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Whether you are an ardent soccer supporter, a casual fan, or unfamiliar with the game, you probably know that when it comes to the United States national team (USWNT), women dominate.
The US team has the most FIFA Women’s World Cup tournament titles: 1991, 1999 and 2015. You remember hearing about a group of women called the ’99ers. Maybe you remember where you were when Brandi Chastain scored the game winning penalty against China that summer. Perhaps it was not so much that she secured the second World Cup tournament win, but how she celebrated. She ripped her shirt. It was a controversial move to some, and incredibly empowering to others.
Nevertheless, the culmination of a month of celebrating female athletes showed that people wanted more of this. If that seems hard to believe take a look at the numbers. Over 660,000 people filled stadiums across the country during the tournament. Also, over 40 million viewers tuned in to catch it on television, just in the States. Since 1991, the USWNT has seen the tournament expand from 12 teams in 1991 and 1995 to 24 in 2015 and 2019. Also, they are one of seven nations to play in each tournament: USA, Brazil, Germany, Japan, Nigeria, Norway and Sweden. Now let’s talk about the relationship between the USWNT and the North Carolina Courage.
North Carolina Courage
The North Carolina Courage play in Cary. They are a member of the National Women’s Soccer League, the highest level of professional women’s soccer in the United States. However, the Courage previously played in New York as the Western New York Flash, playing their first season as the Courage in 2017. Their success translated from New York to North Carolina, winning the 2018 NWSL championship, as well as the inaugural Women’s International Champions Cup last summer. Basically, this team isn’t just good. They’re elite. Earning a stop on the national team during the four years between each World Cup means that you are among the best in the nation. Yet it does not guarantee selection for the World Cup. Meet the members of the Courage who made the cut.
NC Women On The Team
USWNT head coach Jill Ellis named four Courage members to the 23-player 2019 World Cup roster. Defenders Crystal Dunn and Abby Dahlkemper, midfielder Samantha Mewis and forward Jessica McDonald are among 11 players making their first World Cup appearance. Additionally, the entire roster consists of players who play in the NWSL. Rosters from all participating nations are due on May 24.
Dahlkemper made her national team debut on Oct. 19, 2016 against Switzerland, earning 37 caps since.
The California native studied sociology at UCLA, graduating in the fall of 2014. If she wasn’t a professional soccer player, she would have pursued professional surfing. You can find her on the beach.
The animal lover and middle child (she has an older brother Andrew, and a younger brother, Joe) is also a philanthropist, organizing soccer fundraisers to provide shoes for children Africa.
Dunn’s debut came on Feb. 13, 2013 versus Scotland. She would score her first of 24 goals on Sept. 20, 2015 against Haiti. The Tar Heel leads these four Courage players with 82 caps.
Like her teammate, Dunn also studied sociology.
Dunn concluded 2018 with wedding bells, marrying athletic trainer Pierre Soubrier on Dec. 29. As one of the best dancers on the USWNT, one can only imagine the dancing that took place at that wedding.
McDonald has two goals and seven caps for the national team. While her debut came on Nov. 2, 2016 against Romania, her first goal would not arrive until Nov. 8, 2018 in a 1-0 win against Portugal.
Like Dunn, McDonald is also a Tar Heel. There she pursued African American Studies.
McDonald nearly quit soccer, struggling to find a professional home. She played for five different teams between 2013-16. However, her persistence speaks for itself. She earned MVP in the NWSL championship game, scoring two goals. Also, she balances life as a mother of a seven year-old son, Jeremiah, and that of a professional athlete at 31 years old. While she remained uncertain of her future with the USWNT, her performance for the Courage proved to Ellis that McDonald had to make the trip to France.
Mewis made her debut on March 7, 2014 versus Sweden. Her first goal came against Puerto Rico on Feb. 15, 2016. Her current tally: nine goals and 47 caps.
Mewis majored in English at UCLA, making her hobbies of reading, writing, yoga and meditation a natural fit.
Like Dunn, Mewis celebrated December with a wedding, marrying Pat Johnson on Dec. 21.
She and her older sister Kristie are the first sister duo to represent the USWNT at a Women’s World Cup at any level (Under-17 World Cup in 2008). Kristie has one goal in 15 appearances, and plays in the NWSL for the Houston Dash.
The Road to World Cup ~ Stateside Send-Off Series
While the USWNT plays in various tournaments, with the World Cup taking the cake, they also participate in multiple friendlies. A friendly is an exhibition match, or a tuneup. These contests allow teams to stay fresh as they prepare for tournament play.
Mother’s Day win in Santa Clara, California
While the tournament takes place in France June 7 through July 7, the USWNT has three games on American soil to handle. First they kicked off against South Africa on Mother’s Day at Levi’s Stadium. Their 3-0 win featured two goals from Mewis and one from forward Carli Lloyd. Mewis touched her nose after scoring to let her mother know that the goal was for her. In addition to Mewis, Dunn and Dahlkemper also earned a place in the starting lineup.
Two down, one to go
The USWNT beat New Zealand 5-0 in St. Louis, Missouri at Busch Stadium on May 16. Forward Tobin Heath, midfielder Rose Lavelle and Mewis scored, with Lloyd finding the back of the net twice.
Finally, they conclude the send-off series on May 26 against Mexico. The neighboring nations kickoff at noon in Harrison, New Jersey at Red Bull Arena.
When To Watch? The World Cup Schedule
The 24-team tournament is broken into six groups. At most a team will play seven games to win the title. However, each nation is guaranteed three group stage games. For the USWNT, the battle to defend their 2015 crown begins in Group F. First, they face Thailand on June 11 at 3 p.m. in Reims. Next, the reigning champions head to Paris for a date with Chile on June 16 at noon. Finally, they play Sweden at 3 p.m. on June 20 in Le Havre.