Normally, Group C includes the hosts Portugal and some weaker teams that are gaining a bit of momentum. This gives them a chance to continue growing without having to face the top teams in the world, but every group has quality teams this time around.
The U,S, got Norway, Switzerland and Iceland in Group B. Group A has Sweden, Germany, Brazil and China, making for easily the hardest group. Group C is still tough, though, with Denmark, France, Japan and Portugal. The Americans definitely got the easiest group.
The Algarve Cup, which begins in March, will be the biggest test for the U.S. before the Women's World Cup in June. It's the top annual women's soccer tournament and will give them a chance to play high quality competition in a competitive environment.
Norway are the next toughest team in Group B, checking in at ninth in the world, but the drop off from No. 6 Brazil to No. 7 England is pretty steep, and the same is true from No. 8 Canada to No. 9 Norway. But Norway are about as good as Australia, who are grouped with the U.S. in the World Cup. Switzerland are way down at No. 18 in the world and Iceland are No. 20. Norway and Switzerland both qualified for the Women's World Cup, while Iceland are one of three teams in the 12-team Algarve Cup field that did not.
The U.S. had a disastrous Algarve Cup last year, finishing seventh. That, probably more than anything, led to Tom Sermanni being fired. Germany would go on to win the tournament, dominating Japan in the final.