Canada is making its second appearance in the SheBelieves Cup after finishing third in 2021. Canada was drawn into Group B at the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup along with Nigeria, Australia and the Republic of Ireland. Japan is participating in the SBC for the third time after coming to the USA in 2020 (fourth place) and 2019 (third place) and was drawn into Group C at the World Cup along with Costa Rica, Spain and Zambia. Brazil makes its third appearance in the SheBelieves Cup after participating in 2021 (second place) and 2019 (fourth place). Brazil was drawn into Group F at the World Cup along with France, Jamaica and the Group C playoff winner.
VISA SHEBELIEVES CUP MVP
For the fourth year in a row, Visa, the presenting sponsor of the SheBelieves Cup, will award the MVP trophy to the most outstanding player of the tournament. The award will be announced following the conclusion of the final match. Spain’s Alexia Putellas won the inaugural award in 2020 as voted on by a selection committee of former Women’s National Team players from each participating country while Rose Lavelle claimed MVP honors in 2021 and fellow American Catarina Macario was the 2022 recipient.
A new selection committee comprised of representatives from all competing nations will be announced for the 2023 SheBelieves Cup and fans will once again have the opportunity to vote for the Visa SheBelieves Cup MVP award recipient, using an online ballot to select among a list of finalists chosen by the committee. The fan-vote will be incorporated into the overall determination of the 2023 Visa SheBelieves Cup MVP.
INSIDE THE SERIES: USA vs. JAPAN
Sunday’s matchup in Nashville will be the 39th meeting all-time between the USA and Japan and the first since the March 11 meeting at the 2020 SheBelieves Cup. That match, a 3-1 U.S. victory in which Rapinoe and Press scored magnificent first half goals and Horan added late insurance strike after Japan’s Mana Iwabuchi pulled on back in the 58th minute, was the last game the U.S. played for over eight months as the world quickly shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic. As the teams now resume play in 2023, the USA leads the all-time series against Japan with an overall record of 29W-1L-8D. The USA’s lone loss in the series came during the 2012 Algarve Cup. Since then, the USA is unbeaten in the last 11 meetings between the teams, with seven wins and four draws in that span, including a 2-1 win in the 2012 Olympic Final and a 5-2 victory in the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup Final.
Alex Morgan has scored 12 goals in 14 career appearances against Japan, the most goals she has scored against any one opponent in her international career and the most goals scored against Japan by any player in USWNT history. One of those goals came in the 2011 World Cup Final, as Morgan opened the scoring in the 69th minute. Tied 2-2 at the end of regulation and following extra time, Japan eventually prevailed on penalty kicks, 3-1, to claim the World Cup title.
Rapinoe has five goals and six assists in 13 career appearances against Japan while Horan (2 goals) and Mallory Swanson (1 goal) have also scored in previous meetings with Japan.
USA WILL PLAY IN GROUP E AT 2023 WOMEN’S WORLD CUP
The U.S. Women’s National Team will face World Cup debutant Vietnam, 2019 World Cup runner-up the Netherlands and the Group A Playoff Winner — either Portugal or Cameroon — in Group E at the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup taking place from July 20-Aug. 20 in 10 stadiums and nine host cities, five in Australia and four in New Zealand.
The USA will play the entirety of the group stage in New Zealand. The U.S. will open Group E play against Vietnam on July 22 at Eden Park in Auckland/Tāmaki Makaurau (1 p.m. local / 9 p.m. ET on July 21), which will also serve as the host venue for the Opening Ceremony of the 2023 World Cup on July 20 when New Zealand plays Norway. The USA then faces Netherlands on July 27 at Wellington Regional Stadium in Wellington/Te Whanganui-a-Tara (1 p.m. local / 9 p.m. ET on July 26), followed by the Group A Playoff Winner on Aug. 1 at Eden Park in Auckland/Tāmaki Makaurau (7 p.m. local / 3 a.m. ET).
WORLD CUP FIELD NEARLY FINALIZED
The expanded 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup will be the first to feature 32 countries, up from 24 in 2019 and 2015. Of the 32 teams for Australia/New Zealand, 29 have qualified with only the playoff winners yet to be determined.
