Remember in July when the U.S. Women’s National Team won its third Women’s World Cup? Man, that was the best. I’m still not over it. It was all just so great. Since then, some big names have announced their retirement, including Lori Chalupny, Lauren Holiday, Shannon Boxx and some person named Abby Wambach.
2o16 will be another exciting year as the team gears up for the Olympics in Rio this summer. Plus, we’re not even a month into it and we have big awards, new captains and at least seven games scheduled between now and mid-March.
So let’s talk about it!
The U.S. came home with two distinguished awards from the FIFA Ballon d’Or Gala in Zurich earlier this month. Jill Ellis, the USWNT manager who led the team to its third World Cup, was named FIFA Women’s World Coach of the Year. Ellis was officially named the USWNT manager in 2014 after spending several years as an assistant coach and interim head coach for the team.
Carli Lloyd, a midfielder for the USWNT, won the FIFA Women’s World Player of the Year. As a brief reminder, Lloyd scored that hat trick within the first 16 minutes of the Women’s World Cup final against Japan. (That’s the only time any player — male or female — has scored a hat trick in a World Cup final.)
Ellis named Lloyd and defender Becky Sauerbrunn the new USWNT co-captains. They became the 13th and 14th team captains in the team’s history. The former team captain, Christie Rampone, has been on the USWNT since 1997 and has been captain since 2008. Rampone, currently sidelined while she recover from knee surgery, has been to five World Cups and four Olympics during her time with the team.
The leadership should come easy for both Lloyd and Sauerbrunn. Lloyd, who has been a member of the USWNT since 2005, captained four games during the World Cup, including the final against Japan; Sauerbrunn, who has been on the team since 2008, is captain of her club team, FC Kansas City. When Lloyd and Sauerbrunn are both on the field, Lloyd will wear the captain’s armband.
First friendly of 2016
The team just finished its January training camp at the U.S. Soccer National Training Center in Carson, California. They’ll take on Ireland in an international friendly this Saturday, January 23rd. The last time the USWNT faced Ireland was on May 10, 2015 when the U.S. won 3-0. The team is 11-0-0 all-time against Ireland.
And great news, guys. Even though we’re all sad that Megan Rapinoe tore her ACL in December, Fox Sports announced Pinoe will join the team as a guest analyst for Saturday’s game. Obviously, it’ll be the best.
Saturday, January 23rd
United States vs. Ireland
San Diego, California
2 p.m. Pacific
CONCACAF a.k.a. Olympic Qualifying
So, the short version is that the USWNT will play several games in Texas between February 10 to 21 as the team tries to qualify for another Olympic berth. The CONCACAF (which stands for Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football, which is why we just call it CONCACAF, which is still a mouthful) consists of Canada, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Guyana, Mexico, Puerto Rico, Trinidad & Tobago and the U.S.
The group stage games will take place at Toyota Stadium in Frisco and BBVA Compass Stadium in Houston with the semifinals and finals taking place Friday, February 19th and Sunday, February 21st in Houston. The top two teams will qualify for the Olympics this summer in Rio de Janeiro, and the U.S. is expected to be one of the qualifying teams.
The U.S. games are listed below, but a full schedule can be found here.
Wednesday, February 10th
United States vs. Costa Rica
5 p.m. Central
Saturday, February 13, 2016
Mexico vs. United States
3 p.m. Central
Monday, February 15, 2016
United States vs. Puerto Rico
7:30 p.m. Central
The United States will host the inaugural SheBelieves Cup in March, giving fans the opportunity to watch four of the world’s top five teams play against one another. The teams invited include Germany, France and England. Each venue will host a double-header allowing fans to see all four teams play.
The whole SheBelieves thing is actually pretty cool. Leading up to the 2015 Women’s World Cup, the USWNT players coined the #SheBelieves idea, which was created as a means to inspire and empower young girls to accomplish their goals, whatever those may be.
Thursday, March 3
United States vs. England
Raymond James Stadium
7:30 p.m. Eastern
Sunday, March 6
United States vs. France
2 p.m. Central
Wednesday, March 9
United States vs. Germany
Boca Raton, Florida
7:30 p.m. Eastern
And finally, arguably the best news of all: No turf.
U.S. Soccer president Sunil Gulati announced that no USWNT games leading up to the Olympics will be played on turf. This is huge news. Basically, turf is known to cause more injuries and makes it longer for the body to recover after playing on it. In 2015, the USWNT played 15 games on turf. (Meanwhile, the U.S. men’s national team didn’t play on turf once in the past two years.) The turf vs. grass debate came to a boiling point in December when the USWNT cancelled its Victory Tour game in Hawaii citing turf conditions. According to an article in The Player’s Tribune, there were rocks in the turf, so the team decided it had to back out for players’ safety.
So, new co-captains, more grass playing fields, Pinoe as a guest analyst and seven USWNT games between now and mid-March. I hope you’re as excited as I am because my entire goal in life right now is for you to be as excited as I am.