CARY, N.C. (Friday, October 4, 2002) - Coming off a solid 4-0 win over Australia on Wednesday, only Italy stands in the way of an 8th tournament championship for the U.S. Women's National Team. The USA's final match of the tournament on Sunday, Oct. 6, against Italy at SAS Park in Cary, N.C. will be broadcast live on ESPN2 at 2 p.m. ET. A win or a tie against Italy will clinch the tournament title for the Americans, even before Italy and Australia square off on Oct. 9 in the last game of the competition. None of the other three countries can earn more than six points, meaning one point from a tie would be enough to seal the tournament, but the USA is looking for a win to keep its perfect 23-0-0 record in Nike U.S. Women's Cups alive. The U.S. has a storied history with Italy, including the U.S. Women's National Team's first ever match, a 1-0 loss on August 18, 1985. The U.S. holds a narrow 5-4-0 edge in nine all-time meetings, having lost the first three times the two teams met from 1985-1988. The U.S. dominated all five match-ups in the 1990s and 2000, outscoring the Europeans 15-1, but Italy handed the U.S. a 1-0 loss in their last meeting in March 2001 in Reiti, Italy, as the USA fielded a team of mostly Under-21 players. Fans can also follow Sunday's game on ussoccer.com's MatchTracker, presented by Philips Electronics.
FOCUS ON ITALY: Italy is not at its highest point in their women's soccer history, having failed to qualify for the 2003 Women's World Cup. The Italians also had a disappointing first round exit from the 1999 Women's World Cup. Italy finished third in Group 3 in European Qualifying behind Russia and Iceland, losing 2-1 and 3-1 to Russia, but the failure to defeat Iceland (a loss and a tie) killed the Italians chance of getting to China. Still, Italy has several very talented players, including a dangerous duo of forwards in Patrizia "The Scorpion" Panico and Rita Guarino, who scored her country's lone goal against Russia on Wednesday. Both are prolific scorers in their domestic league and for the national team. Italy always has scrappy and tough defenders, and fighting spirit, representative of their coach, Carolina Morace, a legend of the women's game and somewhat of a celebrity in Italy, not only for her soccer prowess, but for her work as a TV soccer commentator. Morace, who retired in 1997, is the third all-time leading scorer in world history with 105 goals. She played in the 1997 U.S. Women's Cup for Italy, as her team went 2-1, defeating Australia (3-0) and Canada (2-1), before falling 2-0 to the USA in what was the championship game as Cindy Parlow and Mia Hamm tallied. It was Italy's only appearance in the Nike U.S. Women's Cup prior to this year.
CONCACAF QUALIFYING NEXT: The U.S. women's will have to do something in 2002 that they have not had to do since 1994 -- qualify for a Women's World Cup. As the host of the 1999 event, the USA got an automatic berth. But even as the reigning Women's World Cup champions, the United States will still have to qualify as there is no automatic berth given by FIFA to defending world champions. The second edition of the CONCACAF Women's Gold Cup, which will be held from Oct. 27-Nov. 9, will serve as the Confederation's qualifying competition for 2003 FIFA Women's World Cup. With the WWC finals to be played in five Chinese cities from September 28 to October 16, 2003, the development of the WUSA as the preeminent women's league in the world, and the inaugural FIFA Women's U-19 World Championship in Canada that ended with an historic U.S. victory, the CONCACAF Executive Committee felt it was best to hold just one tournament instead of the Gold Cup AND a CONCACAF Qualifying Tournament. CONCACAF has two guaranteed spots in the 2003 WWC, with the third-place finisher in the qualifying competition playing the third-place team from the Asian Football Confederation in a home-and-home series for the final spot. The USA, Canada and Mexico are favored to take the top three spots in the region.
GOLD CUP OVERVIEW: The 2002 CONCACAF Women's Gold Cup Tournament will be held from Oct. 27-Nov. 9 at four venues on the west coast of the United States and Canada with the championship match at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif. on Saturday, Nov. 9. The eight-team tournament, which features two groups of four teams each, will take place at Titan Stadium in Fullerton, Calif., at Centennial Stadium in Victoria, Canada and at Safeco Field in Seattle, Wash., as well as at the world-famous Rose Bowl, site of the 1984 Olympic Final, the 1994 World Cup Final and the 1999 Women's World Cup Final. All of the group matches will be played as doubleheaders.
U.S. WOMEN'S WORLD CUP QUALIFYING SCHEDULE: The U.S. will open the tournament on Sunday, Oct. 27, against Mexico at the Rose Bowl, before taking on T&T on Tuesday, Oct. 29 at Titan Stadium in Fullerton, Calif. The USA's third group match will be played on Saturday, Nov. 2, at Safeco Field in Seattle against Panama. Should the U.S. qualify for the semifinals, the team will stay in Seattle, as both semifinals will be played as a doubleheader at Safeco Field on Wednesday, Nov. 6. Those semifinal matches will decide the two automatic CONCACAF berths at the 2003 Women's World Cup, which is being played in China from Sept. 24 to Oct. 11, 2003.
ROSE BOWL REVISTED: The Women's Gold Cup championship and third-place games will be played on Saturday, Nov. 9 at the world famous Rose Bowl, which has previously hosted the 1984 Olympic Soccer Final, the 1994 World Cup Final and the 1999 Women's World Cup Final. Should the Americans advance to the championship game, it will be the first appearance at the Rose Bowl for the U.S. women since the historic 1999 Women's World Cup Final on July 10, 1999. The U.S. Women's National Team has not played a World Cup qualifying match in almost eight years, last experiencing qualifying action on August 21, 1994, in a 6-0 victory over Canada in Montreal to qualify for the 1995 Women's World Cup in Sweden. All of the Gold Cup tournament matches are being played as doubleheaders and will be televised live on Fox Sports World and Fox Sports World Espanol.
CANADA HEADS GROUP 2: The matches in Canada's group at Centennial Stadium in Victoria, B.C., site of the first four wins for the U.S. U-19s in the 2002 FIFA U-19 World Championship, will be played on Oct. 30, Nov. 1 and Nov. 3. Group 2 will feature Canada, Costa Rica, Jamaica and Haiti. All three of the North Zone participants - the USA, Canada and Mexico - were given berths directly into the final competition.