Those three remaining spots will be determined this FIFA Window during the Inter-Confederation Playoffs taking place in New Zealand from February 18-23. The ten-team playoff tournament will be used as a test event prior to the Women’s World Cup and features the ten nations split into three groups, with the winner of each group qualifying for the Women’s World Cup. Group A kicked off with Cameroon topping Thailand 2-0 on Feb. 18. The Indomitable Lionesses will now take on Portugal on Feb. 22 for a berth to the World Cup. The game will be played at World Cup venue Waikato Stadium in Hamilton/Kirikiriroa and the winner of Portugal vs. Cameroon will join the USA in Group E at the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup this summer.
Group B featured Haiti downing Senegal 4-0 on Feb. 18 to advance to a Feb. 22 matchup against Chile with a World Cup berth on the line. That match will be played at North Harbour Stadium in Auckland/Tāmaki Makaurau and the Playoff Group B winner will join England, Denmark and China PR in Group B at the final tournament.
Group C features four teams, so Chinese Taipei will take on Paraguay and Papua New Guinea will face Panama on Feb. 19 with the winners playing on Feb. 23 for a berth to the World Cup. The two semifinals will take place at Waikato Stadium and North Harbour Stadium and the final will take place at Waikato Stadium. The winner will join France, Jamaica and Brazil in Group F.
New Zealand and Argentina, both of whom are already in the World Cup, will play a series of friendly matches against playoff teams during the FIFA window as well. Argentina topped Chile 4-0 on Feb. 17 while New Zealand fell to Portugal 5-0.
SHEBELIEVES MOVEMENT CONTINUES TO GROW
Inspired by the U.S. WNT players, SheBelieves is an initiative led by U.S. Soccer to inspire and encourage women and girls. The campaign launched in the run-up to the 2015 Women’s World Cup and has since grown into a powerful message of empowerment and believing in oneself. The SheBelieves Cup represents a showcase event for the campaign, which also features efforts such as the SheBelieves Summit Presented by Deloitte.
The 2023 SheBelieves Summit will take place on March 11-12 at Deloitte University in Westlake, Texas. Returning to its original in-person-only format, the sixth annual SheBelieves Summit will feature speakers from sports, business and beyond, aiming to help provide attendees with the tools needed to help secure jobs in their chosen careers and continue on the journey to reach their goals. Registration for the event is now open.
USA ROSTER NOTES
- The most capped player on this roster is Becky Sauerbrunn at 213, followed by Alex Morgan (202), Megan Rapinoe (197), Crystal Dunn (129) and Lindsey Horan (124), while the least capped players are Trinity Rodman (13), Casey Murphy (12), Naomi Girma (12), Adrianna Franch (10) and Taylor Kornieck (10).
- Eleven of the 23 players on the USA roster for the 2023 SheBelieves Cup have fewer than 30 caps: Sofia Huerta, Emily Fox, Midge Purce, Alana Cook, Ashley Sanchez, Ashley Hatch, Murphy, Franch, Rodman, Girma, and Kornieck.
- Morgan is the top scorer on the roster in international play with 120 goals. Megan Rapinoe has 63, Mallory Swanson has 30, Lindsey Horan has 26, and Dunn and Lavelle each have 24.
- Six different players have scored for the USA so far in 2023, led by five goals from Swanson, two goals from Lavelle and one goal each from Morgan, Lynn Williams, Hatch and Kornieck.
- Swanson leads the USA in total minutes played in 2023 with 246 minutes of action. Fox and Cook are tied for second with 225 minutes each.
- Nine of the USA’s 11 goals this year have been assisted, with six different players tallying an assist in 2023. Rodman leads the way with three assists, followed by two from Lavelle and one each from Sanchez, Huerta, Williams and Morgan.
- With her assist on Swanson’s opening goal Alex Morgan now has 48 career assists and is just one assist away from moving into a tie with Carin Jennings-Gabarra for 10th place on the USA’s all-time assists charts.
- Nine players have been directly involved in a goal this year with either a goal or an assist, led by Swanson’s five goals. Lavelle is second with four total goal involvements (two goals and two assists).
- The USA has posted three consecutive shutouts to open 2023 with Alyssa Naeher recording clean sheets against New Zealand (Jan. 18) and Canada (Feb. 16) and Casey Murphy pitching the shutout on Jan. 21 against the Football Ferns.
- Head coach Vlatko Andonovski is 45-5-6 in 56 games with the USWNT, 36 of which have been at home and 23 coming against teams ranked in the top-13 in the world.
