Thorns FC International Notebook: Buehler, Morgan and Heath set for Algarve Cup with U.S. WNT
Understandably, the annual Algarve Cup doesn’t often garner the same kind of mainstream recognition as the other major tournaments in women’s soccer – the FIFA Women’s World Cup and the Olympics – but the high level of competition and quality opposition makes the Portugal-based invitational tournament one of more prestigious in the women’s soccer landscape.
Celebrating its 20th anniversary this year, the Algarve Cup takes its name from the Portuguese region in which the competition takes place – at the southern tip of the country. Since the tournament’s rather humble beginnings in 1994, the U.S. Women’s National Team has captured the title a tournament-high eight times with the last championship coming in 2011. Following the USA’s lead are Norway (4 titles) and Sweden (3) while China PR and Germany have each won twice.
Nations typically bring their elite squads to the tournament, while also viewing it as an opportunity to let any promising uncapped players experience meaningful competition. This year, U.S. WNT head coach Tom Sermanni called uncapped goalkeeper Ashlyn Harris and forward Lindsey Horan into the team along with 2012 NCAA Hermann Trophy winner defender Crystal Dunn and FC Kansas City midfielder Kristie Mewis, both of whom have one international cap.
Representing Thorns FC are defender Rachel Buehler, who made her first appearance for the United States at the 2008 Algarve Cup and is set to earn her 100th cap during this year’s tournament, forward Alex Morgan and midfielder Tobin Heath.
This year’s round robin-style tournament includes 12 teams separated into three groups of four with the United States in Group B accompanied by Sweden, China PR and Iceland. Group A features 2012 champion Germany, 2012 runner-up Japan, Denmark and Norway while Group C includes Portugal, Wales, Hungary and Mexico – whose roster features Thorns FC defender Marlene Sandoval.
The games are primarily played at smaller stadiums throughout the southern region of Portugal and this year, for the first time ever, the U.S. WNT matches will be broadcast live on pay-per-view via iN Demand, Avail-TVN, DirecTV and DISH Network and on tape delay on FOX Soccer.
First kick is set for tomorrow morning, so here’s a look at the U.S. Women’s National Team and Mexico’s National Team schedule at the 2013 Algarve Cup in Portugal. Group play lasts from March 6-11 and all the placement matches, including the championship, are scheduled for March 13.
Wednesday, March 6
USA vs. Iceland, 6 a.m. (PT); Albufeira, Portugal
Mexico vs. Hungary, 7 a.m. (PT); Ferreiras, Portugal
Friday, March 8
USA vs. China PR, 6 a.m. (PT); Albufeira, Portugal
Mexico vs. Wales, 10 a.m. (PT); António, Portugal
Monday, March 11
USA vs. Sweden, 8 a.m. (PT); Lagos, Portugal
Mexico vs. Portugal, 7:30 a.m. (PT); Algarve, Portugal
Since the tournament expanded to 12 teams 12 years ago, the format has been set like so: The winners of Group A and Group B will compete for the Algarve Cup championship, while the two second-place finishers in Group A and B will play for third place and the third-place finishers in each group will play for fifth. The Group C teams will be competing for a chance to play for spots seven through 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. There are provisions in the regulations this year for an adjustment to the format for placement games if the teams that finished third in both groups are playing each other in the group phase of this summer’s European championships.
Thorns FC goalkeeper Karina LeBlanc, forward Christine Sinclair with Canada for the Cyprus Cup
The Canada Women’s National Team, which features Thorns FC goalkeeper Karina LeBlanc and high-scoring forward Christine Sinclair, is set to kick off the 2013 Cyprus Cup on Wednesday. Canada squares off against Switzerland at 4:30 a.m. (Pacific) in Larnaca, Cyprus.
The 12-team tournament is similarly formatted to the Algarve Cup, where Group A and Group B are considered the strongest and the winners of the first two groups will compete for the championship. This is the sixth edition of the competition, as Canada leads the way with three titles (2008, 2010, 2011) while France (2012) and England (2009) each have won once.
Canada is situated in Group B with Finland, Switzerland and The Netherlands while Group A houses England, Italy, New Zealand and Scotland. Group C is made up of South Africa, South Korea, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.
Here’s a look at Canada’s schedule:
Wednesday, March 6
Canada vs. Switzerland, 4:30 a.m. (PT); Larnaca, Cyprus
Friday, March 8
Canada vs. Finland, 7:30 a.m. (PT); Nicosia, Cyprus
Monday, March 11
Canada vs. The Netherlands, 7:30 a.m. (PT); Nicosia, Cyprus