Three weeks later than anyone expected, the United States is on its way to the Women's World Cup.
Stunned in regional qualifying earlier this month, the top-ranked Americans clinched the 16th and final spot in the 2011 tournament Saturday with a 1-0 victory over Italy in Bridgeview, Ill.
Amy Rodriguez scored the only goal off a rebound in the 40th minute as the Americans won the home-and-home playoff against Europe’s fifth-place team on 2-0 aggregate.
The World Cup will be played June 26 to July 17 in Germany. The draw is Monday in Frankfurt.
Dimitar Berbatov scored five goals to lead Manchester United into the Premier League lead with a 7-1 rout of Blackburn at Old Trafford. United (8-0-7) has 31 points, two ahead of Arsenal (9-4-2) following the Gunners’ 4-2 win at Aston Villa. Chelsea (9-4-1) has 28 points and can regain the lead if it wins at Newcastle today. Everton manager David Moyes is interested in bringing David Beckham back to England, but the former Manchester United midfielder won’t be available until after the 2011 MLS season, the last in his contract with the Los Angeles Galaxy.