This week, we preview the FIFA U-20 Women's World Cup, looking at the players brought in from clubs abroad as well as the prospects for the 16 teams. We also review North Carolina's triumph in the first International Champions Cup for Women's club teams in Miami, in which the current NWSL leaders defeated two top French clubs in the process.
FIFA U-20 Women's World Cup Preview
The 2018 FIFA U-20 Women's World Cup begins on Sunday August 5 in northern France. Some people feel that the Olympics is the second most important global women's football tournament after the Women's World Cup as it involves full national teams. However, the U-20 Women's World Cup is arguably more important than the Olympics for its developmental role for young talent. For example, eight of ten candidates for 2018 FIFA Player of the Year participated in a U-20 finals. The U-20 World Cup has a stellar history, beginning in Western Canada in 2002 (at that time it was a U-19 tourney) when over 47,000 attended the final between the hosts and the Americans. Portland Thorns forward/midfielder Christine Sinclair was a member of that team, the core of which was quickly promoted by head coach Even Pellerud and went on to finish fourth in the full Women's World Cup the next autumn in the States—an outstanding achievement for a program that had previously struggled on the world stage. Thailand and Chile have hosted past U-20 events (2004 and 2008, respectively) and have both qualified for the 2019 WWC—Thailand for the second consecutive time—so there have been off-the-field benefits to the tournament as well, encouraging host nations to invest more in women's football. Since 2010 in Germany, the U-20 WWC has been held the year before full Women's World Cups; it has become a standard test for the host nation to conduct a dry run of stadiums and other logistics before the next year's full tournament, though France has chosen to keep this tournament small and regional, and not utilize any stadiums for next summer's event.
There is a limited array of champions from the 8 previous editions, led by Germany's and the U.S.'s three victories each, along with North Korea's two triumphs, including the last event in Papua New Guinea in which Korea DPR defeated France 3-1, while Japan bested the Americans 1-0 in the third place playoff. Another guideline for handicapping the semifinalists is to look at recent U-17 FIFA Women's World Cup results, as some players do move up the escalator from one event to the next and ultimately to the full national team. The winners of the last three U-17 Women's World Cups were Korea DPR in 2016, Japan in 2014 and France in 2012; the French side also finished third in 2016.
We look at the four first round groups for the tournament to be held in four cities in northern France and look at the imports versus domestic-based proportions for all of the teams.
Group A has host France, Ghana, New Zealand and the Netherlands. Host nations typically do well in these tournaments and France, with a strong squad, should have a good opportunity to go one better from its runner's-up spot two years ago. Based on the quality of their development program shown by their 2017 UEFA Championship at the full level, the Netherlands should also advance easily. New Zealand will hope for a tie or two against the Europeans and to defeat Ghana to advance to the quarterfinals, but it may be too much this time for a very young roster facing difficult opponents. In Papua New Guinea in 2016, New Zealand defeated Ghana 1-0 in their first group game but then fell to the Americans and France to go out at the group stage. In 2014 in Canada, they made the quarterfinals for their only appearance beyond the group stage.
France has 3 players with clubs abroad on their final 21 player roster: forward Marion Rey of FC Bale of Switzerland, midfielder Annahita Zamanian (originally born in London) with Kopparbergs/Goteborg FC in Sweden and fellow midfielder Sana Daoudi of 2017-18 Spanish Champions Atletico de Madrid.
Ghana is entirely home-based with the exception of Ernestina Abambila, a 19-year-old midfielder who played in the 2014 U-17 World Cup in Costa Rica and then at Youngstown State University in Ohio; she then joined FC Minsk in Belarus and scored last season in the UEFA Champions League.
New Zealand U-20 women's head coach Gareth Turnbull, a native of the country, has one-third of his roster with full national team experience: Liz Anton, Anna Leat, Paige Satchell, team captain Malia Steinmetz, Hannah Blake, Sarah Morton and Maggie Jenkins. Five players—Sarah Morton, Anton, Grace Jale, Satchell and Blake—are participating in their second consecutive FIFA U-20 Women's World Cup. All are home-based on the club side but there should be some who attract the attention of U.S. colleges during the tournament.
