Following a week of training in Frisco, Texas, and a dramatic 2-1 victory against New Zealand on Feb. 11 in front of a sold-out crowd at FC Dallas Stadium, U.S. Women's National Team head coach Pia Sundhage has named a 23-player preliminary roster that will travel to the 2012 Algarve Cup in Portugal.
This year's tournament is being staged from Feb. 29-March 7 and the U.S. team will depart for Europe on Feb. 20. Sundhage will name 21 players to the tournament roster prior to the start of the matches. All the players Sundhage is bringing to Portugal trained with the USA last week in Texas.
The majority of the games will be played at small venues across the Algarve region on the southern coast of the country, with several matches at the 30,000-seat Estadio Algarve. The placement matches will take place on March 7. Fans can follow the USA's intense schedule of four games in eight days online via ussoccer.com's MatchTracker, on Twitter @ussoccer_wnt and watch highlights on ussoccer.com. For the entire tournament schedule, please go to the Algarve Cup tournament page on ussoccer.com.
The U.S. team, which has been placed into Group B at the annual tournament, will open play on Feb. 29 against Denmark in Lagos. The USA will face Norway on March 2, again in Lagos, and will finish the first round on March 5 against Japan at Estadio Algarve in Faro in what will be the first meeting between the teams since the 2011 FIFA Women's World Cup Final. Group A features Germany, Sweden, China and Iceland. Group C features host Portugal, the Republic of Ireland, Wales and Hungary.
Since the expansion to 12 teams in 2002, the Algarve Cup format has been as follows: The teams in Group A and B will compete for the title, as the group winners will play on Wednesday, March 7, in the championship game. The two second-place finishers in Groups A and B will play for third place, while the third-place finishers will play for fifth. The Group C teams will be competing for a chance to play for spots 7-12 as the winner of Group C will play the best fourth-place team from Groups A or B for seventh place. The second-place team in Group C will play the worst fourth place team from Groups A or B for ninth place, and the third- and fourth-place finishers in Group C will play each other for 11th place.
This will be the 17th trip to the Algarve Cup for the U.S. Women, who have won the tournament eight times, including three straight championships from 2003-05 at what has become one of the world's most competitive international women's events. Last year, the USA defeated surprise finalist Iceland 4-2 in the championship game after falling behind 2-1 in the first half.
The USA scored 12 goals at last year's tournament, tied for most ever in an Algarve Cup for the Americans, which included eight goals in the last two matches, a 4-0 win against Finland and the championship game victory against Iceland. Eight different players scored for the USA, including three from Alex Morgan, who won the Top Scorer award (several other players scored three goals, but she played the least minutes) as she began to make what has turned out to be a major impact on the international scene.
U.S. forward Abby Wambach comes into the tournament with 131 career goals, 15 of which have been scored at the Algarve Cup (in seven tournaments), the most of any player in U.S. history. The U.S. roster is of course stocked with veterans, many of whom have attended multiple Algarve Cup tournaments. Twenty of the 23 players on the roster attended last year's tournament. Nineteen of the players on the Algarve Cup roster were on the USA's 2011 FIFA Women's World Cup Team.
U.S. captain Christie Rampone, who earned her 250th career cap against New Zealand on Feb. 11, will lead the U.S. team that features nine defenders on the roster as Sundhage and her staff continues to look for the best combination to populate the back four. Rampone will be playing in her 11th Algarve Cup.
Also on the roster are several former tournament MVPs in Shannon Boxx (the 2004 and 2006 Algarve Cup MVP) and Carli Lloyd, who scored three goals in last year's tournament and was the MVP of the 2007 Algarve Cup after scoring in all four games that year. Heather O'Reilly will be playing in her 10th Algarve Cup and Boxx in her ninth. U.S. goalkeeper Hope Solo will be playing in her ninth Algarve Cup after missing last year's tournament while recovering from shoulder surgery.
U.S. Women's National Team Roster by Position -
GOALKEEPERS (3): Nicole Barnhart, Ashlyn Harris, Hope Solo
DEFENDERS (9): Rachel Buehler, Stephanie Cox, Whitney Engen, Meghan Klingenberg, Amy LePeilbet, Heather Mitts, Kelley O'Hara, Christie Rampone, Becky Sauerbrunn
MIDFIELDERS (7): Shannon Boxx, Tobin Heath, Lori Lindsey, Carli Lloyd, Heather O'Reilly, Megan Rapinoe, Amy Rodriguez
FORWARDS (4): Lauren Cheney, Sydney Leroux, Alex Morgan, Abby Wambach