The U.S. Under-20 Women’s National Team will travel to Papua New Guinea from May 21-June 1 for a training camp and matches that will serve as a valuable test run for the 2016 Women’s World Cup being held in PNG from Nov. 13-Dec. 3.
The USA will play two matches during the trip, facing the Japan U-20 WNT on May 27 and the PNG U-20 WNT on May 30. Both matches will be in the capital of Port Moresby, where all 32 matches of the World Cup will be staged over four venues. This will be the eighth FIFA Women’s World Cup for this age level, with the first two being held as U-19 events.
“The trip to PNG will be a fantastic opportunity for our group to continue to learn how to acclimate, adapt and adjust to a new environment and culture prior to our arrival in November for the World Cup,” said U.S. head coach Michelle French. “We were fortunate enough to schedule a similar trip prior to World Cup qualifying in Honduras and it proved extremely valuable in our preparations for that tournament.”
French will bring 21 players to PNG, an island of more than seven million inhabitants located north of Australia. Of those players, 17 are in college with five youth club players, which includes forward Ashley Sanchez, who helped both the U.S. U-20 WNT and the U.S. U-17 WNT qualify for their respective FIFA World Cups this year. She also experienced a few days of training with the full Women’s National Team in April.
One of those younger players, Savannah Demelo of Beach FC has the most U-20 caps of anyone on the roster with 14. North Carolina’s Jessie Scarpa (five goals in nine caps) and Texas A&M’s Ally Watt (four goals in five caps) are the team’s current leading scorers. Sanchez has three goals in eight caps, all scored during CONCACAF U-20 qualifying tournament where she also picked up five assists. Watt scored game-winners against the England and Norway U-23s during a March event in Spain. The roster features five players from reigning NCAA champion Penn State.
The USA earned its berth to the 2016 FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup by winning its semifinal match of the CONCACAF qualifying tournament against host Honduras last December and then defeated Canada for the regional title, 1-0.
The 16-team field for the tournament is strong, featuring Canada, Mexico, the USA, Papua New Guinea, New Zealand, Japan, Korea DPR, Korea Republic, Ghana, Nigeria, Brazil, Venezuela, France, Germany, Spain, and Sweden.
The 2016 FIFA U-20 Women's World Cup features the 16 nations divided into four groups of four teams. The top two finishers in each group will advance to the quarterfinal stage to be held on Thursday, Nov. 24 and Friday, Nov. 25. The winners of those games will advance to the tournament semifinals on Tuesday, Nov. 29. The championship and third-place matches are set for Saturday, Dec. 3.
The Final Draw for the tournament was conducted on March 17 and the USA will face France, New Zealand and Ghana in Group C. The U.S. opens the tournament on Monday, Nov. 14 against France at 4 p.m. local time, faces New Zealand on Thursday, Nov. 17 at 7 p.m. and finishes the group against Ghana on Monday, Nov. 21 at 4 p.m.
U.S. U-20 WNT Roster by Position:
GOALKEEPERS (3): Emily Boyd (California; Seattle, Wash.), Rose Chandler (Penn State; Atlanta, Ga.), Casey Murphy (Rutgers; Bridgewater, N.J.)
DEFENDERS (7): Madeline Elliston (Penn State; Omaha, Neb.), Emily Fox (FC Virginia; Ashburn, Va.), Sabrina Flores (Notre Dame; Livingston, N.J.), Ellie Jean (Penn State; Coventry, Conn.), Natalie Jacobs (Notre Dame; Coto de Caza, Calif.), Taylor Otto (CASL; Apex, N.C.), Kaleigh Riehl (Penn State; Fairfax Station, Va.)
MIDFIELDERS (7): Marley Canales (San Diego Surf; San Diego, Calif.), Katie Cousins (Tennessee; Forest, Va.), Savannah DeMelo (Beach FC; Bellflower, Calif.), Kelcie Hedge (Washington; Post Falls, Idaho), Emily Ogle (Penn State; Strongsville, Ohio), Courtney Petersen (Virginia; Canton, Mich.), Parker Roberts (Kansas; Leawood, Kansas)
FORWARDS (4): Taylor Racioppi (Duke; Ocean Township, N.J.), Ashley Sanchez (SoCal Blues; Monrovia, Calif.), Jessie Scarpa (North Carolina; Lakeland, Fla.), Ally Watt (Texas A&M; Colorado Springs, Colo.)