HAMM GOAL IN THIRD MINUTE ENOUGH TO BEAT ICELAND, STELLAR HELGADOTTIR: The U.S. Women's National Team dominated a gritty Iceland team to win 1-0 in the cold and rain Sunday at Blackbaud Stadium in the second domestic match of the year for the U.S. team. The match was played amid a constant drizzle and temperatures that dipped into the mid-40s, but the expected thunderstorms never materialized and the USA rolled over the Icelanders as a third-minute goal from Mia Hamm held up. Hamm opened the scoring just 135 seconds into the game as midfielder Aly Wagner found the world's all-time leading scorer making a diagonal run into the right side of the penalty area. Wagner's perfectly-weighted pass gave the darting Hamm time to gather herself before she slotted her shot into the near post from 10 yards out past Iceland goalkeeper Thora Helgadottir. Helgadottir, who helped shut out the U.S. in a 0-0 draw in 2000, kept the game close and finished the match with 10 saves. It was the first match of the year for veterans Julie Foudy, Kristine Lilly and Mia Hamm, who did not play for the USA in the first four games of 2003.
U.S. MEN SCORE TWICE EARLY, REMAIN UNDEFEATED AGAINST JAMAICA WITH 2-1 WIN: The U.S. Men’s National Team downed Jamaica 2-1 behind two early goals from Carlos Bocanegra and Chris Klein in front of 27,000 fans at National Stadium in Kingston, Jamaica on Feb. 12. The victory improved the USA’s lifetime record against Jamaica to 8-0-5 in 13 all-time meetings, including a 2-0-4 mark in six games in Kingston. Chevrolet Man of the Match Bocanegra finished the match with a goal and an assist. In his first starting performance in the U.S. central midfield, Bobby Convey provided a perfect corner kick that Bocanegra headed home from six yards out in the 11th minute. For Bocanegra, the goal was his second in three games in 2003. The assist was Convey’s second on the year, coming in his sixth appearance for the MNT. Just a few seconds after the opening goal, the Chicago Fire defender was at it again, this time earning his first assist as he sent a long ball to Klein, who was free on the right flank just outside the penalty area. The K.C. Wizards midfielder collected the looping ball and rifled his powerful trademark shot inside the left post. Like Bocanegra, the goal was Klein’s second of the year (and the second of his career) and came in his 10th overall appearance.
U.S. TO FACE TWO WORLD CUP SEMIFINALISTS IN TOUGH GROUP B IN JUNE: The U.S. Men’s National Team learned last week that it was drawn into Group B and will face Brazil, Cameroon and Turkey at the sixth FIFA Confederations Cup from June 18-29 in France. The U.S. opens the tournament against two World Cup semifinalists, facing Turkey on June 19 in St. Etienne at 7 p.m. local time (1 p.m. ET), and then taking on Brazil on June 21 in Lyon at 9 p.m. local time (3 p.m. ET). The U.S. concludes group play against Cameroon on June 23 in Lyon at 9 p.m. local time (3 p.m. ET). The top two teams from each group advance to the semifinals on June 26. The third-place match is scheduled for June 28, and the final takes place on June 29 in Paris. “We are arguably in the toughest group in the Confederations Cup, and it will be a great challenge for the team,” said U.S. head coach Bruce Arena. The U.S. has played in two previous Confederations Cup Tournaments, finishing third at both the inaugural event in 1992 and again in 1999 in Mexico. The field at the Confederations Cup is comprised of the six confederation champions (Cameroon, Colombia, France, Japan, New Zealand and the USA), the World Cup Champions (Brazil) and a guest team (Turkey).
– U.S. MEN’S NATIONAL TEAM UPDATE –
USA-JAPAN MATCH STILL SET FOR MARCH 29 IN SEATTLE: While a number of media outlets have reported in the last few days that the Japanese Football Association is planning on canceling their match in the United States on March 29 in Seattle, the game has not been canceled. "We have every intention of Japan honoring their contract and playing them as scheduled on March 29 in Seattle," said U.S. Soccer spokesperson Jim Moorhouse. The match is scheduled for the new Seahawks Stadium in Seattle on March 29 at 1 p.m. PT (live on ESPN2). The USA and Japan have met only one time at the senior international level, with Japan capturing a 3-1 victory on March 14, 1993 in Tokyo. The clash with Japan will be the first international soccer match hosted by the newly minted Seattle Seahawks Stadium. Tickets ranging in price levels from $20 to $70 are on sale now at all Ticketmaster outlets throughout Washington, Oregon and British Columbia, at the Seahawks Stadium ticket office, by phone (Seattle 206-628-0888; Tacoma 253-627-8497), and online at www.ussoccer.com. Groups of 20 or more can order through U.S. Soccer at 312-528-1290.
