Decades in the Making, Here's Why USA-Japan Is the Biggest Rivalry in Softball
USA Softball is squaring off in another epic matchup against Japan, this time in the gold medal game at the 2021 Olympics in Tokyo. If you caught round one on Monday (Sunday night in the US), you already know that games between these two softball powerhouses do not disappoint. To recap: Japan scored in the first inning and threatened to add on throughout the game. The US held them at bay and tied it up in the sixth inning to break up a no-hitter. Then, the US ended the game on a walk-off home run in the seventh, handing Japan its first loss of the tournament and giving the US a perfect 5-0 record.
Now that the opening stage of the round-robin Olympic tournament is over, the two teams with the best records (the US and Japan) will play each other again in the gold medal game. It's set to be an intense game, and not just because there's a gold medal on the line. The two countries produce world-class softball players — the US through NCAA competition, Japan through a top-tier professional league — and when they clash head-to-head, it produces what former US outfielder Jessica Mendoza recently called "the biggest rivalry in the sport," one that stretches back decades. Keep reading to see why.