The 2018 Women’s Nike International Friendlies will take place from Friday, Dec. 7 through Monday Dec. 11. at the Premier Sport Campus in Lakewood Ranch, Fla. While U.S. Soccer has hosted the Nike International Friendlies since 2001, this is the second year of the event for the U.S. Under-20 Women’s National Team. This year’s tournament will see the U-20 WNT launch a new cycle against France and China.
Here are five things to know about the tournament:
The 2018 Women’s Nike International Friendlies will feature the U-20 Women’s National Teams from China, France and the United States. All three squads will bring players born on or after Jan. 1, 2000, the age cutoff date for the 2020 FIFA Under-20 Women’s World Cup.
It is the first international event for the new U.S. U-20 WNT cycle following last summer’s World Cup. The majority of the players are progressing to the U-20 age-group after spending the last cycle with the U-17, U-18 and U-19 sides. Acting U.S. head coach Keri Sarver will begin the process of building the player pool as the team spends 2019 preparing for the 2020 Concacaf Women’s U-20 Championship and the 2020 U-20 WWC.
China comes into the tournament after just missing out on the knockout round of last summer’s U-20 World Cup. The Asian side finished even on points with Nigeria for second place in Group D, but the Africans progressed with a better goal difference. This tournament begins the build-up to 2019 AFC U-19 Women’s Championship, to be held in Thailand in fall. 2019. The competition will serve as Asia’s qualifying tournament for the 2020 U-20 WWC as China looks to make its seventh appearance in the age-group’s culminating event.
France enters its new cycle on a high, finishing fourth at last summer’s U-20 World Cup. The tournament host lost in the semifinals to Spain, before missing out on the podium via penalties following a 1-1 draw with England in the third-place match. The Nike International Friendlies will serve as the beginning of preparations for the 2019 UEFA Women’s Under-19 Championships, which will be held next July in Scotland. The tournament will serve as the UEFA qualifying competition for the 2020 U-20 World Cup.
HOW TO FOLLOW
The USA opens the tournament against France on Sunday, Dec. 7 at 6:30 p.m. ET and faces off against China on Sunday, Dec. 9 at 6:30 p.m. ET. Both matches will be live-streamed on ussoccer.com and the U.S. Soccer YouTube page.
Schedule - 2018 Women’s Nike International Friendlies
USA vs. France
6:30 p.m. ET
USA vs. China
6:30 p.m. ET
China vs. France
3:00 p.m. ET
ALONGSIDE THE DEVELOPMENT ACADEMY WINTER SHOWCASE
For the second straight year, the Women’s Nike International Friendlies will take place alongside the girls portion of the U.S. Soccer Development Academy Winter Showcase.
A total of 212 teams across four different age groups (U-15, U-16, U-16/17, U18-19) will gather to play three games against teams they normally wouldn’t face in their regular season schedule.
Every one of the 318 matches that will take place in Lakewood Ranch, Fla. during the girls event is hand-picked by the Development Academy staff based on geography, form, style of play, level of opposition and other factors to ensure the most meaningful competition.
With U.S. Soccer Youth National Team coaches in attendance alongside 44 members of U.S. Soccer’s Talent Identification staff, the Winter Showcase is a great opportunity for players to demonstrate that they deserve to be called into the YNT program.
REPRESENTING THE RED, WHITE AND BLUE
The first roster of the new U-20 cycle features a mixture of college and youth club players born between 2000 and 2002. Players born on or after Jan. 1, 2000 are age-eligible for the 2020 FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup.
Eight players ply their trade in college while the other 12 are members of youth clubs. Nine currently play in the U.S. Soccer Development Academy. The NC Courage Academy is most well-represented with three players.
Claudia Dicky and Brianna Pinto were 2018 College Cup participants with the University of North Carolina, making a run to the tournament final. Alexa Spaanstra is also coming off a strong freshman campaign with University of Virginia, as she led the team in scoring with nine goals and six assists.
In the Academy, Maycee Bell is anchoring the defense of a NC Courage U-18/19 side that has four clean sheets in seven games. A 2016 U-17 WWC veteran, Lia Godfry gets the call-up to the U-20s with six goals in five games for a United Soccer Alliance outfit that is leading the Southeast Division as the clubs head into the Winter Showcase.
Players hail from 13 different states with North Carolina producing five players in Dickey, Tori Hansen, Elaine Rouse, Megan Bornkamp and Pinto. New Jersey is the next best-represented state with three players, while two players hail from Texas.
U.S. U-20 WNT Roster by Position – 2018 Nike Women’s International Friendlies:
GOALKEEPERS (2): Claudia Dickey (UNC; Charlotte, N.C.), Hensley Hancuff (Villanova; Edmond, Okla.)
DEFENDERS (6): Abby Allen (Lonestar SC; Austin, Texas), Maycee Bell (NC Courage Academy; Wichita, Kan.), Tori Hansen (NC Courage Academy; Raleigh, N.C.), Brianna Martinez (Notre Dame; Albuquerque, N.M.), Natalie Maurer (Richmond United; Glen Allen, Va.), Elaine Rouse (NC Courage Academy; Cary, N.C.)
MIDFIELDERS (6): Megan Bornkamp (Charlotte Soccer Academy; Mooresville, N.C.), Isabella Cook (Eclipse SC; Elmhurst, Ill.), Coriana Dyke (Colorado Rush; Littleton, Colo.), Emily Gray (Virginia Tech; Sewell, N.J.), Brianna Pinto (UNC; Durham, N.C.), Sydney Simmons (Duke University; Van Alstyne, Texas)
FORWARDS (6): Rebecca Jarrett (Virginia; Washington Township, N.J.), Jaelyn Eisenhart (LAFC Slammers; Henderson, Nev.), Samantha Kroeger (NYCFC; West Milford, N.J.), Alexa Spaanstra (Virginia; Brighton, Mich.), Reilyn Turner (So Cal Blues; Aliso Viejo, Calif.), Lia Godfrey (United Soccer Alliance; Fleming Island, Fla)
In 2018, seven players on the roster saw time with the U.S. U-18 WNT while nine players featured for the U.S. U-19 WNT. A further four players garnered action with the U-17s.
Pinto and Spaanstra are the only holdovers from last summer’s U-20 World Cup team. Pinto came off the bench in all three matches in France and leads the squad with 25 U-20 caps and three goals. Forward Alexa Spaanstra featured four times for the U-20s in the last cycle, scoring once.
Abby Allen, Bell, Dyke, Natalie Maurer, Elaine Rouse, Bornkamp, Jaelyn Eisenhart, Samantha Kroeger and Reilyn Turner were all members of the U-19 squad that travelled to Holland at the beginning of the month for a pair of matches with the host.
Emily Gray and Brianna Martinez led the U-18s with four appearances each in 2018. Martinez is the cap-leader of the roster at the U-18 level with nine matches played. Dickey kept goal for three U-18 contests in the past year, going 1-0-2 with just four goals against.
None of the current players represented the USA at the 2018 U-17 Women’s World Cup, although Reilyn Turner and Samantha Kroeger were members of the side that won the 2018 Concacaf Women’s U-17 Championship last summer.