CONCACAF APPROVES 2006 FIFA WORLD CUP QUALIFYING FORMAT: The CONCACAF Executive Committee approved and presented a new qualifying format for the 2006 FIFA World Cup for approval by FIFA. The new format will see the U.S. enter into the first phase of qualifying, where previously they had gone straight into the semifinals. With the new format, each team will play up to 20 games to qualify for Germany 2006.
- All CONCACAF member national associations will enter at the first phase, with teams in either one of the 11 three-team or one two-team, home and away, round robin series beginning in Spring 2004.
- The teams would be separated into four pots for the draw, which will be conducted by FIFA at a later date. The three CONCACAF representatives to FIFA World Cup 2002 -- Costa Rica, Mexico and the USA -- will be placed in Pot A; Honduras, Trinidad & Tobago and Jamaica (the teams placed fourth through sixth in the final group during the last qualifying cycle) in Pot B. Meanwhile, Pot C would consist of Barbadoas, Canada, El Salvador, Guatemala, Panama and St. Vincent & the Grenadines, all of whom reached the semifinal round of qualifying to Korea/Japan 2002, while Pot D would be comprised of the remaining 23 national associations entering in the competition.
- Having all teams enter at the first phase guarantees each of a minimum of four qualifying matches (with the exception of those in the two-team group), as opposed to two in previous World Cup cycles. The winners of each initial round robin tie will advance to one of three groups of four teams apiece, once again to be played in a home-and-home round-robin format.
- The teams finishing in first and second in each four-team group at the second phase are qualified to the final phase, which will be a group of six teams to determine the CONCACAF representatives at Germany 2006.
- The top three finishers in the final group are automatically qualified to the finals, with the fourth place team to meet the fifth-placed team from the Asian Football Confederation in a playoff to determine the last berth at Germany 2006.
– U.S. WOMEN’S NATIONAL TEAM UPDATE –
2003 ALGARVE CUP UP NEXT FOR U.S. WOMEN IN MID-MARCH: Next up on the U.S. Women’s National Team’s busy schedule this year is the 2003 Algarve Cup, which will take place from March 14-20 in Portugal. The prestigious tournament, which is in its 10th year, gets its name from the fact that all the matches are played in smaller venues located all over the Algarve region of Portugal on the southern coast of the country. The U.S. was placed in a challenging Group A with Canada, Norway and Sweden, while Group B features China, Finland, France and Denmark. The USA opens against regional rival Canada on March 14 in Olhao (2 p.m. local / 9 a.m. ET), faces Norway on March 16 in Ferreiras (4:15 p.m. local / 11:15 a.m. ET) and then finishes group play on March 18 in Vila Real San Antonio against Sweden (4:15 p.m. local / 11:15 a.m. ET). The winners of both groups A and B will meet for the championship on March 20 in Faro. For the second year, the tournament will feature a Group C with four teams who can finish no higher than 7th if they win their group and then defeat a last place finisher from Group A. Group C features Portugal, Scotland, Wales and Greece.
SOUTH AMERICAN QUALIFYING FOR 2003 WWC SCHEDULED FOR APRIL: Two berths in the Women's World Cup will be up for grabs when Women's World Cup qualifying in the South American region takes place in the month of April. The four-team final round group will be played from April 23-27 in Peru, with Brazil earning an automatic spot in the final four. The three teams that will join Brazil will be the group winners from three three-team groups competing from April 9-13 as follows: Bolivia, Chile, Peru (in Peru); Colombia, Ecuador and Venezuela (in Ecuador); and Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay (in Argentina).
