CHICAGO (Thursday, November 21, 2002) - U.S. Under-19 Women’s National Team head coach Tracey Leone will spend November 23-30, 2002, in Boca Raton, Fla., evaluating the Under-14, Under-15, Under-16 and Under-17 regional teams at the annual Thanksgiving ODP Inter-Regional tournament. The competition will also include the Scotland U-17 Women’s National team and the new U.S. U-17 Women’s National team, which is coached by former U-19 assistant David Smith. Leone will use this competition to choose the initial pool of players who will form the next group to compete for the FIFA Under-19 Women’s World Championship.
Leone led the USA to the first-ever world championship for youth women this fall, as the U.S. U-19s made history, defeating Canada, 1-0, on Sept. 1, 2002, in Edmonton on a “golden goal” from team captain Lindsay Tarpley in front of almost 50,000 fans at Commonwealth Stadium. Leone will now start with a new group of players who will embark on another two-year journey that will feature a similar preparation schedule, including a CONCACAF qualifying tournament sometime in 2004. The site for the next U-19 FIFA World Championship has not been determined, but Belarus, Thailand and India have expressed interest in hosting.
“I’m really looking forward to another beginning,” said Leone. “We are fortunate that (former U-16 National Team Coach) Steve Swanson has trained many of these players for two years, so they are coming in with national team experience. I’ve followed these age groups for the last several years and there are many talented and exciting players. I’m sure there will be many new players on the horizon as well. This is just the first look in an ever-changing pool.”
Five players born in 1985, which is the cutoff for this next U-19 World Championship team, made the 2002 squad, and are eligible to play in the next youth world championship. Those players are forwards Heather O’Reilly, Kerri Hanks and Angela Woznuk, defender Rachel Buehler and goalkeeper Ashlyn Harris. Three of the players were starters: O’Reilly, who scored four goals and had seven assists and was a star of the tournament; Buehler, who played every minute until tearing her ACL in the championship game; and Harris, who was stellar in the semifinal and final, playing every minute of the competition. The success of these young players means that players born in 1987 have the opportunity to make the 2004 squad.
“We are very fortunate to have those five players as a wonderful foundation for the next team,” said Leone. “That is obviously a very talented group to start with. We had numerous ‘85s in our training camps over the last two years and the vertical integration we have achieved with our youth women’s national teams has been remarkable.”
Every regional team will play three matches during the competition in Boca Raton at Florida Atlantic University, with one day of rest in between, as the two younger age groups will play on Monday-Wednesday-Friday and the two older age groups will play on Tuesday-Thursday-Saturday, meaning Leone and her staff will be very busy watching matches from Monday through Saturday of next week.
“This is a great opportunity for all of these young women to get a chance to work their way into the picture for the U-19 team, but also to make the U-16 and U-17 national teams,” said Leone. “U.S. Soccer has done a tremendous job of creating opportunities for these girls to compete against the best players in the country and the world. It’s a great time for these players. There is opportunity all over the place. At this event, I’ll speak to the players about the last World Cup and the next World Cup. Everyone at this event will have the chance to compete for a place on a World Cup roster.”
The new U-19s, as well as the U-16s, and U-17s, will get the benefit of a heavy schedule of programming from U.S. Soccer. The U-16s and U-17s will likely have six to seven events in 2003 while the U-19s will have at least eight to nine events in 2003 and 10 events in 2004.