The 2023 SheBelieves Cup kicks off on Thursday. The friendly tournament is a key tune-up for the U.S. women’s national team before the World Cup begins in July.
Four of the world's top nations battle for hardware at the 2023 #SheBelievesCup, presented by @Visa 🏆USA 🇺🇸Canada 🇨🇦Japan 🇯🇵Brazil 🇧🇷 pic.twitter.com/3AlGhAnRTZ— U.S. Women's National Soccer Team (@USWNT) February 9, 2023
Four of the world's top nations battle for hardware at the 2023 #SheBelievesCup, presented by @Visa 🏆USA 🇺🇸Canada 🇨🇦Japan 🇯🇵Brazil 🇧🇷 pic.twitter.com/3AlGhAnRTZ
1. The Canadian women’s national team attempted to go on strike this weekend over budget cuts, equal pay grievances and lack of support from Canada Soccer. But Canada Soccer deemed the strike unlawful and threatened legal action, forcing the players to participate in SheBelieves Cup, which begins with Canada’s matchup against the USWNT. Given the history of support between the two teams (Alex Morgan and Becky Sauerbrunn voiced their support for Canada on Saturday), expect there to be some form of protest before or during the game.
2. With this being one of the primary tune-up tournaments before the U.S. heads to the World Cup, it’s likely that the players coach Vlatko Andonovski takes to the SheBelieves Cup will be close to the final roster, barring players returning from injury. Some players will look to cement their place on the roster, such as 20-year-old forward Trinity Rodman, while the schedule of three games over seven days will help prepare the team for the workload at the World Cup.
3. While the USWNT remains the top team in the world, their run of three straight losses against England, Spain and Germany in October showed that they’re not infallible. This year’s SheBelieves Cup field features three teams in the top 15 of the world rankings. Canada returns top talent from its 2021 Olympic-winning team, such as forward Janine Beckie, midfielder Julia Grosso and goalkeeper Kailen Sheridan. Brazil brings several NWSL stars, headlined by Debinha, one of the best players in the NWSL, and Marta, one of the best to ever play the game in Marta. Japan historically gives the USWNT tough games. As a result, this is one of the best tests the USWNT could face ahead of their trip down under in July.
Mallory Swanson has started off the year with a bang, scoring twice in the team’s opener against New Zealand and again in the second friendly of their international trip in January. It was the type of performance the team needed in the first game, as they struggled to score against a depleted New Zealand team.
Lynn Williams has had a successful return to the pitch, scoring a goal against New Zealand mere minutes after subbing into her first game since last February. The 29-year-old forward had spent almost all of the past year recovering from a hamstring injury.
“[Williams’] road to recovery has been pretty incredible to watch, and just to see her come in and make an impact and score a goal goes to show what a great player she is,” Swanson told The Athletic.
As Williams settles back into the USWNT, look for her to continue to contribute. With 15 goals and 11 assists through 49 career international appearances, Williams can find a groove no matter where she is on the pitch.
Elsewhere on the field, Taylor Kornieck will continue to adapt to the six position in the midfield, an experiment by Andonovski that has received mixed reactions. Given Kornieck’s 6-foot-1 height and abilities, Wave head coach Casey Stoney has said that playing her as an isolated six would mean “taking away her strengths,” but she’s interested to see how it plays out.
“I’m sure Vlatko will give her that information and give her the best chance to be successful,” Stoney said. “I’m interested to see how she gets on in there. She’s so coachable, and she wants to do well, so I’m sure she’ll go in there and be successful.”