New Zealand squad for the FIFA U-20 Women's World Cup in France
Elizabeth Anton (Western Springs AFC)
Hannah Blake (Three Kings United FC)
Claudia Bunge (Glenfield Rovers AFC)
Michaela Foster (Hamilton Wanderers AFC)
Una Foyle (Coastal Spirit FC)
Jacqui Hand (Eastern Suburbs AFC)
Tiana Hill (Claudelands Rovers)
Grace Jale (Eastern Suburbs AFC)
Maggie Jenkins (Glenfield Rovers AFC)
Rebecca Lake (Coastal Spirit FC)
Anna Leat (East Coast Bays AFC)
Nicole Mettam (Eastern Suburbs AFC)
Aneka Mittendorff (Forrest Hill Milford United AFC)
Rose Morton (Western Springs AFC)
Sarah Morton (Western Springs AFC)
Nadia Olla (Western Springs AFC)
Gabi Rennie (Waimakariri United AFC)
Paige Satchell (Three Kings United FC)
Malia Steinmetz (Forrest Hill Milford United AFC)
Dayna Stevens (Glenfield Rovers AFC)
Samantha Tawharu (Forrest Hill Milford United AFC)
The Netherlands has two foreign-based players among their 21 at the Finals; midfielder Eva Van Deursen of Arizona State University in the States and goalkeeper Jacintha Weimar, who is with Bayern Munich of Germany.
Group B includes Brazil, England, Korea DPR and Mexico. Korea DPR is the reigning champions at this age level and they usually enter FIFA tournaments with solid preparation, albeit sequestered at home. Brazil should also advance but England and Mexico will battle the two favorites to the end in their Group of Death; predicting the two to advance to the quarterfinals from this group is truly a toss-up.
Brazil's side includes two imports: Curitiba-born defender Thais Reiss of the University of North Florida in the States (who scored 6 goals and 1 assist last season and a former Brazilian U-17 national team player) and forward Geyse Da Silva Ferreira of Benfica of Portugal.
England's head coach Mo Marley, a former England international defender who was interim coach for the full national team before the appointment of Phil Neville, named 21 players for the U-20 Women's World Cup, with one-third (7) playing in universities in the States, which further emphasizes how much U.S. colleges continue to be a development system for the global game, particularly for individuals who were born in an
English-speaking country or learned it, as the colleges have an English language proficiency requirement for entry to study and compete in sports.
England squad for the FIFA U-20 Women's World Cup in France
Georgia Allen (Syracuse University)
Zoe Cross (University of Missouri)
Ali Johnson (Unattached)
Chloe Peplow (Brighton & Hove Albion)
Mollie Rouse (University of Louisville)
Rinsola Babajide (Liverpool)
Niamh Charles (Liverpool)
Lauren Hemp (Manchester City)
Chloe Kelly (Everton)
Alessia Russo (University of North Carolina)
Georgia Stanway (Manchester City)
Charlie Wellings (Birmingham City)
Korea DPR is using all home-based players as is typical for the nation's women's national teams, with six at Naegoyhyang Sports Club and four with April 25 Sports Group.
Mexico's head coach Chris Cuellar has 10 players from the U.S. on his 21 player roster, five of whom are on college teams. The Liga MX, begun a year ago as a U-23 loop with clubs launched by the first division men's sides and now a U-24 loop for the 2018-19 season, will certainly help future youth teams. Many will focus on how the 11 Liga MX current players do in this tournament. In addition, Alexia Delgado just left the league (Club America) to play at Arizona State University in the States, effectively making twelve players from the new league.
This team made history by winning its first-ever CONCACAF U20 championship against the U.S earlier this year; however, like all Mexican national squads, success is measured by performance in the World Cup. Cuellar will be pressure to advance his side to the quarterfinals at least, or he could find himself in a similar position to his father Leo, who was forced out after two decades at the helm when Mexico performed poorly at the WWC in Canada in 2015, not advancing out of their group, while Colombia did. Leo Cuellar is now successfully coaching at Club America in Mexico City.