– YOUTH NATIONAL TEAM UPDATE –
UNDER-20s TO COMPETE IN MADEIRA TOURNAMENT IN PORTUGAL IN MARCH: The U.S. Under-20 Men’s National Team will go through a week of preparation in Florida before departing for Portugal, where they will compete in the 7th Annual Madeira International Tournament on Madeira Island. In Madeira, the U.S. will face the host country on March 3, Norway on March 5 and a Madeira Regional Select team on March 7. Last year, the U.S. Under-23 MNT finished second in the four-team tourney.
U-20s DRAWN INTO GROUP F WITH PARAGUAY, GERMANY & KOREA FOR UAE 2003: The U.S. Under-20 Men’s National Team has been drawn into Group F with Paraguay, Germany and Korea for the 2003 FIFA World Youth Championship in United Arab Emirates. The U.S. opens against Paraguay on March 27, then faces Germany on March 30 and concludes group play on April 2 against Korea, with all three of their first round games at Abu Dhabi’s Al-Nahyam Stadium. The top two teams from each group and the top four (of six) third-place teams advance to the Round of 16. The U.S. is one of only five teams to qualify for the last four World Youth Championships, and one of only two teams (Brazil is the other) to finish in the top 15 in each of the last four.
UNDER-17s TO FACE JAMAICA, EL SALVADOR, GUATEMALA FOR QUALIFYING IN MARCH: The U.S. Under-17 Men’s National Team is just two weeks away from the Group A Under-17 Qualifying Tournament at Estadio Mateo Flores in Guatemala City, Guatemala from March 5 -9. The U.S. will open the tournament against Jamaica on March 5 and then face El Salvador on March 7, before ending the tournament against the host nation. The Group B tournament will be take place in Centennial Stadium in Victoria, B.C., from March 16-20, with Mexico, Cuba, Costa Rica and host nation Canada competing for a world championship spot. The first place teams in Group A and B will automatically advance to the 2003 Under-17 World Championship in Finland in August, while the runner-ups from each group will play a home-and-home playoff for CONCACAF's final spot.
– AROUND THE SOCCER WORLD –
2003 LAMAR HUNT U.S. OPEN CUP STRUCTURE SET: U.S. Soccer announced last week that the 2003 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup will kick off in early June and will feature 34 teams from every level of the sport across the United States for one of the oldest soccer cup tournaments in the world. Won last year by the Columbus Crew of MLS, the U.S. Open Cup dates all the way back to 1914. A format revision in 2003 will see two additional teams compete in the tournament (up from 32 in 2002), including all 10 teams from MLS. United Soccer Leagues will provide 20 representatives, including eight from the A-League, six from the USL Pro Select League (formerly D3 Pro League) and six from the Premier Development League. Four representatives of the U.S. Adult Soccer Association (USASA) will also compete for the 90-year-old championship. The first round match-ups will see four PDL squads taking on four teams from the USASA from June 4-8. The opening round winners will join two previously qualified PDL teams, where they will face-off against six Pro Select League squads in the second round on June 25. The six second-round victors will then join eight A-League teams and MLS’s D.C. United and the MetroStars (as the last-place finishers in the MLS 2002 regular season) in third round play. The remaining eight MLS teams will await the third round survivors in the Open Cup’s fourth round (Round of 16). The 2003 Open Cup geographical bracket pairings will be announced on May 28, two days after the conclusion of qualifying. Home teams in each pairing will be determined by competitive bids submitted prior to the U.S. Open Cup pairings in late May. U.S. Soccer will determine the semifinal and final venues as the tournament progresses.
CONCACAF ANNOUNCES DRAW, FORMAT FOR 2004 OLYMPIC QUALIFYING: The CONCACAF Executive Committee approved formats for a number of future competitions, including both the CONCACAF men’s and women’s qualifying tournaments to the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens, Greece. The men’s Olympic qualifying competition will consist of 26 teams that will play head-to-head matches until there are seven remaining. They will then be joined by hosts Mexico, who will receive a bye into the final round. Those eight will be divided into two groups of four, with the first and second place teams in each crossing over in the semifinals and winners of those matches earning the two CONCACAF berths. The U.S., who placed fourth in Sydney in 2000, was drawn into the top quarter of the bracket and received a first round bye to the Round of 16, where they will face the winner of the home-and-home series between St. Kitts & Nevis and Dominica. The women’s tournament will have 17 entrants, with the USA and Canada seeded into the finals along with hosts Mexico. The remaining 14 teams will be divided into four groups of three teams apiece and one group of two teams. The winner of each of the five groups will be through to one of two final round groups, where they will join North Zone representatives Canada, Mexico and the USA. The winner of each final round group will qualify for Athens.
