With the World Cup in France still two years off the U.S. WNT will once again play host to a strong trio of teams in a four team tournament, with coach Jill Ellis looking to build for the future while trying to avoid an embarrassment similar to her sides flop at the SheBelieves Cup last March.
The home team finished last in March, falling to England 1-0 in Chester, Pennsylvania, and France 3-0 at RFK Stadium in the nation’s capital, after starting the tournament with a 1-0 win over Germany.
Ellis experimented with midfielder Allie Long at the center of a three back set during the event, and the coach would die on that hill when Les Bleues shredded her defense in the final match with Long looking completely befuddled before her day was done.
The three U.S. opponents came into the SheBelieves Cup ranked numbers 2, Germany, 3 France, and 5, England behind their number 1 rated hosts. Somehow the U.S. has hung on to the top spot, with the other three countries also staying put on the FIFA chart.
The level of competition should drop only slightly for Ellis’ crew as the action shifts to the west coast for the Tournament of Champions, which kicks off tonight when the U.S. face Australia this evening at CenturyLink Field in Seattle.
The TOC will be played in the same three doubleheader format that was used in the SBC with the Yanks taking on the numbers 6, Japan, 7, Australia, and 8, Brazil, FIFA rated sides in the world.
Ellis has called in a mix of veterans like captains Carli Lloyd, and Becky Sauerbrunn while recalling Alex Morgan, Lynn Williams, and Ali Krieger, with Meghan Klingenberg being left out.
Tobin Heath, Rose Lavelle, and keeper Ashlyn Harris are all unavailable through injury.
Uncapped newcomers include goalkeeper Abby Smith of the Boston Breakers, North Carolina Courage defender Taylor Smith, and Breakers midfielder Margaret Purce.
Ellis has also opted to select Lindsey Horan as one of seven(!) forwards. Horan made her name as a high scoring forward with U.S. Youth teams and French club PSG before signing on with the Portland Thorns where Horan has featured in the midfield, as she has with the full national team during that same period.
The Tournament of Nations will be an NWSL Showcase with the U.S. leading the way with all but Crystal Dunn (Chelsea) earning her keep in the league. But the home team is not the only one with a heavy NWSL presence. Australia will be led by attacker Sam Kerr, who is playing out of her skin for SkyBlue FC this season. Kerr is one of five Aussie National teamers playing in the U.S. league.
As always Matra, of the Orlando Pride, leads the way for Brazil, one of six NWSL players on the Brazil roster. Japan has just one NWSL star on its TON squad, Rumi Utsugi, U.S. star Megan Rapinoe’s teammate with the Seattle Reign.
TOURNAMENT OF NATIONS 2017 SCHEDULE
Thursday 27 July 2017 – 4:15pm PT
Brazil v Japan
CenturyLink Field – Seattle, Wash.
USA v Australia
CenturyLink Field – Seattle, Wash. ESPN
Sunday 30 July 2017 – 2:15pm PT
Japan v Australia
Qualcomm Stadium – San Diego, Calif.
USA v Brazil
Qualcomm Stadium – San Diego, Calif. ESPN2
Thursday 3 August 2017 – 4:15pm PT
Australia v Brazil
StubHub Center – Carson, Calif.
USA v Japan
StubHub Center – Carson, Calif. ESPN2
GOALKEEPERS (3): Alyssa Naeher (Chicago Red Stars), Jane Campbell (Houston Dash), Abby Smith (Boston Breakers)
DEFENDERS (7): Abby Dahlkemper (NC Courage), Julie Ertz (Chicago Red Stars), Ali Krieger (Orlando Pride), Kelley O’Hara (Sky Blue FC), Becky Sauerbrunn (FC Kansas City), Casey Short (Chicago Red Stars), Taylor Smith (NC Courage)
MIDFIELDERS (6): Morgan Brian (Houston Dash), Carli Lloyd (Houston Dash), Allie Long (Portland Thorns FC), Samantha Mewis (NC Courage, Margaret Purce (Boston Breakers), Megan Rapinoe (Seattle Reign FC)
FORWARDS (7): Crystal Dunn (Chelsea FC), Lindsey Horan (Portland Thorns FC), Sydney Leroux (FC Kansas City), Alex Morgan (Orlando Pride), Christen Press (Chicago Red Stars), Mallory Pugh (Washington Spirit), Lynn Williams (NC Courage)