U.S. Soccer to host sixth annual SheBelieves Cup in February
CHICAGO – U.S. Soccer will host the sixth annual SheBelieves Cup, from Feb. 18-24 as three of the top teams in the world – Brazil, Canada and Japan – join the USA for the most elite four-team international tournament in women’s soccer.
All four teams – which are all ranked in the world’s top-10 — will be participating in the delayed 2021 Olympic Games and the USA, Brazil and Japan come into the tournament as reigning champions of their respective Confederations.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic all six matches — which will be played in three doubleheaders — will be staged at Exploria Stadium in Orlando, Florida, home to the Orlando Pride of the NWSL and Orlando City SC of MLS. With the USA’s two January games vs. Colombia also taking place at Exploria Stadium, the USWNT will play its first five matches of 2021 at the venue. Exploria hosted the first doubleheader of last year’s SheBelieves Cup on March 5.
The 2021 SheBelieves Cup kicks off on Thursday, Feb. 18 as Brazil takes on Japan (4 p.m. ET) and the USA faces Canada (7 p.m. ET on FS1 and TUDN). The tournament resumes on Sunday, Feb. 21 with the USA playing the first match of the day, against Brazil (3 p.m. ET on FS1 and TUDN), while Japan will face Canada (6 p.m. ET) in the nightcap. The tournament concludes on Wednesday, Feb. 24 with Canada meeting Brazil (4 p.m. ET) and the USA facing Japan (7 p.m. ET on FS1 and TUDN).
The 2021 SheBelieves Cup will be held slightly earlier than in its previous incarnations due to FIFA’s adjustments to the official fixture dates for 2021.
2021 SheBelieves Cup, Presented by Visa, Schedule
Date Matches Stadium City Kickoff (ET) TV
Feb. 18 Brazil vs. Japan Exploria Stadium Orlando, Fla. 4 p.m. TBD
Feb. 18 USA vs. Canada Exploria Stadium Orlando, Fla. 7 p.m. FS1/TUDN
Feb. 21 USA vs. Brazil Exploria Stadium Orlando, Fla. 3 p.m. FS1/TUDN
Feb. 21 Japan vs. Canada Exploria Stadium Orlando, Fla. 6 p.m. TBD
Feb. 24 Canada vs. Brazil Exploria Stadium Orlando, Fla. 4 p.m. TBD
Feb. 24 USA vs. Japan Exploria Stadium Orlando, Fla. 7 p.m. FS1/TUDN
The USA comes into 2021 ranked #1 in the world while Brazil, Canada and Japan are stacked atop one another in the FIFA Rankings with the Canarinhas and Maple Leafs tied for eighth and the Nadeshiko at tenth.
The competition, which will feature many of the world’s best players in the six-game tournament, was first played in 2016. The USA won the inaugural edition, France took top honors in 2017, the USA won again in 2018, England finished first in 2019 and the USA returned to the top of the podium in 2020.
While all the matches will be played in Orlando, the competition format will be the same as for the previous five years with the teams each participating in three doubleheader events. The winner of the tournament will be determined by total points (three for a win, one for a tie), with the first tiebreaker being overall goal difference, followed by most total goals scored, then head-to-head result and lastly, Fair Play ranking if necessary.
“I can’t wait for this tournament and I know our players feel the same way,” said U.S. Women’s National Team head coach Vlatko Andonovski. “We put in all this work to play matches, so to get three great ones in this world class event that resembles group play at an Olympics is something we’re very thankful for. It will be a bit different this year with limited fans, but with the Olympics once again on the horizon our players will be highly motivated and there’s no better way to prepare for the tournament than to play teams that will be in Japan. There’s some great history between these countries and I know all six games will be fun to play in and to watch.”
SHEBELIEVES KEEPS GROWING
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, a forum bringing together young professionals and leaders in sport and business, SheBelieves Hero™, a nationwide search for a young community leader who embodies the SheBelieves ethos, SheBelieves Academy, an online learning tool conceived in partnership with author Joan Kuhl and designed to help young women achieve personally and professionally, and SheChampions, a coach mentorship program concepted in collaboration with former head coach Jill Ellis to increase the number of female coaches in the U.S. through mentorship, resources, and support.
VISA SHEBELIEVES CUP MVP
For the second 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. A new selection committee comprised of representatives from all competing nations will be announced for the 2021 SheBelieves Cup, but this year fans will also 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. This year, fans will also be able to vote to determine the 2021 Visa SheBelieves Cup MVP.
The fifth annual SheBelieves HeroTM contest will choose a young person between the ages of 13-17 who embodies the SheBelieves spirit. A SheBelieves Hero™ is a leader in their community, a confident and passionate individual who empowers others around them and works to make a difference. The contest will run from Jan. 11-March 1. The winner of the SheBelieves HeroTM contest will be awarded a trip for two (2) to a future USWNT friendly match and a VIP gameday experience. For more information and to view past winners’ stories, visit ussoccer.com/shebelieves/hero .
