U.S. Women's National Team to Open 2001 in China; Young U.S. Team Takes First Steps to 2003 Women's World Cup
It will be the USA's sixth visit to China in its history, but first trip since January of 1998, when it won a tournament also featuring Norway, China and Sweden. All the games were played at Tianhe Stadium in Guangzhou, site of the USA's 1991 Women's World Cup victory. None of those China '91 veterans will make this trip as U.S. head coach April Heinrichs will bring roster consisting of younger 2000 Olympians and up-and-coming stars, giving them all a taste of what to expect in 2003 when China hosts the next Women's World Cup.
China will also feature a young squad as many of their veteran players who performed so well during the 1990s are stepping aside as China gears up a new generation for the 2003 Women's World Cup. It will be the first trip to China for Heinrichs, the former U.S. captain, since she raised the first Women's World Cup trophy on Nov. 30, 1991, after the U.S. beat Norway, 2-1, to win the title.
"I'm excited to go back to China for the first time in 10 years," said Heinrichs. "The team that we'll be bringing will be young, enthusiastic and a bit internationally naive, but as always, they'll go with the American sprit to do our best and never quit. The 2003 Women's World Cup is a long ways away, but this trip will almost certainly open the window of opportunity for some of these young players, in the same way the trip to Brazil in January of 1996 gave Shannon MacMillan her chance, or the trip to China prior to the 1991 Women's World Cup opened the door for Tiffeny Milbrett when she played her first games for the national team."
The U.S. women were regular visitors to China during the early years of the program, making four trips to the Far East between 1987 and the Women's World Cup in '91, but the team had not been back until the three games in 1998. The U.S. has an 11-6-8 all-time record against the fast and skillful Chinese, who failed to advance out of group play during the 2000 Olympics for the first-time ever in a world championship event. The U.S. faced China three times in 2000, losing once and tying twice, all in matches dominated by the Americans. The USA lost 1-0 to China at the Pacific Cup in Australia in June, tied the Chinese 1-1 at the DFB Tournament in Germany in July and tied 1-1 at the Olympics in September.
Since the 1991 Women's World Cup, China has made six trips to the United States compared to only one U.S. visit to China. In the all-time series between the two teams, the USA is 2-1-3 in China, 6-2-2 in the United States (including a victory in the 1996 Olympic final) and 3-3-3 on neutral ground.
The USA and China have squared off in several epic battles that have defined both team's histories, including two games at the 1995 Women's World Cup in Sweden, two games at the 1996 Olympics and of course, the historic 1999 Women's World Cup Final that was watched by 90,000 fans at the Rose Bowl and 40 million more on television. Five Chinese players will play in the WUSA next season. Heinrichs will announce her roster for the two matches later this week.