The heavily favored U.S. women's football (soccer) team is getting much needed rest ahead of its Women's World Cup semifinal game with Brazil, VOA's Jim Stevenson has more on this unexpected benefit.

The United States has had the longest travel schedule of the 16-nation field at this year's Women's World Cup in China, opening with two games in the central Chinese city of Chengdu.

The early match times also have not been favorable, as Team USA had to play in sunny, humid conditions earlier in the day during the opening round against North Korea and Sweden. Also, they had to endure torrential downpours in Shanghai during their final first-round game with Nigeria.

But because of the way the schedule fell for the later rounds, the U.S. women received a gift for their hard work - an extra day of rest Monday between the quarterfinal and semifinal games.

Veteran U.S. defender Kate Markgraf says she and her teammates are thrilled.

"I do not know why the organizing committee would decide to let up on us and actually give is an extra day," she joked. "An extra day's rest matters at this point. So we are really happy. We feel like we are getting a vacation right now."

So what did the U.S. women do with their precious extra day? They spent it in Shanghai, watching movies at their hotel, playing the classic Chinese tile game Mah-Jong, cribbage, and going shopping. On Tuesday they make the short trip to Hangzhou to prepare for the semifinal with Brazil on Thursday.