Once the teams arrive in Orlando, all the players and staffs will operate inside highly controlled environments at the host hotel. The staging trainings and the matches will fall under the comprehensive U.S. Soccer Return to Play Protocols and Guidelines and in accordance with the Concacaf Return to Play Protocols. Everyone entering the controlled environment will be tested for COVID-19 before traveling, upon arrival and every two days thereafter. The teams will not begin full team training until the results of all arrival tests are confirmed.
- The meeting with Canada will come just over a year after most recent match between the teams that took place on Feb. 9, 2020 in the title game of the Concacaf Women’s Olympic Qualifying Tournament. The USA won 3-0 on goals from Lynn Williams, Lindsey Horan and Megan Rapinoe.
- The tournament will mark the USA’s first meeting with Brazil since the 2019 SheBelieves Cup, a 1-0 victory in Tampa, Fla. that featured a brilliant goal from Tobin Heath.
- The match against Japan will be the first meeting since last year’s SheBelieves Cup when the teams met in the final game of the tournament and a 3-1 U.S. victory secured the championship.
- This will be the third appearance in the SheBelieves Cup for Japan, the second for Brazil and the maiden appearance for Canada.
- This will be the 61st meeting between the USA and Canada, extending the record for the USWNT’s most common opponent.
- Brazil and Japan are no strangers to games against the USA either as the meetings in Orlando will be the USA’s 38th game against Brazil and 40th game against Japan.
- It will, however, be the USA’s first game against Brazil with former USWNT head coach Pia Sundhage at the helm. Sundhage, a women’s soccer legend as a player for her native Sweden and as a coach, took over Brazil in July of 2019 after the World Cup.
- As host, Japan’s berth to the 2021 Olympics is already secured. Brazil earned its Olympic berth by winning the 2018 Copa America while Canada earned its Olympic spot by defeating Costa Rica, 1-0, in the semifinal of the 2020 Concacaf Women’s Olympic Qualifying Championship last February in Frisco, Texas.
- The U.S. WNT has played many games in the Orlando area (including two at the 1996 Olympics), but the three SheBelieves Cup Games will increase the USA’s matches at Exploria Stadium to seven.
- The USA also played at Exploria Stadium during the 2018 SheBelieves Cup, a 1-0 win against England, and during the 2020 SheBelieves Cup, a 2-0 win vs. England. The USA will play its two January matches against Colombia at the venue as well.
SHEBELIEVES CUP HISTORY
In the 2020 SheBelieves Cup, which was the USA’s final competition before the sports world shut down (it would be 261 days before the USA would play again), the American women took the title while sweeping all three games, 2-0 vs. England, 1-0 vs. Spain and 3-1 vs. Japan. The victory against Spain came on a last gasp header from Julie Ertz that whipped the sold-out crowd at Red Bull Arena into a frenzy. Spain finished second after wins over Japan (3-1) and England (1-0) and Alexia Putellas, who scored twice in the tournament, was named the first-ever SheBelieves Cup Visa MVP. England managed to beat Japan, 1-0, in its middle match, but fell to the USA and Spain in its first and last games, respectively. A Japan team in transition allowed the most goals in the tournament (7) and failed to win a game, finishing fourth. After a 19-goal bonanza in 2019, the 2020 SheBelieves Cup produced 13 total scores.
In the 2019 SheBelieves Cup, the USA finished second, in part because the Americans allowed an equalizer in second half stoppage time in a 2-2 draw with Japan to open the tournament. The USA then drew England, 2-2, and beat Brazil, 1-0, but England won the event after a 2-1 win over Brazil and a 3-0 win against Japan. Japan went 1-1-1, beating Brazil 3-1 to finish third, while Brazil failed to win a game and finished fourth. This tournament saw even more goals scored than in 2018, with 19 hitting the back of the net.
In the 2018 SheBelieves Cup the goals finally started flowing. After the first two tournaments produced nine goals each, 16 were scored over the six games in 2018. The U.S. games were tight as the Americans defeated Germany 1-0 on a goal from Megan Rapinoe, tied France 1-1 on a goal from Mallory Pugh, and then defeated England 1-0 on an England own goal that was created by a Megan Rapinoe cross. England finished second by virtue of its 4-1 win against a France team playing a few reserves and a 2-2 draw with Germany. France finished third but did end on a high note with a 3-0 victory against Germany while the Germans finished fourth after failing to win a game.
In the 2017 SheBelieves Cup, the USA defeated Germany 1-0 in the opening match on a goal from Lynn Williams but fell to England 1-0 and France 3-0. France won the tournament, Germany was second, England third and the USA finished fourth. France defeated England 2-1, drew 0-0 with Germany and downed the USA 3-0.
In the 2016 edition of the SheBelieves Cup, the USA defeated England and France by 1-0 scores and downed Germany, 2-1, in the de facto championship game to take the inaugural tournament title. Germany finished second, England was third and France fourth. None of the games was decided by more than one goal, as the tournament included three 1-0 victories, two 2-1 victories and one 0-0 draw.