Mark your calendars: Coming in March

Events this month: 

Thursday, March 3 – Wednesday, March 9

This could be interesting

The United States will host the first SheBelieves Cup, featuring four of the five top-ranked teams in the world: Team USA (No. 1), Germany (2),  France (3) and England (5).

SheBelieves

This is a level of competition that the Americans haven’t seen since last summer’s World Cup.  It’s a level of competition they’ll run into as they go for their fifth Olympic gold medal this summer in Rio de Janeiro.

“When I took this job,” U.S. coach Jill Ellis said, “one of my main objectives was to play the best teams in the world during our preparation periods, and you can’t ask for better matches.”

She added: “To get the chance to play these great teams on home soil is a treat for our fans and extremely valuable in the further evolution of our team. These are the kinds of games where you get tested all over the field and can really evaluate players.”

Games will be played in Nashville, Tampa, and Boca Raton.  (There’s a full schedule here.)

The tournament won’t have a title game. Each team will play the other three teams one time. Three points will be awarded for each win, one for a draw.  The champion will be the team with the most points.

The tie-breakers, in order: overall goal differential; total goals scored; head-to-head results; and FIFA rankings.

The three U.S. games will be broadcast on Fox Sports 1 or shown on the Web at ESPN3.

 

soccerball

 

Wednesday, March 2 – Wednesday, March 9

Alex Morgan celebrates with Lauren Holiday and Ali Krieger after scoring the first U.S. goal against Switzerland on March 6, 2015, at the Estadio Municipal in Vila Real de Santo Antonio, Portugal, in the second round of group play in the Algarve Cup. The United States won 3-0. (Cristina Quicler/AFP/Getty Images)

Alex Morgan,  Lauren Holiday, and Ali Krieger in a game against Switzerland in the 2015 Algarve Cup. Someone else will celebrate this year.  (Cristina Quicler/AFP/Getty Images)

Algarve won’t be the same without Team USA 

Because of the SheBelieves Cup, the United States won’t take part in the 2016 Algarve Cup in Portugal.

The Americans have been a fixture at Algarve, playing in 20 of the 22 annual editions of the tournament since its creation in 1994.  They’ve been at every one since 1998.

And they’ve dominated, winning the Algarve Cup 10 times. (Norway is next, with four titles.)

With Team USA taking a pass this time, the field of eight is:

• Belgium
• Brazil
• Denmark
• Iceland
• Canada
• New Zealand
• Portugal
• Russia

There are some good teams in that group. Brazil is No. 7 in the world, Canada is No. 11, Denmark No. 15, New Zealand 16, Iceland 19.

But playing Iceland on the sunny southern coast of Portugal is nothing like going  against England, France and Germany in the span of a week.

algarve map

 

 

soccerball

 

Wednesday, March 9

Last call for Rio

Two Olympic qualifying tournaments conclude, one in Japan, the other in 2016-Rio-Olympic-Logo-7Europe. They will determine who gets the last three invitations to the Rio Games.

Two teams will move on from the Asian Football Confederation qualifier in Japan.

One of these four will grab the last European seat: the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, or Switzerland.

They will join the nine teams that are already in:

• The United States
• Brazil
• Canada
• Colombia
• France
• Germany
• New Zealand
• South Africa
• Zimbabwe

 

soccerball

 

Friday, March 25

Still No. 1?

The new world rankings come out. Whether America remains atop the heap may well depend on the SheBelieves Cup.

 

soccerball

Birthdays

March 12  – Amy LePielbet  turns 34
March 17  – Mia Hamm (photo) turns 44
March 19  – Lori Lindsey turns 36

(Twitter)

 

 

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