Five Things to Know: USA vs. Japan

The U.S. Women’s National Team opens the 2024 SheBelieves Cup, presented by Visa, against Japan on April 6 at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, Ga.

The U.S. Women’s National Team opens the 2024 SheBelieves Cup, presented by Visa, against Japan on April 6 at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, Ga. The match, which is the first of two semifinals to open this year’s edition of the tournament, kicks off at 12:30 p.m. ET with broadcast coverage available in English on TNT, truTV and Max and in Spanish on Telemundo, Universo and Peacock. It will be followed by Brazil vs. Canada at 3:30 p.m. ET (Universon, Max, Peacock).

Get ready for Saturday’s opener with Five Things to Know about USA vs. Japan.


Japan enters the tournament ranked No. 7 in the latest FIFA Women’s World Rankings and will be making its fourth appearance all-time at the SheBelieves Cup.

In 2019, Japan made its SheBelieves Cup and finish third in the four-team field, which also featured England, the USA and Brazil. Japan and the USA played to a 2-2 draw in Chester, Pa. the opening match of that tournament, followed by a 3-1 win for the Japanese over Brazil on the second day of play. Japan fell to eventual champions England 3-0 on the final match day in Tampa, Fla.

Japan finished fourth at the 2020 SheBelieves Cup, playing three highly competitive matches but ultimately going winless in the three-game stretch against Spain (3-1 Loss), England (1-0 Loss) and the USA (3-1 Loss).

Following a two-year hiatus, Japan returned to the SheBelieves Cup in 2023 and finished runner-up to the USA. Japan opened that tournament with a pair of 1-0 defeats to Brazil and the USA but closed out the tournament with a comprehensive 3-0 win over Canada on the third and final match day.


Japan heads into the SheBelieves Cup on the heels of qualifying for the 2024 Summer Olympics after defeating North Korea 2-1 on aggregate in the third and final round of the AFC Women’s Olympic Qualifying Tournament.

With one of two Olympic berths from Asia at stake, Japan and North Korea opened the two-leg playoff with a 0-0 draw on February 24 in Saudi Arabi before traveling to Tokyo for the decisive second match on February 28, which Japan won 2-1. Hana Takahashi scored in the 25th minute to give the hosts an early advantage and forward Aoba Fujino added to Japan’s lead with a goal in the 76th. North Korea pulled one back in the 81st minute, but Japan withstood the comeback attempt to qualify for its sixth Olympics overall. Australia, which will join the USA in Group B at the Paris Olympics, defeated Uzbekistan 13-0 on aggregate to secure the other berth from Asia.

At the 2024 Olympics, Japan was drawn into Group C where it will face reigning World Cup champions Spain in the opening match in Nantes July 25 before taking on Brazil in the second Olympic Group stage match on July 28 at Parc des Princes in Paris. Japan’s third group stage game will be against either Nigeria or South Africa on July 31 back in Nantes.

Japan’s best showing at the Olympics came in 2012, winning silver after losing 2-1 to the USA in the gold medal match. Japan was also in contention for a medal in 2008, but lost to Germany 2-0 in the bronze medal match following a 4-2 loss to the U.S. in the semifinal round. At the delayed Tokyo 2020 Games, Japan advanced out of a challenging group that also featured Canada, Great Britain and Chile, but lost to eventual silver medalists Sweden in the quarterfinal.


With sights on returning to the podium later this summer in Paris, head coach Futoshi Ikeda has called up a 22-player roster for the SheBelieves Cup.

Two players on this roster currently compete in the USA in midfielder Hina Sugita of Portland Thorns FC in the National Women’s Soccer League and goalkeeper Shu Ohba, a rising senior at Ole Miss. Sugita signed for the Thorns in January of 2022 and – along with current USWNT players Sam Coffey, Olivia Moultrie and Sophia Smith – helped Portland win the 2022 NWSL Championship.

