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U.S. Under-17 WNT Arrive in New Zealand for World Cup

U.S. U-17 WOMEN ARRIVE IN NEW ZEALAND TO PREP FOR HISTORIC WOMEN’S WORLD CUP: The U.S. Under-17 Women’s National Team arrived in New Zealand on the morning of Oct. 25, landing in Auckland after a smooth 12 hour and 45 minute flight from Los Angeles. The USA’s touch down in New Zealand marks just the second trip to this island nation by a U.S. Women’s National Team, the first coming when the U-17s visited last January for the Future Stars Tournament, a test-run for the 2008 FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup that will be contested from Oct. 28-Nov. 16. The U.S. team took a 90-minute bus ride south from Auckland to Hamilton where the squad will set up base for its first two group matches.

GROUP C SCHEDULE: The USA was drawn into Group C at the U-17 Women’s World Cup and will face three different styles of play in Japan, Paraguay and France. This current group of U-17 players have never faced any of their first round opponents but surely the Japanese, who lost to North Korea in the championship game of their qualifying tournament, first-time FIFA women’s world championship participant Paraguay and rising youth women’s power France will all present unique tests for the young Americans. Each team will play three group matches in seven days. The USA will have the advantage of a short bus ride to Auckland for its final group game, while the other two Group C teams will fly down to Christchurch on the South Island for their third match.

2008 U-17 Women’s World Cup Group C Schedule
Date            Match                              Venue                                                       Local Time / ET                 
Oct. 30        Japan vs. USA               Waikato Stadium (Hamilton)               Noon / 7p.m.
Oct. 30        France vs. Paraguay    Waikato Stadium (Hamilton)               3 p.m. / 10 p.m.
Nov. 2        Paraguay vs. USA          Waikato Stadium (Hamilton)               1 p.m. / 8 p.m.
Nov. 2        Japan vs. France           Waikato Stadium (Hamilton)               4 p.m. / 11 p.m.
Nov. 5        Paraguay vs. Japan      QEII Park (Christchurch)                       4 p.m. / 10 p.m.
Nov. 5        USA vs. France              North Harbour Stadium (Auckland)    4 p.m. / 10 p.m.
U17 WNT ON MT: Fans can follow all the U.S. U-17 matches as they happen live on’s MatchTracker. With the time difference in New Zealand, the matches for the most part take place during some prime viewing time, early evening on the East Coast, which means you might have to DVR Ugly Betty, Extreme Home Makeover or Criminal Minds, but it’ll be worth it.

LIVING HISTORY: The 21 players on the U.S. Under-17 Women’s National Team roster are making history as the first-ever Americans to compete in a U-17 Women’s World Cup. FIFA, the world governing body of soccer, has held two U-19 Women’s World Cup and one U-20 Women’s World Cup, but this tournament will mark the first world championship for this age group, tagging these young players as pioneers of sorts before any has hit her 18th birthday. In 1991, another group of young U.S. players made history by winning the first-ever FIFA Women’s World Cup. Some symbolism that should not be overlooked: That historic triumph was 17 years ago and 16 players on the U.S. roster were born in 1991. Fourteen of those were born less than a year earlier when U.S. captain April Heinrichs lifted the World Cup trophy after the U.S. defeated Norway in the Women’s World Cup Final on Nov. 30, 1991. Three days later, U.S. U-17 midfielder Kate Bennett was born. Three days after that, U.S. defender Alexis Harris was born. Hopefully, none of this makes U.S. assistant coach Amy Griffin (who was on that 1991 Women’s World Cup squad) feel old. Stay tuned to later in the tournament to read more from Griffin (who won the World Cup title as Amy Allmann) about her first World Cup experience.

USA WILL WATCH BEFORE IT PLAYS: By the time the USA kicks off its first match on Oct. 30 against Japan, the players will be more than ready to play as four matches will have already been completed. The tournament kicks off with a one-off Group A contest between host New Zealand and Canada on Oct. 28 and continues with three more games on Oct. 29, including the other game in Group A (Denmark vs. Colombia) and the first matches in Group B (Costa Rica vs. Germany and North Korea vs. Ghana). You may recall that Germany kicked off the 2002 FIFA Men’s World Cup against Costa Rica, a 4-2 German win. The U-17 women will surely be looking to at least equal the goal output from the historic 2002 FIFA World Cup opener.