IN FOCUS: JAPAN | FIVE THINGS TO KNOW
FIFA World Ranking: 11
AFC Ranking: 2
World Cup Appearances: 8 (1991, 1995, 199, 2003, 2007, 2011, 2015, 2019)
Best World Cup Finish: Champions (2011)
Record vs. USA (W-D-L): 1W-29L-8D
Last Meeting vs. USA: March 11, 2020 (3-1 USA win in Frisco, Texas)
Head Coach: Futoshi Ikeda (JPN)
JAPAN DETAILED ROSTER BY POSITION
Goalkeepers (4): 1-Ayaka Yamashita (INAC Kobe Leonessa), 17-Shu Ohba (East Tennessee State, USA), 18-Momoko Tanaka (Nippon TV Tokyo Verdy Beleza), 21-Chika Hirao (Albirex Niigata Ladies)
Defenders (8): 2-Risa Shimizu (West Ham United FC, ENG), 3-Moeka Minami (AS Roma, ITA), 4-Saki Kumagai (FC Bayern Munich, GER), 5-Shiori Miyake (INAC Kobe Leonessa), 6-Rion Ishikawa (Urawa Reds Ladies), 12-Ruka Norimatsu (Omiya Ardija Ventus), 19-Saori Takarada (Linköping FC, SWE), 22-Kiko Seike (Urawa Reds Ladies)
MIDFIELDERS (7): 7-Hinata Miyazawa (Mynavi Sendai Ladies), 8-Fuka Nagano (Liverpool FC, ENG), 13-Jun Endo (Angel City FC, USA), 14-Yui Hasegawa (Manchester City FC, ENG), 15-Hina Sugita (Portland Thorns FC, USA), 16-Honoka Hayashi (West Ham United FC, ENG), 20-Aoba Fujino (Nippon TV Tokyo Verdy Beleza)
FORWARDS (4): 9-Riko Ueki (Nippon TV Tokyo Verdy Beleza), 10-Mana Iwabuchi (Tottenham Hotspur FC, ENG), 11-Rikako Kobayashi (Nippon TV Tokyo Verdy Beleza), 23-Maika Hamano (Hammarby IF, SWE）
JAPAN ROSTER NOTES
- Japan’s head coach, Futoshi Ikeda, took over from Asako Takakura, who is one of the pioneers of Japan women’s soccer and was the first female coach of Japan’s senior Women’s National Team who coached the Nadeshiko from 2016–2021.
- Ikeda, a former professional player for Urawa Reds, is a former head coach of Japan U-20 Women’s National Team. He led Japan to the championship at the 2017 AFC U-19 Championship and qualified for the 2018 FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup, which Japan won. He also a former coach for the Japan U-17 Women’s National Team, making him very familiar with Japan’s young talent and their pathway to the senior side.
- Ikeda has called in a youthful 23-player squad for the 2023 SheBelieves Cup, with just one player – 32-year-old defender Saki Kumagai – over the age of 30. Japan, which seems to always be in the middle of a youth movement based on its success at the youth international level, features twelve players are under the age of 25, including three teenagers in defender Rion Ishikawa, midfielder Aoba Fujino and forward Maika Hamano.
- Kumagai is by far the most experienced player on this roster with 132 caps and has represented Japan at the last three FIFA Women’s World Cups, including scoring the winning penalty against the USA in the penalty kick shootout during the 2011 FIFA World Cup Final.
- Diminutive forward Mana Iwabuchi is the next most experienced with 86 caps and is the leading scorer on this roster with 37 international goals.
- Kumagai currently plays her club soccer for Bayern Munich in Germany. She left Olympique Lyon after the 2020-21 season following eight seasons with the French powerhouse in which she won five UEFA Women’s Champions League titles and at different times played with Americans Megan Rapinoe, Alex Morgan, Morgan Gautrat and Catarina Macario.
- While Kumagai is the only player on this roster who plays her club soccer in Germany, 11 others are currently playing their club soccer outside of Japan. Five players, including Iwabuchi, play in England in the Women’s Super League, three in the United States, two play in Sweden and one in Italy.
- Angel City FC midfielder Jun Endo and Portland Thorns FC midfielder Hina Sugita, who is teammates with the USA’s Becky Sauerbrunn and Crystal Dunn, are the NWSL representatives on this roster while uncapped goalkeeper Shu Ohba plays collegiately at East Tennessee State. She was the starting goalkeeper for Japan during its meeting with the USA during group play at the 2022 FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup in Costa Rica, a 3-1 Japan win.
- The other 11 players on this roster all play their club soccer domestically in Japan’s WE League.