From the U.S. Soccer Communications Center
CHICAGO (July 7, 2005) -- U.S. Under-21 Women's National Team head coach Jillian Ellis has named the 19-player squad that will travel to Sweden for the 15th Annual Nordic Cup being held July 20-26 in 10 small venues about a two-and-a-half hour drive West from Stockholm.
The U.S. team will assemble to train for three days in New Jersey from July 12-14 (which includes a scrimmage against the USL W-League's New Jersey Wildcats on July 13) before departing for Sweden, which will be hosting its third Nordic Cup. Held in Northern Europe every summer, the Nordic Cup is the top competition in the world for U-21 women and the focus of the USA's oldest youth national team during its seven-month run-up to the prestigious competition. The USA has won seven Nordic Cup titles, but has never won in Sweden.
Ellis' squad includes eight players who have played in past Nordic Cups with 10 players making their Nordic Cup debuts, all of whom have never been capped at the U-21 level. Midfielders Lori Chalupny and Carli Lloyd and goalkeeper Nicole Barnhart will be playing in their fourth Nordic Cup tournament, while Manya Makoski, Jill Oakes and Kelly Schmedes will be making their third appearance, and Sarah Huffman and Lindsay Tarpley will be looking for their second Nordic Cup title. Heather O'Reilly is the lone capped U-21 player on the roster who has yet to make an appearance in a Nordic Cup match.
O'Reilly, along with 2004 Olympian teammate Tarpley, will lead a vastly experienced U.S. U-21 team that has a total of eight players that have earned caps with the full U.S. Women's National Team. Chalupny, Schmedes and Barnhart all earned their first caps in years past, while Oakes, Stephanie Lopez and Amy Rodriguez all made their first appearance at the 2005 Algarve Cup this past March. In fact, seven players from this year's Nordic Cup roster are currently training with the full Women's National Team in Portland, Oregon, in preparation for this Sunday's match (July 10) vs. Ukraine (live on ESPN2 at 3:30 p.m. PT).
Nine players, a full half of the roster, were members of the USA's 2002 Under-19 World Championship Team in forwards Schmedes and O'Reilly, midfielders Oakes, Tarpley, Chalupny, Sarah Huffman and Makoski, and defenders Rachel Buehler and Kendall Fletcher. An additional three players, Lopez, Rodriguez and Megan Rapinoe were members of the U.S. team that played in the 2004 FIFA U-19 Women's World Championship in Thailand last November. Buehler played on both the 2002 and 2004 teams.
"It's a deep team at most positions and it's a team that obviously has a high level of international experience," said Ellis, who took over the team from Greg Ryan in May after he was named head coach and technical director of the U.S. Women's National Teams programs. "It's a strong team with a lot of personality and attacking flair."
Along with O'Reilly, first-time Nordic Cup participants include goalkeeper Erika Bohn of Notre Dame, who played the key role in leading her team to the NCAA title in 2004, her Fighting Irish teammate midfielder Jen Buczkowski, Pac-10 defenders Buehler of Stanford and Mary Castelanelli of UCLA, and the only high school player on the roster, rising senior forward Lauren Cheney. Other first-timers are UNC defenders Fletcher and Jessica Maxwell, Lopez, Rapinoe and Rodriguez.
The USA will face a tough challenge in Group B, taking on Iceland, Denmark and a German side likely to be stocked with players from its 2004 U-19 FIFA World Championship-winning team. Group A features Sweden, Norway, Finland and England. The top two finishers in each group will cross over to play for the championship, while the two second place finishers will play for third, the third place finishers for fifth and the last place finishers in the groups will vie for seventh place.
The USA opens the tournament against Iceland on Wednesday, July 20, in Kristinehamn, and then faces Denmark on Friday, July 22, in Saffle. The U.S. will finish first-round play with a clash against Germany on Sunday, July 24, in Karlskoga. All four placement matches are set for Tuesday, July 26.
"Our draw is difficult, and I think it will be a strong tournament this year, but we've got a lot versatility and flexibility with this group in terms of positions," said Ellis. "That will be valuable with four games in seven days as it's definitely a physically demanding tournament."
The USA has won an amazing seven out of the last eight Nordic Cups, and six in a row, since winning its first in 1997 over Norway in Denmark. The USA fell the next year to Norway in the title game. Since then, the USA has reeled off six straight titles under four different coaches, defeating Norway once, Germany twice and Sweden three times in the title games. This will be the second Nordic Cup for Ellis, who led the USA to 1-0 victory over host Germany at the 2000 Nordic Cup when Jena Kluegel scored the winning goal.
"I'm excited to go to Sweden and play with such a talented team against great competition," said Tarpley. "Anytime you can get four good games at the international level, it only helps you grow as a player. This age level is always a good group, but during events we've had this year, the level of play has been phenomenal. The coaching staff has been great with Greg Ryan starting us off and Jill Ellis taking over, and they've given us some great preparation for the tournament this summer."
Age eligible players for the 2004 Nordic Cup are those born on or after January 1, 1984, but Ellis has the option of including four "overage" players on team, which are players born on or after January 1, 1981. The "overage" players on the 2005 Nordic Cup team are Barnhart and Lloyd, who were also overage players last year, as well as Tarpley and Schmedes.