On Sunday, the U20 WNT officially opened up its pre-U20 Women’s World Cup training camp in the sweltering Queensland beach town of Cairns, Australia.
The spot was essentially chosen out of convenience. It’s a mere 90-minute plane ride north to Port Moresby, the capital of Papua New Guinea and the home of the tournament. The similar steamy Coral Sea weather made the transition natural, and they’ll spend the next week acclimatizing before the Nov. 14 group opener against France.
This is a major tournament for the U.S., not simply because it’s a World Cup but because of the circumstances surrounding it. The cycle - coach Michelle French’s second at the helm - began with a 4-0 loss to Bayern Munich and was punctuated by 3-0 and 5-0 blowout losses to Japan in between long winning streaks. Considering the U.S.'s 2014 U20 Women's World Cup was less than satisfactory, expectations are somewhat more mixed this time around.
The run-up to the tournament has been fraught with ups and downs as well. The U.S. went winless at the NTC Invitational before a pair of blowout wins against Venezuela in October sent them off across the ocean to Australia.
What to expect? Who knows?
Here’s a look at three things to watch this tournament as the U.S. embarks next week.