Mexico squad for the FIFA U-20 Women's World Cup in France
1 – Aguirre Fitzgerald Zoe Ree (Eastern Kentucky University)
2 – Alvarado Natividad Emily Sofía (Texas Christian University)
3 – Cruz Arzate Belén de Jesús (Tigres de la U.A.N.L)
4 – Delgado Alvarado Alexia Fernanda (Arizona State University)
5 – Díaz Sánchez Karen Alejandra (Pachuca)
6 – Espinosa Arce Daniela (Club América)
7 – García Muñoz Miriam Vanessa (Guadalajara)
8 – Hernández Buenosaires Andrea (Toluca)
9 – Hernández García Dorian Montserrat (Club América)
10 – Juárez Smith Venicia Gabriela (Slammers FC)
11 – López Fuentes Jimena (Texas A&M University)
12 – Martínez Abad Katty (Tigres de la U.A.N.L)
13 – Ovalle Muñoz Lizbeth Jacqueline (Tigres de la U.A.N.L)
14 – Palomo Carranza Athalie McKenzie (FC Dallas)
15 – Reyes Zárate Maricarmen (West Coast FC)
16 – Rodríguez Cubero Kimberly Vanessa (Oklahoma State University)
17 – Salazar Suaste Esbeydi Viridiana (Pachuca)
18 – Soto Ashley Lauren (SoCal Blues)
19 – Toledo Barroso Wendy Estefani (Santos)
20 – Villareal Pardo Natalia (Tigres de la U.A.N.L)
21 – Villegas Kelley Mia Jasmine (Davis Legacy)
Group C includes Japan, Paraguay, Spain and the United States. The U.S. and Japan played in the third place match two years ago at the U-20 level and are favored to advance to the quarterfinals in France, but Spain finished third at the 2016 U-17 championships and has Patri Guijarro in midfield. The La Rojita U-19 star at the European championships led the team in scoring and is a starter for the full national team and Barcelona on the club side.
Japan is all home-based except for midfielder Fuka Nagano of Incheon Hyundai Steel Red Angels of the Korea Republic.
Paraguay is all home-based except for forward Jessica Martinez who plays in neighboring Brazil for Santos in Sao Paolo state.
Spain is using all home-based players with four each from champions Atletico de Madrid and Athletic Club of Bilbao and three each with Madrid Club de Futbol Femenino and FC Barcelona.
U.S. head coach Jitka Klimkova, a former Czech Republic defender, has named a roster with 16 current collegiate players and five youth club players who will enter college this fall. Klimkova came to U.S. Soccer from the New Zealand Football Federation, where she served as head coach of the New Zealand U-17 Women's World Cup Team in Costa Rica in 2014 and as an assistant coach for the Ferns' U-20 Women's World Cup Team in Canada the same year. She served as a scout for the U.S. at the 2016 FIFA U-20 Women's World Cup in Papua New Guinea.
All of the squad are based with clubs in the U.S. The team split a series of recent matches in Portland, Oregon against the Brazilian U-20 national team in Portland, losing 3-2 on June 30 before winning 2-1 on July 3.
