The top-ranked United States got a tough draw yesterday for this year's women's World Cup in China, placed in Group B with Sweden, North Korea, and Nigeria.
Sweden was runner-up at the 2003 World Cup and is ranked No. 4 by world governing body FIFA. North Korea is ranked No. 5, Asia's top team.
The United States, one of the four seeded teams this year, has won the World Cup twice -- the inaugural tournament in 1991 and again in '99. Norway won in 1995 and Germany is the defending champion.
The Americans, who were knocked out in the semifinals by Germany in 2003, will open against North Korea Sept. 11 in the western city of Chengdu.
The four Group B teams were also drawn together in the 2003 World Cup.
"We landed in the most difficult group again," American coach Greg Ryan said. "We had the most difficult group in 2003, and now the most difficult in 2007. It's hard to believe we drew exactly the same teams."
Germany was placed in Group A and fared better than the Americans, with preliminary matches against Japan, England, and Argentina. The Germans play the first game of the World Cup against Argentina Sept. 10 in Shanghai.
In Group C, Norway was the seeded team and drew games with Ghana, Australia, and Canada, while host China was seeded in Group D and will face New Zealand, Brazil, and Denmark.
This women's World Cup promises to be the most competitive so far. In addition to the four seeded teams, Sweden and Brazil are seen as serious contenders. Several other teams are also in the mix: England, Japan, North Korea, Denmark, Australia, and Nigeria.
Host China, ranked No. 11 in the world, might have received a break from FIFA. Prior to the draw, North Korea was placed in Group B by FIFA. The current positioning means China and North Korea cannot meet sooner than the semifinals.
Ryan said he was confused watching the draw and couldn't figure why North Korea was placed in Group B. Asked if he intended to lodge a protest with FIFA, Ryan shook his head.
MLS -- Ramon Nunez scored twice to lead FC Dallas to a 3-1 win over the visiting Colorado Rapids. Nunez broke a 1-1 tie in the 78th minute when he curled a free kick from the left side over a wall of defenders. The ball bounced off the fingertips of Rapids keeper Bouna Coundoul and into the right corner of the net.
Europe -- Chelsea, trying to win its third straight Premiership title, was held to a 0-0 tie at Newcastle, missing a chance to close the gap on leader Manchester United. With four games remaining, Chelsea has 79 points, three behind United. Chelsea hosts United May 9 in a game that could determine the title . . . Inter Milan won its 15th Italian league title by beating Siena, 2-1. Marco Materazzi scored two goals to help Inter move 16 points ahead of second-place AS Roma . . . Alexander Kerzhakov, Antonio Puerta, Javier Chevanton, and Luis Fabiano scored in the second half as Sevilla beat Athletic Bilbao, 4-1, to move within a point of leader Barcelona in Spain's La Liga . . . Celtic clinched its second straight Scottish Premier League title and 41st overall by downing Kilmarnock, 2-1.