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USA coach Jill Ellis can join elite company with a World Cup win over France

FIFA Women’s World Cup 2019, Le Havre, France - 19 Jun 2019
U.S. coach Jill Ellis speaks during a news conference in Le Havre, France, on June 20. Ellis will coach in her 125th match as U.S. women’s national team coach at the World Cup on Friday.
(Peter Powell / EPA)

How good has the United States women’s national team been?

Jill Ellis, who will coach her 125th game with the U.S. on Friday, has lost just seven times in the previous 124. And she’s fourth in terms of winning percentage in national team history.

Perhaps more impressive, Ellis is unbeaten in 11 Women’s World Cup games and could become the first coach since Italy’s Vittorio Pozzo in 1938 to win multiple titles.

Yet Ellis, who will break a tie Friday with April Heinrichs for most games coached for the U.S. and could join Tony DiCicco as the only coach with 100 victories, claims ignorance when it comes to the numbers.

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“I don’t pay attention to that,” she said Thursday. “It’s one game at a time, literally. That’s kind of the way I’ve coached my career. I couldn’t tell you one stat.

“Obviously, we want to keep winning but in terms of numbers, I really don’t pay attention to that.”

Hot ticket

Tickets for Friday’s quarterfinal were priced at more than $11,360 on StubHub on Thursday with dozens more selling for between $1,130 and $4,750. The asking price for cheapest ticket on the website was $160.

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Tickets for Thursday’s quarterfinal between Norway and England were selling for as little as $4.55 just hours before kickoff. Tickets for the Saturday quarterfinal between Germany and Sweden were going for less than $15 on the secondary market.

Speaking of hot

Temperatures topped 90 degrees in Paris for the second consecutive day Thursday, leading city officials to activate an extreme heat plan that involves postponing school exams and setting up temporary fountains and mist machines.

The U.S. team, which trained in the heat both days, already has begun taking precautions for Friday, when the temperatures for the 9 p.m. kickoff are forecast to be in the mid-80s. But midfielder Sam Mewis insisted the weather won’t be a problem.

“We play in this heat every week. I live in North Carolina and I train in this,” she said. “We haven’t noticed it that much. I think a lot of the girls are used to it.”

Olympian task

There’s more at stake Friday for France than just a spot in the semifinals. The Women’s World Cup is also the UEFA qualifying event for the 2020 Summer Olympic Games in Tokyo. Only the top three teams earn invitations.

The U.S. is the only non-European team still alive in the World Cup so if the Americans win Friday, the three UEFA semifinalists will go to Tokyo. France, which has played in the last two Olympics, would be out.

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If France wins, setting up an all-Europe final four, then the semifinal winners, plus the winner of the third-place game, will qualify.

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The Olympic qualifying schedule for CONCACAF, the confederation in which the U.S. plays, has not been announced.

A matter of timing

Fox’s coverage of the Women’s World Cup has been hurt by the U.S. team’s midweek, midday and midmorning kickoffs, with the average audience down more than half a million from the 2015 tournament in Canada.

The only U.S. game that was played on a weekend — the group-stage match with Chile, on a Sunday — was the most-viewed match in the U.S., with an average audience of 5.4 million. No other game got more than 3.9 million. Three of the first four games in Canada did better than that.

According to Soccer America, through four games Fox is pulling in an average audience of 3.84 million on TV and streaming services compared to 4.4 million TV-only viewers four years ago, when the games kicked off later in the day.

kevin.baxter@latimes.com | Twitter: @kbaxter11

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