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USWNT to open Olympics with match against New Zealand

Looking to back up their 2015 World Cup win, the USWNT will kick off their Olympic campaign against New Zealand.

Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

The opening ceremonies for the 2016 Rio Olympics won't take place until Friday, but that doesn't mean there won't be important events taking place in the days prior. On Wednesday, we will see the first six women's soccer group-stage games, and on Thursday, men's soccer kicks off their schedule with a full slate of eight matches. From an American perspective, most people will be watching one game in particular in these first two days: The US Women's National Team against New Zealand.

This contest — at 5pm CT on NBC Sports Network — will be the USWNT's first game of their quest to repeat as Olympic gold medalists. After winning the 2015 World Cup, they will look to be the first team to ever win a Women's World Cup and follow it up with Olympic gold. They enter as clear favorites, and certainly will be disappointed with anything other than a championship.

So a match with New Zealand to kick things off theoretically shouldn't be too hard. After all, 'The Football Ferns' crashed out of last year's World Cup without picking up a single point, and they qualified for this tournament only after Papua New Guinea withdrew from the second leg of the OFC qualifying final. The US have considerably more talent than the Kiwis, and thus this should be a relatively easy three points for the Americans.

But, you never know. Maybe New Zealand will escape with a draw, like they did back in 2013. Or, maybe it could wind up 10-0, Ivory Coast vs. Germany-style (although that's undoubtedly the less likely scenario).

Anyway, the only player who has been confirmed out of this game is Megan Rapinoe, whose torn ACL back in December has kept her out of the much-maligned Seattle Reign's NWSL season. Rapinoe could end up getting minutes later in the tournament, however.

Tobin Heath and Morgan Brian should be available after minor injuries that hampered their July 22 send-off game.