LAST TIME IN NZ: The U.S. U-17s started 2008 where it hopes to end it – Auckland, New Zealand – the venue for the USA’s first three games of the year as well as the 2008 FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup championship game. Last January at the Future Stars Tournament, the USA defeated Australia (6-0), New Zealand (5-0) and Germany (3-2) to win the tournament and kick-start a year in which the team has compiled a 16-1-1 overall record. The Mewis sisters – Kristie and Samantha – led the team in that tournament, combining to score seven of the USA’s 14 goals. Kristie Mewis scored twice in the win over Germany. Courtney Verloo scored twice in the tournament as did Tani Costa, who will miss the U-17 World Cup due to injury.

COSTA OUT, BROCK IN: The U.S. team suffered a blow even before it got onto the plane for New Zealand as forward Tani Costa was ruled out of the tournament about 36 hours before the USA departed due to due an ankle injury. The Hawaiian hurt her right ankle during the most recent training camp and the injury was deemed serious enough to preclude her from World Cup action. Costa has been a regular player in the U.S. pool this year. She has scored five goals in five international matches during 2008, including two goals in the championship game of CONCACAF Qualifying last July. Costa will be replaced by Hayley Brock, a 5-foot-9 forward out of Acton, Mass. The speedy Brock is uncapped at the U-17 level.

U.S. Under-17 Women’s National Team
2008 FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup Roster
GOALKEEPERS (3): Alexa Gaul (Naperville, Ill.), Jennifer Pettigrew (Kearney, N.J.), Taylor Vancil (South Elgin, Ill.)
DEFENDERS (6): Amber Brooks (New Hope, Pa.), Cloee Colohan (West Point, Utah), Crystal Dunn (Rockville Center, N.Y.), Alexis Harris (Plano, Texas), Rachel Quon  (Lake Forrest, Ill.), Julia Roberts (Fredrick, Md.)
MIDFIELDERS (8): Kate Bennett (Clyde Hill, Wash.), Morgan Brian (St. Simons Island, Ga.), Elizabeth Eddy (Costa Mesa, Calif.), Olivia Klei (Pleasanton, Calif.), Mandy Laddish (Lee’s Summit, Mo.), Kristie Mewis (Hanson, Mass.), Samantha Mewis (Hanson, Mass.), Erika Tymrak (Bradenton, Fla.)
FORWARDS (4): Hayley Brock (Acton, Mass.), Vicki DiMartino (Massapequa, N.Y.), Samantha Johnson (Palmdale, Calif.), Courtney Verloo (Tualatin, Ore.)

STATE OF THE GAME: Fourteen states placed players on the 2008 U.S. Under-17 Women’s World Cup Team and not surprisingly, California was tied for most at three. But give Illinois and Massachusetts credit for also having three players on the roster. Combine New York and New Jersey and that’s three more players, but with the West (Utah, Oregon and Washington), the South (Texas, Florida and Georgia), the Midwest (Missouri) and the East (Maryland and Pennsylvania), the young female soccer talent is clearly coming from all across the United States.

HELLO HAMILTON: The U.S. U-17s will spend 11 days in Hamilton, the seventh largest city in New Zealand with a population of around 131,000 people. While anywhere in New Zealand is pretty much near a coast, Hamilton is New Zealand’s largest inland city. Still, there is plenty of water. The country’s longest river – the Waikato – flows 10 miles through the center of the city including right past the USA’s hotel, which is also hosting the other three teams in Group C.

SISTER ACT: The Mewis sisters – Kristie (17) and Samantha (16) – are the first-ever siblings to represent the U.S. Women’s National Team at a world championship event at any level. Twins Ronnie and Lorrie Fair were the first sisters to play in the same game for the U.S. women when both saw action against England on May 9, 1997, in San Jose, Calif. Lorrie started and Ronnie came off the bench. They would play one more match together, that coming two days later against England in Portland, Ore. Ronnie earned three WNT caps during her career, Lorrie earned 120, including appearances in the 1999 Women’s World Cup (where she was the youngest player on the roster) and the 2000 Olympics.

Stat of Note
Sixteen different players have scored for the U.S. U-17s in official matches this year. Thirteen of them are on the Women’s World Cup squad, not including Tani Costa, who was initially named to the team before bowing out with an ankle injury.