Like the U.S. roster, Japan’s squad for the 2024 SheBelieves Cup features several less experienced players looking to get valuable international experience ahead of the Olympics as well as proven veterans. Defender Saki Kumagai is by far the most experienced player on this roster with 149 caps and has represented Japan at the last four FIFA Women’s World Cups, including scoring the winning penalty against the USA in the penalty kick shootout during the 2011 FIFA World Cup Final.

Kumagai currently plays her club soccer for AS Roma but previously spent leaving Olympique Lyon after the 2020-21 season following eight seasons with French powerhouse Olympique Lyon, at which she won five UEFA Women’s Champions League titles and at different times played with Americans Alex Morgan and Catarina Macario.

Forward Mina Tanaka is the next most experienced with 77 caps and is the leading scorer on this roster with 34 international goals.


Goalkeepers (3): Chika Hirao (Albirex Niigata Ladies), Shu Ohba (University of Mississippi, USA), Ayaka Yamashita (INAC Lobe Leonessa)

Defenders (7): Rion Ishikawa (Urawa Reds Ladies), Hikaru Kitagawa (INAC Kobe Leonessa), Toko Koga (Feyenoord Rotterdam, NED), Saki Kumagai (AS Roma, ITA), Moeka Minami (AS Roma, ITA), Miyabi Moriya (INAC Kobe Leonessa), Risa Shimizu (West Ham United FC, ENG)

Midfielders (5): Yui Hasegawa (Manchester City FC, ENG), Honoka Hayashi (West Ham United FC, ENG), Fuka Nagano (Liverpool FC, ENG), Hina Sugita (Portland Thorns FC, USA), Momoko Tanikawa (FC Rosengård, SWE)

Forwards (7): Aoba Fujino (Tokyo Verdy Neleza), Maika Hamano (Chelsea FC, ENG), Hinata Miyazawa (Manchester City FC, ENG), Kiko Seike (Urawa Reds Ladies), Mina Tanaka (INAC Kobe Leonessa), Riko Ueki (West Ham United FC, ENG), Mami Ueno (Sanfrecce Hiroshima Regina)


For the fifth year in a row, Visa, the presenting sponsor of the SheBelieves Cup, will award the MVP trophy to the most outstanding player of the tournament. Despite being one of the younger players on Japan’s roster, Aoba Fujino is off to an impressive start in her international career and is one to watch for MVP honors. In 2022, Fujino was part of Japan’s roster for the Under-20 FIFA Women’s World Cup and helped the team finish runners-up. Less than a year later, she represented Japan at the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup in Australia and New Zealand and made history when she scored in the second group stage match against Costa Rica to become the youngest Japanese goal scorer ever at a World Cup at just 19 years of age.

The now-20-year-old players her club soccer domestically for Tokyo Verdy Beleza and scored the goal that qualified Japan for the 2024 Olympics with her well-timed header in the win over North Korea in AFC Olympic Qualifying.


Saturday’s matchup in Atlanta will be the 40th meeting all-time between the USA and Japan and the fourth SheBelieves Cup meeting between the teams, making it the second-most common matchup in SheBelieves Cup history behind only USA-England (five meetings).

The most recent matchup between the USA and Japan came on February 19 at the 2023 SheBelieves Cup. The USA won that match, played at GEODIS Park in Nashville, 1-0 behind a goal from Mallory Swanson in the 45th minute. Swanson, who went on to win MVP honors, scored just before the stroke of halftime as she tracked down a ball played over the top by Alex Morgan and blazed past the defense to net the game’s only goal.

Overall, the USA leads the all-time series against Japan with a record of 30W-1L-8D, with its lone loss in the series came during the 2012 Algarve Cup. Since then, the USA is unbeaten in the last 12 meetings between the teams, with eight wins and four draws in that span, including a 2-1 win in the 2012 Olympic Final and a 5-2 victory in the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup Final.

Morgan has 12 goals and three assists in 15 career appearances against Japan, the most goals she has scored against any one opponent in her international career and the most goals scored against Japan by any player in USWNT history. One of those goals came in the 2011 World Cup Final, as Morgan opened the scoring in the 69th minute. Tied 2-2 at the end of regulation and following extra time, Japan eventually prevailed on penalty kicks, 3-1, to claim the World Cup title.