UNDER-23 WOMEN’S NATIONAL TEAM
Head Coach: Steve Swanson
Major Competition: None
Eligibility: Players born on or after Jan. 1, 1991
2012 International Record: 3-2-1 (Overall Record: 3-3-2)
Stepping Stone to the Full Team
The USA’s oldest women’s youth national team moved to Under-23 in 2008. The change was in response to FIFA moving its oldest youth world championship for women from Under-19s to Under-20s, as well as a change in the Nordic Cup – long the main event for this age group – which became a U-23 event. The Nordic Cup, long a staple of summer programming for this age group, took a hiatus in 2009 after being staged for the 19 years. Without the competition, which had been organized annually by one of the Nordic countries, the U.S. U-23s have pursued other international competition, mostly in Spain and Scandinavia.
The role of the U-23s in the overall development of U.S. WNT players underwent some changes in 2009 with the start of Women’s Professional Soccer (WPS) and will again be positively impacted with the start of the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) in the spring of 2013. Many of the players who were being kept active and in the mix for the full team by competing with the U-23s will now be playing in the new league. Therefore, U.S. head coach Randy Waldrum will call up some professionals when they are released by their clubs, and will especially focus on pros in the early part of the year before the beginning of NWSL pre-season camps. During the NWSL season, more college players will like get call-ups for the remainder of the spring and into the summer, as that time period falls during the heart of the club season. For the December training camp, he will once again be able to call in NWSL players, as well as top college players who will be going into the NWSL the following year.
The U.S. team has been active at this age group since 1989 (in its previous incarnation it was run as a U-20 program until 1998 and then morphed into a U-21 program until 2007) and has been consistently effective in helping prepare players for the step up to the Women’s National Team. The vast majority of current Women’s National Team pool players have competed for the U-21s or U-23s. The U-21s used to feature “overage” players in training camps and for the Nordic Cup tournament, but now all players who are age-eligible for the U-23s in 2012 must have been born on or after Jan. 1, 1990. This team serves a valuable role in helping bridge the large gap between college soccer and the national team, and now has a valuable partner in that area in NWSL.