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U.S. Women to Face Brazil in First Domestic Match of 2004 on April 24 in Birmingham

CHICAGO (Friday, February 13, 2004) – The U.S. Women's National Team will play its first domestic match of 2004 against Brazil on Saturday, April 24, at Legion Field in Birmingham, Alabama.  The game kicks off at 12 Noon CT and will be broadcast live on ESPN2 as U.S. fans will get their first look at the core of players who will participate in the 2004 Olympics, should the USA qualify in Costa Rica later this month.  The U.S. team leaves today to participate in the CONCACAF Women’s Olympic Qualifying Tournament from February 25-March 5 in San Jose and Heredia, Costa Rica.

Advance tickets ranging in price levels from $18 to $50 go on sale starting today at 10 a.m. CT all Ticketmaster outlets throughout Alabama (including Publix, Coconuts and Wherehouse Music), by phone at 1-800-277-1700, and on-line at  Groups of 20 or more can order through the Alabama Sports Foundation at 205-967-4745 [Please click here for complete ticket information].

The match at the historic stadium will be the second trip in as many years to Birmingham, home of U.S. defender Cat Reddick.  The USA trounced England, 6-0, at a steamy, hot Legion Field in May of 2003 as Memphis, Tennessee, product Cindy Parlow scored four times.  Reddick played 90 minutes in that match in her first appearance for the national team in the city where she was a high-school All-American at Briarwood Christian School and two-time Alabama Girl’s Soccer Player of the Year.

Now, Reddick will play in Birmingham after starring in the 2003 Women’s World Cup and winning the MAC Hermann Award for 2003, the equivalent of the Heisman Trophy for college soccer, as a senior last fall at University of North Carolina, where she returned after the Women’s World Cup to lead the Tar Heels to a 27-0-0 record and the NCAA title.
“Anytime I get to play in Alabama, it’s super special,” said Reddick, who is the only player raised in Alabama to earn a cap for the U.S. Women’s National Team. “Last time we played in Birmingham, my teammates felt the warmth of not only the weather, but also of the great fans, and I know that with the Olympics coming up, the Birmingham community will come out in full force to support the USA.”

The match against Brazil will be the first against the perennial South American champions since a narrow 1-0 victory on July 13, 2003, in New Orleans, Louisiana.  While Brazil has been one of the success stories of women’s international soccer over the past decade, the USA has found great success against the “Samba Queens.”  The Americans are 15-1-2 against Brazil all-time, including two victories in Women’s World Cup matches and one in the semifinal of the Olympics.
Brazil had the youngest team at the 2003 Women’s World Cup with an average age of 22.  The team was made up primarily of the core of players who advanced to the semifinals of the 2002 FIFA Under-19 Women’s World Championship, where they fell to host Canada, but easily could have made the championship game.  Brazil put together an entertaining run at the 2003 Women’s World Cup, falling in the quarterfinals to eventual runner-up Sweden, 2-1, but only due to a brilliant Swedish free kick and after failing to get what looked like a sure penalty kick called in the final minute of the game.  Brazil has some of the best young players in the world, including 18-year-old forward Marta, who recently signed with Sweden’s top club team, Umea, and 20-year-old Daniela, who played in the WUSA for the San Diego Spirit.  Brazil’s top player is former San Jose CyberRays star striker Katia, one of the most dangerous forwards in the world.

“Brazil always offers an opportunity to play one of the top four or five teams in the world,” said U.S. Women’s National Team head coach April Heinrichs.  “Both teams go after an attacking type of game and that should make for an exciting game.  The fans in Alabama were very supportive the last time we played there and although the game is early on our schedule of friendly matches, it could be one the best of 2004.”

Brazil has participated in all four Women’s World Cup, as well as the 1996 and 2000 Olympics, and had advanced to the semifinals of three consecutive world championships, falling to the USA in the 1999 Women’s World Cup and the 2000 Olympics, before being knocked out in the quarters at the 2003 Women’s World Cup.

The USA and Brazil played a historic encounter on July 4, 1999, at Stanford Stadium in Palo Alto in front of 73,123 fans with the Americans prevailing, 2-0. The two teams met again in the semifinals in Canberra, Australia, at the 2000 Olympics as the U.S. won, 1-0, on a goal from Mia Hamm.

The match at Legion Field will also be a homecoming of sorts for Hamm, who delighted the Alabama fans last year by scoring the first goal of the game against England.  Hamm was born in Selma, Alabama, where her father was stationed in the Air Force, before moving on to various stops in her youth career that led to her being the youngest player ever to appear for the U.S. Women’s National Team at the age of 15.  She has scored a world record 144 career international goals since debuting for the USA in 1987.

Brazil has actually made eight trips to the United States over the years, including the 1999 Women’s World Cup. Brazil has participated in two Nike U.S. Women’s Cups, finishing second in 1998 and 1999, and played in the CONCACAF Gold Cup in 2000, where the USA and Brazil played to a 0-0 tie in group play, then met again in the championship game, a 1-0 U.S. victory.

Legion Field, one of the most famous college football stadiums of the South, actually has a short, but sterling soccer tradition, having hosted soccer games at the 1996 Olympics as well as two U.S. Men’s National Team games that drew over 21,000 fans to each match.  The Alabama Sports Foundation, who once again will serve as local organizer for U.S. Soccer, has been responsible for actively pursuing these events and bringing them to Birmingham.

“I went to a bunch of games at the 1996 Olympics and the atmosphere was awesome,” said Reddick.  “At that time I dreamed of playing on that field so to get the chance to play my second game at such a famous stadium really is a dream come true.  It’ll be so much fun playing in front of my family and friends and I know my teammates are looking forward to some more BBQ and sweat tea.”

The match in Birmingham will be the first of six likely domestic matches for the U.S. Women’s National Team over April, May, June and July before the 2004 Olympics in Greece, which begin in early August.