CONCACAF ANNOUNCES 2003 CHAMPIONS CUP PAIRINGS: Results of the draw for the final stage of the 2003 CONCACAF Champions Cup have been announced. The 16 teams will play a two-leg, home-and-home series on March 12 and 26, with the draw structured so that teams from the same country avoid playing each other for as long as possible. As in 2002, the draw consisted of three pots, one containing the four qualifiers from MLS of the USA, one containing the four teams from the FMF Primera Division in Mexico, and one containing the eight teams which survived zonal qualifying in Central America (UNCAF) and the Caribbean (CFU). The U.S. teams were drawn against a team from the CFU / UNCAF pot, while the teams from the Mexican pot were drawn against a team from the pot containing the zonal qualifiers.
GUATEMALA TO HOST CONCACAF FUTSAL QUALIFIERS FOR 2004 WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP: CONCACAF confirmed last week that Guatemala will host the qualifying competition for the 2004 FIFA Futsal (Five-A-Side) World Championship. The tournament, which must be played by June 30, 2004, will produce two CONCACAF berths to the 16-team FIFA World Championship that is set for late 2004 at a site to be determined. The last time the qualifying event was held in Guatemala, the U.S. captured the gold medal and a berth to the 1996 World Championship in Spain. The USA is the only CONCACAF team to earn two top-three finishes at a FIFA futsal competition, earning a bronze medal in Holland 1989 and then obtaining the silver in Hong Kong 1992.
MISL SELECTS COACHES FOR 2003 WEST, EAST ALL-STAR TEAMS: The Major Indoor Soccer League (MISL) announced the respective coaches for the Western and Eastern Conference Teams for the 2003 MISL All-Star Game at the Bradley Center in Milwaukee, Wisc., on March 9. Milwaukee Wave/U.S. Futsal National Team Head Coach Keith Tozer will lead the Western squad, while the Cleveland Force head coach Andy Schmetzer will be at helm for the East. As the League’s showcase event, the 2003 MISL All-Star Weekend will feature three days of professional indoor soccer celebration, including a Commissioner’s Dinner, the MISL Youth and All-Star Skills Competitions and a Legends' Game featuring former indoor soccer greats.
U.S. SOCCER SPOTLIGHT
PEAK PERFORMER: In just three games in 2003, U.S. Men’s National Team defender Carlos Bocanegra has emerged as one of the top young standouts on the new-look U.S. squad. After scoring his first goal at the full National Team level in the 4-0 rout of Canada on Jan. 18, he provided a goal and the game-winning assist in the 2-1 win over Jamaica last week. Despite being a defender, the Chicago Fire stud has a total of five points in just 10 career caps.
MARQUEE MATCH-UP: The two top teams in Group D meet tomorrow (Feb. 19) in the UEFA Champions League, when Manchester United and Juventus battle at Old Trafford. The Italian giants have taken four points from their first two games, and Man U took a perfect six points from their first two matches to go the top of the table. The teams are also excelling in their domestic leagues, as Juventus moved to the top this weekend, and the Red Devils remain in second place.
SOCCER SHOCKER: Despite putting 27 shots toward goal, the U.S. Women’s National Team could only break through the Iceland bunker defense once to post a 1-0 win on Sunday. When Aly Wagner and Mia Hamm combined almost effortlessly in the 3rd minute, it looked like as if the goals were going to pour down on Iceland like the rain that blanketed the entire match. But just like in their last meeting, Team USA was thwarted by an exceptional performance from Thora Helgadottir, who made 10 great saves in difficult conditions to keep the match a little too close for comfort.
"I've played them several times before so I know that the U.S. game is a little bit different than the European game. Fortunately, I've been able to adjust to that over time. It's just really fun to play against Mia Hamm and the rest of the gang."
- Iceland WNT goalkeeper and Duke junior Thora Helgadottir, on the challenge of facing the formidable U.S. attack