2018 FIFA U-20 Women's World Cup Roster by Position (College or Club; Hometown; U-20 Caps/Goals)
Hillary Beall (Michigan; Laguna Beach, Calif.; 0/0)
Laurel Ivory (Virginia; Surfside, Fla.; 12/0)
Amanda McGlynn (Virginia Tech; Jacksonville, Fla.; 10/0)
Emily Fox (UNC; Chapel Hill, N.C., 32/3)
Naomi Girma (California Thorns FC; San Jose, Calif.; 17/0)
Samantha Hiatt (Stanford; Newcastle, Wash.; 11/1)
Tara McKeown (USC; Newbury Park, Calif.; 22/0)
Zoe Morse (Virginia; East Lansing, Mich.; 19/0)
Kiara Pickett (Stanford; Santa Barbara, Calif.; 16/0)
Isabel Rodriguez (Ohio State; Canton, Mich.; 19/0)
Savannah DeMelo (USC; Bellflower, Calif.; 36/5)
Jaelin Howell (Real Colorado; Windsor, Colo.; 26/2)
Brianna Pinto (NTH Tophat; Durham, N.C.; 22/3)
Taryn Torres (Virginia; Frisco, Texas; 12/2)
Viviana Villacorta (UCLA; Lawndale, Calif.; 23/1)
Erin Gilroy (Tennessee; Bellmore, N.Y.; 4/2)
Penelope Hocking (So Cal Blues; Anaheim, Calif.; 9/3)
Abigail Kim (California; Vashon, Wash.; 24/6)
Ashley Sanchez (UCLA; Monrovia, Calif.; 33/11)
Alexa Spaanstra (Virginia; Brighton, Mich.; 3/0)
Sophia Smith (Real Colorado; Windsor, Colo.; 25/21)
Three players—Fox, midfielder Savannah DeMelo and forward Ashley Sanchez—are back for their second U-20 Women's World Cup after being selected for the 2016 tournament in Papua New Guinea. In 2016, Ashley Sanchez became the first U.S. player to score in a U-17 and U-20 WWC in the same year. Ten players on the roster represented the USA at the 2016 FIFA U-17 Women's World Cup in Jordan, where the team fell in the group stage: Beall, Sanchez, defender Naomi Girma, midfielder Jaelin Howell, goalkeeper Laurel Ivory, defender Kiara Pickett, midfielder Brianna Pinto, defender Isabel Rodriguez, forwards Sophia Smith and Spaanstra. All except Beall started games at the tournament. Smith enters the World Cup as the Americans' leading scorer with 21 career goals at the U-20 level. The forward has scored in 10 of the USA's 15 games this year, including a current nine-game scoring streak heading into the tournament, with one goal in both of the Brazil friendlies.
Group D includes China PR, Germany, Haiti and Nigeria. Germany, who's coach Maren Mienert led the U-20's to the FIFA Championship in Canada in 2014 after finishing second to the U.S. in 2012 in Japan; the Germans should advance along with China. Nigeria could spring a surprise and though Haiti finished last in a 4 team preparation tournament last month along with the hosts, Germany and the U.S., they are likely to score and will be entertaining to watch. Meinert won a full national team World Cup in 2003 and played in the WUSA for the Boston Breakers.
China U-20 head coach Peter Bonde of Denmark (60), who took up the position in February, has called up 20 of his 21 players from domestic clubs, with the exception being forward Zhao Yujie (Florida State University). Shanghai Rural Commercial Bank has seven players on the team while Beijing North Control Phoenix has three.
Germany has an all-domestic-based squad except for two who are playing at the University of Central Florida in the U.S.—midfielder Dina Orschmann and Stefanie Sanders.
Haiti's only player abroad is stellar scorer Nerilia Mondesir of Montpellier in France
Veteran French Coach Marc Collat—a native of Martinique—is also in charge of the full national team.
Nigeria—traditionally a plentiful exporter of talent, particularlyto Scandinavia and Eastern Europe—surprisingly has an all home-based side, with four from Nassarawa Amazons, three with long-time power Rivers Angels andEdo Queens FC, while two come from Sunshine Queens.
The 2010 and 2014 FIFA U-20 World Cup silver medalists had two recent friendlies against Austrian Women League teams, defeating FC Wacker Innsbruck 4-0 in their final in Tirol, with a brace from top scorer Rasheedat Ajibade (FC Robo Queens of Lagos, who was the top scorer in the African qualifiers and played in Papua New Guinea in the 2016 event) and one each from Adebisi Saheed and Chinyere Igboamalu. A few days before, Nigeria beat FC Bergheim 3-0.
North Carolina Courage defeats two French powers to win the International Champions Cup title
The North Carolina Courage won the first-ever International Champions Cup Women's Tournament in Miami from July 26-29 along with European powers Manchester City, Olympique Lyonnais and Paris Saint-Germain. Lyon replaced Chelsea, which was originally announced as a second English participant. The ICC is well established (founded in 2013) on the men's side, providing a competitive structure to international pre-season friendlies in Asia, America and Europe.
