DOHA, Qatar — With the U.S. men’s national team out of the World Cup, American soccer’s attention has begun to pivot to the women’s pursuit of a third consecutive championship this coming summer in Australia and New Zealand.
The first serious tuneups for the top-ranked United States will come in February at the eighth annual SheBelieves Cup featuring three other World Cup-bound teams, the U.S. Soccer Federation announced Friday.
The Americans will play No. 6 Canada — the defending Olympic gold medalist — on Feb. 16 in Orlando, then face No. 11 Japan on Feb. 19 in Nashville and No. 9 Brazil on Feb. 22 in Frisco, Tex. The tournament will feature two matches each day.
“We love the SheBelieves Cup for the world-class competition it brings [and] the format that helps replicate group play at a World Cup,” Coach Vlatko Andonovski said in a statement. “Managing a roster with three games over seven days against teams with three very different styles of play is really good preparation for us as we continue to grow as a team towards next summer.”
The U.S. squad will open its 2023 schedule next month with two away friendlies against No. 24 New Zealand, a trip designed to expose the players to World Cup facilities and the long-distance travel awaiting them.
The USSF is also in the process of scheduling two home friendlies in April and probably two home matches before the team departs for the World Cup, which will take place July 20-Aug. 20 at six venues in Australia and four in New Zealand.
In the group stage, the United States will play Vietnam, 2019 World Cup finalist Netherlands and the winner of a February playoff involving Portugal, Cameroon and Thailand. All three U.S. group matches will take place in New Zealand.
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Andonovski will use the early-year matches to continue evaluating players and steer his team back on track after a troubling end to the 2022 schedule. After winning 13 consecutive matches, the U.S. squad lost to England, Spain and Germany — its first three-game losing streak in 29 years — before coming from behind to defeat the No. 2 Germans, 2-1.
In the FIFA rankings announced Friday, the United States retained a slim lead on points over Germany.
USA remains atop FIFA women’s rankings but just barely ahead of Germany on points.
Full list: https://t.co/UUqCZcCFr3#uswnt #canwnt
Andonovski will name 23 players to the SheBelieves Cup roster. He hopes to have a fuller group after losing numerous players this year to injuries, including Catarina Macario, Sam Mewis, Kelley O’Hara, Tierna Davidson, Abby Dahlkemper and Christen Press. Julie Ertz was out all year while on maternity leave.
The United States has won three consecutive SheBelieves Cup titles and five overall. Last winter, in a weak field, it beat out Iceland, the Czech Republic and New Zealand.