The concern for many who know the United States team best, is that the sheer emotional toll taken by the quarter-final win over France will make it hard to scale another peak tonight.
As the New York Times has put it, that fixture ‘possessed its own planetary gravity’ and has been the source of endless hypothesising and theorising from the moment the Women’s World Cup fixture schedule was known last winter.
Megan Rapinoe is the one doing most to sustain the belief that the team have only just begun.
Megan Rapinoe has been the leading light for the USA and rescued her side at the World Cup
The American fights for equality and social justice during her time away from the pitch
The last week has seen the American score four goals in two games, save her team twice, and become involve in a dust-up with the American president.
Her declaration, in no uncertain terms, that she would not visit Donald Trump’s White House if her team lift this World Cup trophy belongs to a deep-rooted belief that sport can be a vehicle to fighting misogyny, homophobia and social injustice.
After fighting for equality and inclusivity, she would not allow the US team to be ‘co-opted by an administration that doesn’t feel the same way and doesn’t fight for the same things that we fight for,’ she said last week.
It’s surprising to learn, then, that the woman who will wear No 15 against England tonight is not quite so uncompromising on the field of play.
The forward Christen Press, who will be on the bench tonight, told Sportsmail on Monday that on the pitch, Rapinoe was ‘easy-going’ and propelled by a fundamental optimism that things would fall right.
Christen Press (left) says Rapinoe is naturally easy-going and brings a fearlessness to the side
‘She loves playing,’ Press said. ‘She loves football and she’s confident in both what she can do and what the team can do. She’s one of those players that thinks the ball is going to bounce her way and so she is in the right spot when it does. I would characterise her as positive forward-looking, charismatic and free as she is off the field.’
Her freedom away from the arena is certainly extraordinary. A high profile campaigner for LGBT rights, she recently became the first openly gay athlete in the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit issue.
Last year, she and her partner, the basketball star Sue Bird, last year became the first gay couple to be featured in ESPN’s Body Issue, in which athletes pose without their clothes.
‘If you want to be in this profession, it’s best to embrace those big