This is a significant win for North Carolina and the NWSL, with some cautions applied. All season, North Carolina—led by Liverpool-born head coach Paul Riley—has stampeded through the NWSL season with a 14-4-1 (W-D-L) record for 46 points. They have already clinched first or second place for a home semifinal with 5 games left in the season. Seattle Reign is second with 30 points and 4 losses. True that the European clubs are in preseason but this title emphasizes that North Carolina can claim to be the best club side in the world this season and that the NWSL in general is a destination league for players from all over the world for a reason, and not just for a top salary for stars. Also, it is significant to note that six Courage starters were away on national team duty: Abby Dahlkemper, Crystal Dunn, Merritt Mathias, Samantha Mewis, and McCall Zerboni were all named to the U.S. Women's National Team's 23-player roster for the 2018 Tournament of Nations. In addition, Debinha was called up for Brazil and missed the Courage's two games.
The NWSL still needs to be longer than 7 months and increase salaries for the non-starters—mostly young Americans—but the league has done so well to escape from the stigma that professional women's soccer could not survive in the U.S. after the WUSA and WPS folded after three seasons. NWSL is stable and in its sixth season. Attendances for the ICC were pathetic however (with only a few thousand in attendance), but hopefully this tournament spurs FIFA in its efforts to begin a Women's Club World Cup soon, while CONCACAF has talked about a women's club tournament later this year in Mexico.
The Courage signed four players to national team replacement contracts. Defenders Carlin Hudson, Morgan Reid and Ryan Williams, as well as midfielder Sarah Teegarden were added. The ICC roster also featured academy ties with NC Courage Academy defender Tori Hansen being selected to the first-team squad. Midfielder Julia Aronov, a member of FC Fury's (N.Y.) U-16/17 team and who will play at Rutgers University in New Jersey, was also signed for the tournament. The inclusion of Hansen and Aronov serves as the latest example of the club's emphasis on youth development and growing the sport at all levels.
The Courage defeated Paris Saint-Germain 2-1 on July 26 in the first semifinal. U.S. international forward Jess McDonald scored North Carolina's first goal in the 19th minute. PSG tied it up on an own goal just before the half ended. Forward Darian Jenkins, a second-year player from UCLA, came on as a substitute in the 74th minute and scored the winner ten minutes later from an assist by U.S. international forward Lynn Williams, who sent a cross in from the right flank. A guest player for PSG was Canadian international Jordan Huitema, whose pressure led to North Carolina's own goal. Huitema who did not sign a professional contact so she can still play college soccer if she chooses. PSG also has Canadian international midfielder Ashley Lawrence, who has played a season and a half in France and has a contract through next season.
Jenkins said about her goal: "I'm ecstatic. We train this stuff a lot at practice. I just kept running and I knew I was going to sit in between the defenders. [Assistant coach Sean Nahas] told me to sit in between the defenders and Lynn [Williams] played the perfect ball." Jess McDonald noted the importance of the event: "We're sitting here creating history, which is something that people don't always have the opportunity to do. And to top that off we have these fresh players coming in who train with us day in and day out."
In the second match, Lyon—which has won the last three women's Champions League and 12 consecutive Division 1 Feminine titles at home—impressively defeated Manchester City 3-0. French international Eugénie Le Sommer scored in the fourth and 14th minutes to give Lyon a commanding lead early on, and the dominant French club added one more goal just before the halftime break through Norwegian international Ada Hegerberg in the 40th minute.
Three-time Olympic champion Heather O'Reilly scored the lone goal for the Courage in the championship match to win the title over Lyon 1-0 on July 29, which was her first goal for the Courage since returning from Arsenal this summer; O'Reilly beat German international keeper Lisa Weiß. Canadian international goalkeeper Sabrina D'Angelo was outstanding in goal for the winners. D'Angelo made crucial saves against Dutch forward Shanice van de Sanden in a one-on-one showdown in the 38th minute. In the 64th minute, she dived to stop a blast by French international and former Portland Thorns midfielder Amandine Henry in the 64th, and again in the 73rd from a shot by French international Amel Majri.
Tim Grainey is a contributor to Tribal Football. His latest book Beyond Bend it Like Beckham on the global game of women's football. Get your copy today.
Follow Tim on Twitter: @TimGrainey