Kelly Kretschman, competing in softball at Beijing 2008. GETTY IMAGES

Former USA softball star Kelly Kretschman, who played in last year's WBSC U-15 Women's Softball World Cup last year, said the 2024 WBSC Women's Softball World Cup Finals will be "like a mini-Olympics" and expects the USA and Japan to be in the final.

Two-time Olympic medallist Kelly Kretschman is amazed with the positive changes in women's softball since she made her Olympic debut in 2004. With the announcement of softball's return to the Olympic programme at Los Angeles 2028, after being included from Atlanta 1996 to Beijing 2008, the former USA softball star is thrilled to see it back in the Olympics. 

"Softball has changed so much. There are so many countries that playing the sport now, which is just really exciting because that's what we want. We want the sport to grow not just in the United States or Japan, but internationally. The number of teams you see at the U-15 World Cup is so amazing to see, and us being at the Olympics just adds to that. It makes it even more important for every country to get involved at an earlier age," said the 44-year-old. 

Kelly Kretschman dreams of Los Angeles 2028. WBSC
Kelly Kretschman dreams of Los Angeles 2028. WBSC

Kretschman, who followed up her 2004 Olympic gold with a silver medal in 2008, underlined the importance of softball's return in reigniting the Olympic dream. "I am super excited now. All these girls who can do what I did and dream of going back to the Olympics. It just brings back all the memories that I had when I was a little kid wanting to be an Olympian. Now I'm just grateful for all the young women who now have the opportunity to dream about the same thing that I was able to dream about," she said. 

The 2007 World Champion and 2005 World Cup silver medallist also shared her excitement for the young women who competed at the WBSC U-15 Women's Softball World Cup, a tournament Kretschman attended as part of the US delegation, and the prospect of them playing at LA28. 

"It's crazy to think that these girls could have the opportunity to play in the 2028 Olympics in LA. That's five years from now, so some of these girls will be in their 20s - young women. A lot of their dreams start right here, and what a cool place to start those dreams here in Tokyo," she said. 

Meanwhile, the former professional All-Star said she will be rooting for defending champions USA at the WBSC Women's Softball World Cup Finals in Italy later this year and at the LA28 Games in 2028. They will take place in Castions di Strada, Italy, from 15 - 21 July 2024.

"Being an American, we expect to win all the time, so I would expect nothing less. We've lost the last two gold medals, so it's even more important for us to get that gold back. The Women's World Cup will be like a mini-Olympics. I expect it to be USA and Japan in the final, although Canada might have something to say about that," Kretschman concluded.