WOLFSBURG, GERMANY - JULY 06: Hope Solo (#1), goalkeeper of USA looks dejected after the FIFA Women's World Cup 2011 Group C match between Sweden and USA at Wolfsburg Arena on July 6, 2011 in Wolfsburg, Germany. (Photo by Martin Rose/Getty Images)
The international and domestic soccer calendars kick off in earnest this week. The local focus is on the Community Shield match this Wednesday between the Sounders and Jaguares (it's free! bring your friends) as a tune-up to next week's CCL opener against Santos Laguna. But the various US national teams are also in action. Here's a quick summary of what's going on:
Senior Women vs Denmark - The US Women continue their preparations for the Olympics this summer with their annual trip to the Algarve Cup in Portugal. They'll be defending their title after winning last year's final versus Iceland, and their first match kicks off at 9am on Wednesday, which will make for an enjoyable breakfast as we prepare for the Community Shield match. After a busy preseason for the Sounders Women, the team is suddenly chock full of Cascadian connections. Goalkeeper Hope Solo and forwards Sydney Leroux and Alex Morgan are now Sounders Women players (with Solo and LeRoux hailing from Cascadia originally) along with Amy LePeilbet from Spokane and Megan Rapinoe who played college soccer for Portland.
Senior Men vs Italy - The US Men play a friendly versus the Italians in Genoa at 11:30 am PT on Wednesday, which will make for a nice lunch warmup to the Sounders game in the evening. No Cascadia connections on the US team,
but you may see New Jersey-born Giuseppe Rossi suit up for the Azzurri. And Brek Shea's hair will be doing something, I'm sure.
U-23 Men vs Mexico - The U23 team is wrapping up its February camp with a friendly against the Mexicans in the stadium formerly known as Pizza Hut Park in Dallas. The game kicks off at the same time as the Community Shield match (7 pm PT), so I'll be getting updates by phone. This team will make up the bulk of the men's Olympic team this summer and is largely composed of the better young players in MLS (like Juan Agudelo and Zarek Valentin) with a few overseas players (like Mix Diskerud).
U-23 Women vs England/Norway - After defeating Sweden 2-0 last weekend, the U23s continue their work in the Four Nations Tournament when they face England today (Tuesday) and Norway on Thursday. This is a mixed team of college upperclass(wo)men and younger pro players, most of whom are without clubs with the WPS on hiatus. It's sort of an odd duck team since there's no CONCACAF or FIFA tournament for U23s and on the women's side the full senior team is allowed to compete in the Olympics (both Morgan and Leroux could have played for the U23s). So it's mostly a showcase for younger players to make their case for a spot on the senior national team.
U-20 Women vs Guatemala - Once we've recovered from a full midweek of soccer, the young women will be kicking off play on Friday in the CONCACAF U20 championship in Panama. This is the confederation qualifier for the FIFA U20 Women's World Cup held in Japan in August this year, and the US has either won the CONCACAF tournament or come in second (to Canada) every year of its existence. The team's made up of the best collegiate underclass(wo)men in the country. The only current Cascadia connection is forward Micaela Capelle, who plays for Portland. But this is a team that local standout Isabel Farrell is likely to see time on in the near future.
U-17 Women vs France - Finally, on Sunday the even younger US Women will kick off the Ten Nations Tournament in La Manga, Spain versus the French. It's officially a U-19 tournament, so the US will be playing up against older competition in this tune-up to the CONCACAF U17 Tournament in May. These are high school players and sadly none are from the area, though there's some good Colorado representation and this is a team that Farrell played on when she was eligible.
Also, the U20 men don't have a game this week, but Sounders Academy alum Sean Okoli is in camp with them as they prep for 2012 U20 World Cup qualifying.