Make us your home page

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

U.S. women's soccer team is a youth movement

TAMPA — Get ready, world, a whole new wave of Stars and Stripes is on the way.

The U.S. women's soccer team captivated the country last summer while winning the World Cup in Canada, but casual fans might need a program to match numbers to names tonight when the Americans face England in the inaugural SheBelieves Cup at Raymond James Stadium.

"Obviously this is not the same team, and (we have) a lot of new faces," U.S. coach Jill Ellis said. "Coming out of the World Cup, we knew (change) was going to happen."

Many reasons caused a major turnover from last year. There have been retirements (U.S. all-time leading scorer Abby Wambach and midfielders Lauren Holiday and Shannon Boxx), pregnancies (forwards Sydney Leroux and Amy Rodriguez) and injuries (midfielder Megan Rapinoe).

The average age of the 22 players called in for the SheBelieves Cup — a four-team round-robin tournament that also includes Germany and France and runs through March 9 — is nearly five years younger than the squad that hoisted the World Cup.

"In terms of years (of age), I try to avoid talking about that," Ellis said. "What I do say is we've lost a lot of caps (U.S. team appearances)."

Eight players on the roster are younger than 24, but the youngest might be the most intriguing prospect. Forward Mallory Pugh, a 17-year-old Colorado phenom, scored in her first match, heading home the winner in a 5-0 friendly win against Ireland on Jan. 23, becoming the sixth-youngest U.S. player to tally a goal.

"I never saw it go in the net," Pugh said. "(Forward Christen) Press served a great ball, and I just got my head to it, heard the crowd and ran right to her."

Pugh then became the youngest player named to a U.S. qualifying roster when she was chosen for last month's CONCACAF tournament. The Americans breezed through the tournament, earning a spot in this summer's Olympics, and Pugh more than held her own, starting three matches and assisting on three goals.

Not bad for a high school senior.

Pugh said he didn't think she would reach the national team as quickly as she has.

"But it was one of my goals, and it's an amazing opportunity," she said.

Defenders Crystal Dunn (23) and Emily Sonnett (22), and forward Lindsey Horan (21) contributed significantly during CONCACAF qualifying.

Seven players on the current roster have eight or fewer appearances with the team. And the youth movement will get plenty more opportunities during the next week in preparation for the Olympics.

"I've always kind of had an eye on what's coming behind," Ellis said. "I remind the players it doesn't matter what age they are, they are playing for the U.S. women's national team."

The SheBelieves Cup — which opens tonight with Germany playing France at Raymond James Stadium before the United States meets England — pits four of the top-five teams in the world rankings. The United States is No. 1, followed by Germany (2), France (3) and England (5). The doubleheader format continues with games Sunday in Nashville and March 9 in Boca Raton.

Ellis said she expects these matches against world-class teams will go along way in choosing the 18 players who will make up the Olympic roster.

"These are massive games in terms of quality of competition," she said. "So it's going to be a matter of looking at certain players and certain pieces and what we want."

. Fast Facts

SheBelieves Cup

The four-team round-robin tournament with the United States, England, Germany and France — four of the world's top-five-ranked teams — begins tonight at Raymond James Stadium and runs through March 9. Points awarded in the group stage follow the standard formula of three points for a win, one point for a draw and zero points for a loss, with the first tiebreaker overall goal difference.

Tonight: Germany vs. France, 5; United States vs. England, 7:30, both games at Raymond James Stadium (Tickets: Ticketmaster outlets,, toll-free 1-800-745-3000, Raymond James Stadium box office)

Sunday: United States vs. France, 3; Germany vs. England, 5:30, both games at Nissan Stadium, Nashville

March 9: France vs. England, 5; United States vs. Germany, 7:30, both games at Florida Atlantic University Stadium, Boca Raton

U.S. women's soccer team is a youth movement 03/02/16 [Last modified: Wednesday, March 2, 2016 10:46pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Rays let early lead get away again in loss to Angels (w/video)

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — As pleased as the Rays were to win consecutive series against the contending Red Sox, Indians and Yankees and to get briefly back over .500, there was a lot of talk in the clubhouse before Monday's game against the Angels that it was time to do better.

    Tampa Bay Rays third base coach Charlie Montoyo (25) high fives designated hitter Corey Dickerson (10) as he rounds third on his lead off home run in the first inning of the game between the Tampa Bay Rays and the Los Angeles Angels at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Monday, May 22, 2017.
  2. Marc Topkin's takeaways from Monday's Rays-Angels game

    The Heater

    OF/DH Corey Dickerson missed out on a good birthday gift when AL player of the week honors went instead to Detroit's J.D. Martinez. Dickerson hit .385 with five homers, nine RBIs and nine runs; Martinez went .389-4-9-7 and got the nod.

  3. Rays journal: Alex Cobb learning to work with what he has



    If this were 2012 or 2013, even 2014, RHP Alex Cobb would have problems. He would find himself working with only two of his three pitches, with the missing pitch being his trusty changeup.

    Alex Cobb, working mainly with his fastball and curveball, is 3-1 with a 2.78 ERA over his past five starts. The Rays right-hander tries to continue his strong stretch tonight against the Angels.
  4. Rays vs. Angels, 7:10 p.m. Tuesday, Tropicana Field

    The Heater

    Tonight: vs. Angels

    7:10, Tropicana Field

    TV/radio: Fox Sports Sun; 620-AM, 680-AM (Spanish)

    PORT CHARLOTTE, FL - FEBRUARY 18:  Alex Cobb #53 of the Tampa Bay Rays poses for a portrait during the Tampa Bay Rays photo day on February 18, 2017 at Charlotte Sports Park in Port Charlotte, Floida.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
  5. Fennelly: This season's Chris Archer is a pleasure to watch

    The Heater


    At this time last season, through 10 starts, Rays pitcher Chris Archer was 3-5 on his way to 9-19.

    Tampa Bay Rays starting pitcher Chris Archer (22) throwing in the first inning of the game between the Tampa Bay Rays and the New York Yankees at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Sunday, May 21, 2017.