CHICAGO (Tuesday, December 10, 2002) – The U.S. Women's National Team will travel to China in January for a major international tournament featuring the top four teams in the world as each nation gears up for the 2003 Women's World Cup. The USA, Norway, Germany and Women's World Cup host China will clash in a series of three doubleheaders in three Chinese cities, all in the three provinces in the southwest region of the country.
The Four Nations Tournament will kick off on Jan. 23 at a venue to be determined in the Zhejiang Province, as China faces Germany and the USA takes on Norway. The teams will move to the Women’s World Cup venue Wuhan for the Jan. 26 matches that feature China vs. Norway and the USA vs. Germany. The blockbuster tournament will finish in Shanghai, site of the 2003 Women’s World Cup Final, with rematches of the 1995 Women’s World Cup Final as Germany takes on Norway and the 1999 Women’s World Cup Final as the USA faces China.
The U.S. team will gain invaluable experience in what will be the team’s final visit to China before the Women’s World Cup, which will be held from Sept. 23-Oct. 11 in Shanghai, Hongkou, Hangzhou, Wuhan and Chengdu, facing three teams who not only have already qualified for the Women’s World Cup, but who are among the favorites to win the title. The USA will also get a preview of the venues, travel and atmosphere they should encounter at the 2003 Women’s World Cup. The U.S. will prepare for the tournament with a match against Japan in San Diego, Calif., on Jan. 12 at Torero Stadium, then train several days in San Diego before departing for China.
"January is going to be one of the most important months of the year for the Women’s National Team,” said U.S. head coach April Heinrichs. “Players will be coming off a much-needed break with a clean slate trying to make the World Cup roster. We will get them out of their vacation mode and back into the world-class soccer mode. The Japan game will be a proving ground for some of our young players and an opportunity for them to get experience to make the roster to go to China."
The U.S. women visited China in January of 1998, 2001 and 2002, participating in the Four Nations Tournament against the same three teams last year. The U.S. allowed just one goal in three games, that coming in the 5th minute of the first game in a 1-0 loss to Norway, then held Germany scoreless in a 0-0 draw and defeated China, 2-0, but finished third. In 1998, the USA won the Four Nations that featured Sweden, China and Norway. In 2001, the USA played two matches against China with a young team, losing one match and tying the other, but both games were in front of packed stadiums, including 30,000 for a 1-1 draw at the Yellow Dragon Stadium in Hangzhou.
“We love playing Germany, Norway and China,” said Heinrichs. “All four teams have qualified, so there will be some experimentation in January that you will not find later in the year. It will be an opportunity to put some younger players on the field in an environment that will supply the most pressure they will experience until the Women’s World Cup. It will be a great environment to see how our players respond. The developmental opportunity will be huge and perhaps more important than results at that time of the year.”
Aside from the grueling schedule 16 time zones removed from the east coast of the USA, the U.S. women will face difficult, yet unique challenges in each of their three matches in China against teams they have gone unbeaten against in the most recent meetings.
The USA’s most recent meeting with China and Germany came at the Four Nations last January while the USA defeated Norway, 4-0, on July 21, 2002. Against Norway the USA has an all-time record of 14-16-2, and in China they could climb to within one game of the only country in the world that holds a winning record against them. The USA holds a 12-7-9 all-time record against China and picked up that impressive win in China last January. The Americans are 11-3-2 all-time against three-time defending European champion Germany, which like Norway, rolled through European Women’s World Cup qualifying without losing a match. Germany scored 30 goals in qualifying and allowed just one.