The U.S. Women’s National Team returns to action for its first matches following the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup when it takes on South Africa in a pair of international friendlies in Cincinnati and Chicago. The teams will open the two-game set on September 21 at TQL Stadium in Cincinnati (7:30 p.m. ET on TNT, Universo and Peacock) and square off three days later at Soldier Field in Chicago (5:30 p.m. ET on TNT, Universo and Peacock), in a match presented by Allstate.
Get ready for the upcoming matches and learn more about Banyana Banyana -- and their impressive run at the World Cup -- with Five Things To Know.
HISTORY MADE DOWN UNDER
South Africa heads into the September games against the USA coming off a historic showing at the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup, achieving its best-ever finish at a Women’s World Cup. After going winless in its World Cup debut in 2019 in France, Banyana Banyana went 1W-1D-2L over its four games in New Zealand and Australia before ultimately bowing out to the Netherlands with a 2-0 loss in the Round of 16.
South Africa secured its first ever appearance in the World Cup knockout rounds by finishing second in Group G. Like the United States, South Africa played the entirety of its group stage in New Zealand and nearly pulled off an upset in its opening match, taking a 1-0 lead over Sweden in the 48th minute before the Swedes game back to win 2-1 with a game-winner in the 90th minute. South Africa responded with a 2-2 draw against Argentina and a dramatic 3-2 win over Italy in the third and final group stage match, sent through to the Round of 16 with a goal from forward and team captain Thembi Kgatlana in the second minute of second-half stoppage time.
Kgatlana, who plays her club soccer for Racing Louisville FC in the National Women’s Soccer League, tied for the team lead in scoring with two goals this World Cup. Forward Hildah Magaia also tallied twice, scoring against Sweden and in the victory over Italy.
INSIDE THE ROSTER
South Africa’s 22-player roster for these September matches features 19 players from the 2023 World Cup squad.
Kgatlana, the leading scorer on this roster with 26 goals in 72 international appearances, is one of two players on this roster who currently competes in the United States. Kgatlana is in her first full season with Racing Louisville FC in the National Women’s Soccer League, having previously played for the Houston Dash during the 2018 NWSL Season. Kgatlana signed with Louisville in 2022 but was sidelined while recovering from torn Achilles tendon. Since her return to health and fitness, Kgatlana has been a key contributor for her new club and was named the NWSL Player of the Week on September 5 after scoring the game-winning goal against then-league leaders Portland Thorns FC.
Along with Kgatlana, midfielder Sonoxolo Cesane, a junior at East Tennessee State University, was called up for these games against the USA, joining her twin sister Noxolo.
SOUTH AFRICA WOMEN’S NATIONAL SOCCER TEAM ROSTER BY POSITION
Goalkeepers (3): 1-Kaylin Swart (JVW FC), 16-Andile Dlamini (Mamelodi Sundowns FC), 21-Kebotseng Moletsane (Royal AM)
Defenders (7): 2-Lebohang Ramalepe (Memelodi Sundowns FC), 3-Bongeka Gamede (UWC), 4-Faith Owusu (Blackburn Rovers, ENG), 5-Fikile Magama (UWC), 7-Karabo Dhlamini (Memelodi Sundowns FC), 14-Tiisetso Makhubela (Memelodi Sundowns FC), 15-Lonathemba Mhlongo (UWC)
Midfielders (6): 10-Linda Motlhalo (Glasgow City, SCO), 13-Sonoxolo Cesane (East Tennessee State, USA), 18-Sibulele Holweni (UWC), 19-Kholosa Biyana (Memelodi Sundowns FC), 20-Robyn Moodaly (JVW FC), 22-Nomvula Kgoale (TS Galaxy)
Forward (6): 6-Noxolo Cesane (UWC), 9-Gabriela Salgado (JVW FC), 11-Thembi Kgatlana (Racing Louisville FC, USA), 12-Jermaine Seoposenwe (C.F. Monterrey, MEX), 17-Melinda Kgadiete (Memelodi Sundowns FC), 23-Wendy Shongwe (University of Pretoria)
ASCENT UNDER ELLIS
Desiree Ellis has served as head coach of South Africa since 2016, taking the program to new heights. A former midfielder for Banyana Banyana, Ellis featured in the country’s first ever women’s international soccer match in 1993, scoring a hat trick in a 14-0 win over Swaziland. Ellis competed in multiple African Women’s Championships – now known as the Women’s Africa Cup of Nations – as a player, including captaining the side to a runner-up finish in 2000.
Following her retirement from playing, Ellis began her managerial career, first coaching on the club level before being named interim head coach of South Africa in 2016 and taking over full-time duties in 2018. Under Ellis’ direct, South Africa has risen through the rankings both in the region and globally and is currently ranked No. 45 in the world, the nation’s highest world ranking ever in women’s soccer.
Ellis helped South Africa qualify for its first FIFA Women’s World Cup in 2019 and guided the squad to its first World Cup win and first knockout round appearance at Australia/New Zealand 2023.
Named the CAF Women’s Coach of the Year in 2018, 2019 and 2022, Ellis helped South Africa to its first title at the 2022 Women’s Africa Cup of Nations, defeating hosts Morocco 2-1 in the title game following a pivotal 2-1 win over reigning champions Nigeria in the group stage.
SERIES HISTORY: USA vs. SOUTH AFRICA
The upcoming games in Cincinnati and Chicago will be the third and fourth matchups all-time, respectively, between the USA and South Africa. The teams first met on July 9, 2016, where Crystal Dunn scored the game’s only goal in a 1-0 victory for the USA. The sides played most recently in the build up to the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup, a 3-0 win for the Americans in Santa Clara, Calif. on May 12, 2019, behind goals from Samantha Mewis and Carli Lloyd.
South Africa is one of just two African teams that the USWNT has faced in its history, having also played Nigeria eight times. The U.S. is 10W-0D-0L all-time against CAF competition, with the most recent five meetings all coming in friendly competitions.
PATHWAY TO PARIS
Following the games in September, South Africa will turn its attention to the 2024 CAF Women’s Olympic Qualifying Tournament, which will send two teams from Africa to the upcoming Summer Games in Paris. Banyana Banyana will face the Democratic Republic of Congo twice during the October International Window in the Second Round of Qualifying, with the winner advancing to the Third Round of play in February. CAF will be the final confederation to complete its Olympic qualifying, with the continent’s two representatives in Paris to be determined in April of 2024.
South Africa is looking to qualify for third Olympics in women’s soccer, having competed in the Summer Games in 2012 and 2016. In 2012 in London, South Africa fell to Sweden and bronze medalists Canada in the group stage before drawing eventual silver medalists Japan 0-0 in the Group F finale. In 2016 in Rio, South Africa was drawn into Group G with Sweden, China PR and Brazil. Banyana Banyana drew co-hosts Brazil 0-0 in the final match of group play following losses to Sweden (1-0) and China PR (2-0).