Lineup an­nounced

USWNT will face Eng­land, Ja­pan, Spain in 5th SheBelieve­s Cup

Orlando Sentinel - - SPORTS WEDNESDAY - By Ju­lia Poe

The U.S. women’s na­tional team will face off against three top in­ter­na­tional op­po­nents — Eng­land, Spain and Ja­pan — in the fifth an­nual SheBelieve­s Cup tour­na­ment.

The tour­na­ment is named for the #SheBelieve­s cam­paign, which was launched by U.S. Soc­cer in the build-up to the 2015 FIFA World Cup. Bring­ing in top teams from around the world, the tour­na­ment will serve as an op­por­tu­nity for the U.S. na­tional team to tune up be­fore the Olympics.

This year’s SheBelieve­s Cup will fea­ture Eng­land, Ja­pan and Spain from March 5-11.

The tour­na­ment is struc­tured in a roundrobin for­mat, mean­ing each team plays all three of its op­po­nents dur­ing three dou­ble­header events. Each match will be held at a dif­fer­ent venue — Or­lando; Har­ri­son, N.J.; and Frisco, Texas.

Although the matches are tech­ni­cally friendlies — mean­ing none of the re­sults will have im­pli­ca­tions in FIFA rank­ings or tour­ney qual­i­fi­ca­tions — the tour­na­ment’s re­sult is of­ten seen as a gauge for the cur­rent strength of the U.S. team. When the Amer­i­cans fin­ished sec­ond to Eng­land last year, it sparked a rip­ple of con­cern as the U.S. pre­pared for what even­tu­ally was a vic­to­ri­ous run at the World Cup.

The matches also will of­fer an op­por­tu­nity for new coach Vlatko An­donovski to work to­ward fi­nal­iz­ing his ros­ter for the Olympics. Fol­low­ing a set of Olympic qual­i­fiers in Fe­bru­ary, the tour­na­ment will of­fer one of the ear­li­est tests for An­donovski as he takes over the team from two-time World Cup cham­pion coach Jill El­lis.

“U.S. Soc­cer does such a great job stag­ing this tour­na­ment, and it’s a world-class event for the play­ers and the fans,” An­donovski said. “We look for­ward to wel­com­ing th­ese re­ally ta­lented teams to the

USA, and there’s noth­ing bet­ter than fac­ing play­ers who force you to be your best in or­der to be suc­cess­ful, which is what we’ll get from Eng­land, Ja­pan and Spain.

“There’s some great his­tory be­tween th­ese teams — some very re­cent his­tory — and I know all six games will be ex­cel­lent dis­plays to show why the women’s game keeps in­creas­ing in pop­u­lar­ity and com­pet­i­tive­ness.”

The team’s open­ing match in Or­lando will fea­ture two re­matches from the 2019 World Cup, as the U.S. will face both Spain and Eng­land for the first time since their 2019 World Cup matches in France. The U.S. beat Spain 2-1 in the Round of 16, then went on to de­feat Eng­land 2-1 in the semi­fi­nals in the game marked by striker Alex Mor­gan’s vi­ral tea-sip­ping cel­e­bra­tion. The Amer­i­cans last faced off against Ja­pan in last year’s SheBelieve­s Cup, fin­ish­ing in a 2-2 draw.

All three op­po­nents will of­fer a top-ranked chal­lenge. Eng­land is ranked No. 6 in the world, while Ja­pan is close be­hind at No. 10 and Spain is placed at No. 13. All four teams were World Cup con­tenders that ad­vanced to at least the Round of 16 dur­ing the sum­mer.

All three matches in­volv­ing the U.S. na­tional team will be broad­cast live on an ESPN out­let and in Span­ish on TUDN.


Tobin Heath of the U.S women’s na­tional soc­cer team fights for the ball against Costa Rica’s Shirley Cruz dur­ing a match in Novem­ber.

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