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U.S. women set for clash with Italy

The United States Women’s National Team hosts Italy on Saturday in the second leg of a World Cup qualifying playoff.  After Alex Morgan’s 94th minute goal gave the U.S. a 1-0 victory last Saturday in Padova, Italy, the Americans travel to Toyota Park in Bridgeview, Ill. (2 p.m. Eastern, ESPN3.com) holding a slim advantage in the series.

In the even of a tie after the end of regulation Saturday, away goals are the critical tie-breaker in the home-and-home aggregate series.  That makes Morgan’s goal even more important – arguably the most important in U.S. Women’s National Team history.

Should Italy score at Toyota Park, the series will be tied 1-1 with both teams scoring one away goal.  A 1-0 Italy lead at the end of regulation would produce a 30 minute sudden death overtime.  A win or draw for the U.S. would automatically place the Americans into the 2011 FIFA Women’s World Cup in Germany, but if Italy scores more than one goal Saturday the U.S. will be in trouble.  Even if the aggregate score were tied, more than one away goal for Italy would give the Italians, fifth place finishers in Europe,  the series victory.

Whichever team wins will find out its World Cup fate just two days later at the draw in Frankfurt.  There, the 16 teams will be placed into four groups.  The 15 other teams that have already qualified are:  Equatorial Guinea, Nigeria, Australia, Korea DPR, Japan, England, Norway, France, Sweden, Canada, Mexico, New Zealand, Brazil, Colombia and host Germany.

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