U.S. Soccer announces new women's tournament
Canada may have been the host for the 2015 Women's World Cup, but U.S. Soccer is bringing some big-time international competition to North America for an encore.
From March 3 through 9, U.S. Soccer will host an elite, four-team international tournament that will pit the U.S. women's national team against England, France and Germany. Together, these four sides represent four of the top five ranked women's national teams in the world. Top talents like Louisa Necib and Eugenie Le Sommer of France; Fara Williams, Steph Houghton and Laura Bassett of England and Anja Mittig and Dzsenifer Maroszan of Germany are just a few of the world's best players expected to be on hand.
The tournament, dubbed the SheBelieves Cup, will be held from March 3 through 9 in Nashville, Tampa and Boca Raton, Florida. It will give the U.S. women a chance to hone their game in anticipation of the 2016 Olympics in Rio, should the U.S. women qualify as expected in the CONCACAF Olympic Qualifying Tournament Feb. 9-21 in Texas.
The tournament is said to be the brainchild of the U.S. women's national team players as a way to inspire young girls and encourage them "to accomplish all their goals and dreams, athletic or otherwise," according to U.S. Soccer.
The SheBelieves Cup means that the U.S. women will not be playing at the Algave Cup in Portugal -- a longstanding tournament that helped foster the growth of women's soccer in other countries by being a competitive focal point. However, as the U.S. women's national team as well as France, Germany and England have seen the rise in popularity of women's soccer, it seems a fitting break.
These matches will all be played in quality stadiums with natural grass. The move to this format was underscored, in part, by increased resistance by national team players to compete on inferior fields.
The SheBelieves Cup will allow U.S. soccer fans to see top-notch competition among the best teams in the world. It could also help spur enthusiasm for the National Professional Soccer League, which is about to enter its fourth season. This is the first time a top-tier pro women's league has lasted past its third season, and U.S. Soccer is soundly committed to backing the growth of the NWSL, which it underwrites. Half of the games will be aired live TV coverage, including USA v. England on FS1 (Mar. 3, 7:30 p.m. ET).
Full schedule for the 2016 SheBelieves Cup:
2016 SheBelieves Cup Schedule
|Date||Teams||Location||Time / TV|
|March 3||Germany vs. France||Raymond James Stadium - Tampa, Fl.||5 p.m. ET|
|March 3||USA vs. England||Raymond James Stadium - Tampa, Fl.||7:30 p.m. ET / FS1|
|March 6||USA vs. France||Nissan Stadium - Nashville, Tenn.||3 p.m. ET / ESPN3|
|March 6||Germany vs. England||Nissan Stadium - Nashville, Tenn.||5:30 p.m. ET|
|March 9||France vs. England||FAU Stadium - Boca Raton, Fla.||5 p.m. ET|
|March 9||USA vs. Germany||FAU Stadium - Boca Raton, Fla.||7:30 p.m. ET / ESPN3|