the Year Award.

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Pia Sundhage's squad boasts remarkable depth in all positions and will be searching for revenge after their second place finish at the 2011 World Cup.

Here are five key impact players for the U.S. women's national team in London.

Abby Wambach - Forward
Abby Wambach has scored over 130 goals scored in international competition and is currently the fourth all-time leading scorer in international soccer history. Considered one of the world's best aerial players, Wambach is one of the most celebrated female athletes in the world. In the 2011 World Cup, Wambach scored in four straight games despite a slow start to the tournament. She had a late goal in the quarter-finals against Brazil, sending the game to penalties, where the U.S. advanced.

With her experience and presence on the field, Wambach has been the U.S.'s leading scorer in the past two Women's World Cup tournaments, and the 2004 Olympics. Wambach missed the Beijing Olympics in 2008 because of a broken leg but should be an impact player in London. The Rochester, N.Y. native has scored 10 goals in 13 matches in 2012. Wambach has been known to wear down defenses with her physical play, possess an impressive aerial game, and display remarkable speed, which makes her one of the keys to the U.S.'s success.

Alex Morgan - Forward

Forward Alex Morgan had a breakout performance at the Women's World Cup and is expected to play a prominent role this summer. In the 2011 World Cup, she came off the bench for five of the six games and was one of two U.S. players to score in the World Cup semi-final and championship game. Morgan continued her impressive run as she became the first U.S. player to score a goal and record an assist in the World Cup final. The 22-year-old has proven herself to be one of the fastest American players, and in 2012 she has scored 14 times to go along with eight assists in just 12 matches. The U.S. will be looking to get Morgan plenty of touches, due to her solid ability to create scoring opportunities.

Christie Rampone - Defender

Christie Rampone is the U.S. team captain and is one of the world's fastest, strongest and most impressive players. The central defender has played in 16 Olympic matches for the U.S., and will become the all-time leader in Olympic appearances in July. Rampone has been a constant presence in the U.S lineup from Sydney, to Athens, to Beijing. Rampone was the top defender for U.S. at the World Cup despite facing a groin injury. The 36-year-old helped the team to two shutout victories in group play. Rampone was particularly effective in the knockout stages of the 2011 World Cup. However, the U.S. backline has been somewhat inconsistent, with only five months experience as a collective unit. They have shown some lapses in their last few international games, but Rampone will look to set the tempo in the backline with her unmatched experience.

Carli Lloyd - Midfielder

Carli Lloyd is the midfielder who sits atop of the U.S. diamond formation. She has become a central figure on the U.S. women's national team, and her versatility is an important aspect of the American attack. Lloyd can strike from a distance has shown poise in pressure situations, making her a difference-maker in many of the U.S.'s close games. Her first Olympic goal came in the 2008 Beijing Games and she helped keep the U.S. gold-medal hopes alive by giving them a 1-0 victory over Japan during group play. Lloyd scored her second Olympic goal and one of the biggest goals in the U.S. team's history in the 2008 final, with an overtime game-winner against Brazil. Lloyd has played with more ball control in recent months, which has solidified her position as one of the best midfielders in the world. Lloyd has three specific skills that make her invaluable to Sundhage: ball control, superb defensive skills, and the ability to score.

Hope Solo - Goalkeeper

There is little to be said about Hope Solo. She remains the best goalkeeper in the world and has maintained 0.35 goals against average in 2012, allowing just four goals in 13 games. A natural leader, Solo is a key veteran for the Yanks and will look to continue her impeccable play in London. Despite a few lapses by the defense, Solo has performed well to clean up errors. She is second all-time in U.S. women's soccer history in caps, wins and shutouts by a keeper and her experience and maturity are major advantages for the American squad.

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