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Japan was kept off the podium when softball made its Olympic debut in 1996 but took silver four years later after losing to Team USA in the gold-medal game. The Japanese settled for bronze in the 2004 Games before finally capturing gold by knocking off the Americans 3-1 in Beijing 13 years ago. It's been a long wait for Team USA Softball since the sport was absent from the program in the last two Olympic Games, but it finally gets the chance to avenge the loss that ended its 22-game Olympic winning streak when it faces Japan in the gold-medal game of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics on Tuesday. The U.S. planted the seed in the final contest of the group stage, posting a 2-1 comeback victory over the Japanese that ended on Kelsey Stewart's walk-off home run.

First pitch from Yokohama Stadium is set for 7 a.m. ET. Team USA is listed as the -137 favorite (risk $137 to win $100) on the money line in the latest Team USA vs. Japan odds at William Hill Sportsbook, while Japan is the +100 underdog. Before making any Japan vs. USA picks or Olympic softball predictions, you need to see what SportsLine's Olympics expert, Mike Tierney, has to say

A national sportswriter whose work appears in The New York Times and Los Angeles Times, Tierney has covered nine Olympic Games in person. In the past two Olympic Games, his advice helped those who followed him cash in big, and he already has nailed a winner at Tokyo 2020.

Before Sunday's men's triathlon, Tierney tabbed Norway's Kristian Blummenfelt as his choice to win gold, and that bet paid off big at +600. The Olympics expert saw good value in the Norwegian, who had won twice this year and was the 2019 Grand Final champion.

"When an event is as wide open as the guys' three-in-one sport, look for a price and go with the hot hand." Tierney told SportsLine.

The 27-year-old Blummenfelt was in disbelief as he pulled away from the younger runners in the final stages to win by 11 seconds over Britain's Alex Yee. It is his nation's first medal in the sport, but picking a winner was nothing new for Tierney.

At the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics in 2018, he nailed Suzanne Schulting (+2500) of the Netherlands and Norway's Havard Lorentzen (+800) to triumph in speed skating and the USA's Mikaela Shiffrin (+185) to win the giant slalom. Tierney also took the Under (10.5) on the Americans' gold-medal count, and that also cashed as the USA came in with nine.

And at the Rio 2016 Summer Games, Tierney told readers to bet Over on Team USA's gold medal count (41.5) and Over on Team USA's overall medal count (102.5). The result? 46 golds, 121 medals and two easy cashes. Anyone who followed Tierney's advice cashed in huge.

Now, Tierney has studied the Team USA vs. Japan matchup in the gold-medal game for softball. You can see his top 2020 Olympics picks only at SportsLine. Here are the latest betting odds and trends for Japan vs. USA:

  • Team USA vs. Japan money line: USA, -137, Japan +100
  • USA: The Americans have won 27 of their last 28 Olympic games
  • JAP: The Japanese scored twice as many runs (18) in the group stage than Team USA (nine)

Why you should back Team USA

Hitless over the first five innings on Sunday, Team USA recorded three hits in the sixth - the last being Valerie Arioto's two-out RBI single that forged a 1-1 tie. Haylie McCleney ignited the rally with a leadoff single to improve to a 2020 Olympics-best 9-for-14. The 27-year-old outfielder has scored four of Team USA's nine runs thus far, tying her for second-most in the tournament.

Amanda Chidester leads Team USA with three RBIs, but the squad's strength is its pitching staff, which is led by veteran left-handers Monica Abbott and Cat Osterman - the only returning players from the 2008 team. Abbott and Osterman, who are 6-0 and 7-1 in their Olympic careers, respectively, have combined to register 44 strikeouts over 30 ⅔ innings while allowing just six hits and one unearned run in the 2020 Games. Abbott, who turns 36 on Wednesday, posted two wins against Japan in Beijing while the 38-year-old Osterman defeated the Japanese in 2004 before taking the loss in the gold-medal game four years later.

Why you should back Japan

The Japanese also have a pair of pitchers who can shut down a team in veteran Yukiko Ueno and youngster Miu Goto. The 39-year-old Ueno won bronze in the 2004 Games, becoming the first pitcher to throw a perfect game in Olympic softball history when she beat China in the group stage, and outdueled Osterman for gold in 2008. Ueno has made three starts in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, notching one victory while recording 21 strikeouts over 16 ⅓ innings.

Ueno is tied for second in strikeouts with Goto, who has picked up the same amount in only 9 ⅔ frames. Just 20 years old, the left-hander made one start and three relief appearances during the group stage and did not allow a run while earning three victories. Japan has some power to help support its strong pitchers, as Yamato Fujita leads the tournament with three home runs and six RBIs while Yu Yamamoto is right behind her teammate with two and five, respectively.

How to make 2020 Tokyo Olympics softball picks for USA vs. Japan

Tierney has broken down this matchup and has isolated a critical x-factor that has him jumping all over one side of the money line. Head to SportsLine now to see Tierney's 2020 Olympics picks

So who wins Team USA vs. Japan in the gold-medal game for softball? And what critical x-factor do you need to know about? Visit SportsLine now to get Mike Tierney's best bet for Team USA vs. Japan, all from the renowned sportswriter who's covered nine Olympics in person and cashed big in both 2016 and '18, and find out.