China has spent years hoping for a crack at the U.S. women's soccer team. That opportunity comes Friday, when the two teams face off in the Women's World Cup quarterfinals.
The match comes with the U.S. limping: Its best player, Alex Morgan, is coming off an injury. Its most famous name, Abby Wambach, is battling fatigue and the reality of playing at 35. And regular starters Megan Rapinoe and Lauren Holiday are suspended from the match after yellow cards.
So is the stage set for China's long-sought upset of the U.S.?
Julie Foudy says no.
"I think they'll be fine," says Foudy, a former U.S. star now working as an analyst for espnW. "It's a blessing [to be facing] China given all the other teams they could have gotten. China is nothing like it was in the 1990s."
In other words, the U.S. looks vulnerable -- but China shouldn't pose an obstacle. The bigger challenges lie ahead, such as a potential semifinal matchup with the winner of Germany-France.
Despite some criticisms that this iteration of the U.S. Women's National Team simply isn't on-par with talented teams of the past, Foudy said expectations are as high as ever -- because, despite the on-field results, she thinks there's never been a better top-to-bottom U.S. women's roster.
"It's deeper than we've ever had," Foudy tells ThePostGame, "which is probably part of the problem. They're trying a lot of different people [in different roles. ... They really haven't found that chemistry yet because [head coach Jill Ellis] has so many options.
"That's why you hear some of the frustration from the past players, because we know what they can do. The expectations are really high."
Despite the talent, the pieces have yet to coalesce into a fluid, potent offensive attack. Morgan was limited in group play and didn't score a goal in this year's World Cup until the team's Round of 16 match against Columbia.
Wambach has whiffed on several strong opportunities deep in the box, and she has looked exhausted at various points in the tournament. But even those great looks have been few and far between, as the U.S. attack has struggled to create.
Foudy believes the those problems are the product of riding Wambach and Morgan too hard.
"I think it's a formation issue myself," Foudy says. "I think that Abby and Alex as the two in front, in [the 2011 World Cup] it was good. But Abby at 35, and Morgan coming off injury, it's too much.
"Those are issues that are just [related to] formation, If you switch it up to 4-3-3 and they're still playing poorly, then you can say, 'Maybe it's other [problems], too."
The positive for the USWNT is that, having ruled out talent and chemistry as challenges to their offense, the current drought of goals is one that could be easily corrected.
Foudy is hopeful that Ellis can make tactical changes that alleviate the workload for the team's biggest stars while flexing the strength of the team's depth.
China should be no problem to overcome. After that, though, the U.S. will be tested -- and it's yet found the answers that will lift them to a championship.