The United States women’s national team is planning an away friendly with Norway in June, according to reports from Sandefjord Football in Norway, shared by Katja Kragelund on Twitter.
The match is reportedly scheduled for June 11, and will serve as a pre-Euro 2017 tuneup for the Norwegian team.
This is a rare event for the USWNT, who have not played an away friendly in over two years—going back to a February 2015 match against England.
There are good reasons for that drought, mostly related to money. The USWNT is a strong and consistent draw, whose home friendlies help to sustain the US Soccer budget.
However, as lucrative as the domestic market might be, it comes with real competitive consequences. For a team that already possesses significant advantages over most of its competition, layering home field advantage on top only magnifies the competitive gap. There are many explanations for the team’s (relative) failure in Brazil last summer, but lack of recent experience playing tough opponents in unfamiliar conditions could certainly have been part of the equation.
So, this match is a nice corrective. While Norway has spent the last decade in a bit of a holding pattern—after being one of the great powers in women’s soccer during the 1990s—their recent form indicates a team very much on the rise. Led by Ada Hegerberg, already one of the world’s best players and still only 21, they beat Sweden and England in January, looking very impressive in both matches. They should provide stiff opposition.
In the past, the WNT have scheduled their European friendlies in pairs, so chances are good that this trip will include a second match. The FIFA break runs from June 5-13, and the team will likely set up a European camp over that period.
Coach Jill Ellis has also recently stated in an interview with FIFA.com that the team has planned matches with Japan and Brazil in 2017, though location has not yet been specified. Elsewhere, a report from Cintia Barlem at Globo Esporto indicates plans for a tournament in July featuring the US, Brazil, Japan, and Australia.
This all makes for a relatively busy calendar, even during a ‘down’ year in the schedule. With the SheBelieves Cup in March, friendlies against Russia in April, as well as these anticipated June friendlies and July tournament, the USWNT should get some strong competition while Ellis builds toward 2019.