The U.S. women will try to qualify for the Olympics a seventh consecutive time. (Photo courtesy of FIFA)
CHICAGO – The U.S. women’s national team will begin its quest to qualify for the 2020 Olympics when they take on Haiti on Tuesday, Jan. 28, and then face Panama on Friday, Jan. 31 before finishing Group A play against Costa Rica on Monday, Feb. 3.
The Americans learned their path to Tokyo Thursday at the final draw for the 2020 Concacaf Women’s Olympic Qualifying Championship was held in Miami.
Ticket information, kickoff times and TV information will be released at a later date.
The two venues for group play will be BBVA Stadium, home to the Houston Dash of the NWSL and Houston Dynamo of MLS, and H-E-B Park in Edinburg, Texas, home to the Rio Grande Valley FC Toros of the USL Championship. Houston hosted knockout-round games for the 2016 Concacaf Women’s Olympic Qualifying tournament, while Edinburg staged Group B matches during 2018 Concacaf Women’s World Cup Qualifying.
The round-robin stage of the tournament will be conducted with three doubleheaders in each group. Group A will have doubleheaders at BBVA Stadium on Jan. 28, Jan. 31 and Feb. 3, while Group B – which features Canada, Mexico, Jamaica and first-time qualifier St. Kitts and Nevis – will play doubleheaders at H-E-B Park on Jan. 29, Feb. 1 and Feb. 4. Canada and Jamaica both participated in the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup in France.
The all-important semifinal matches will be on Friday, Feb. 7 at Dignity Health Sports Park, home of the Los Angeles Galaxy of MLS, with the winners qualifying for the 2020 Olympics in Japan. The championship game on Sunday, Feb. 9 will also be at DHSP in Carson, California.
As the top-ranked team in the current FIFA rankings, the USA was seeded atop Group A, and Canada, which is the second highest ranked team in Concacaf, was seeded atop Group B. The remaining six teams were drawn into their groups from three pots, with Pot 2 containing Mexico and Costa Rica, Pot 3 containing Jamaica and Panama and Pot 4 containing Haiti and St. Kitts & Nevis.
The U.S. will attempt to qualify for a seventh consecutive Olympic Games and win the Concacaf Women’s Olympic Qualifying event for the fifth consecutive time.
“As a coach or a player, it’s always great when your path to your goals becomes clearer, so I know everyone is excited for our new challenges in 2020,” U.S. head coach Vlatko Andonovski said. “It’s a nice thing to see some of the smaller soccer countries get the chance to pursue their dreams as well. In our group, we have opponents that we’ve faced in the past in qualifying competitions, so we’ll be well-prepared as these teams want to go to the Olympics as much as we do.”
In 2016, the USA won the Olympic Qualifying tournament in Houston, Texas, to qualify for the Olympics in Brazil where it fell in penalty kicks to Sweden in the quarterfinal. In 2012, the USA won the Olympic Qualifying tournament in Vancouver, B.C. and then went on to win the gold medal in London.
In 2008, the U.S. won the Olympic Qualifying Tournament in Mexico and went on to win gold in Beijing. In 2004, the U.S. won the qualifying tournament in Costa Rica and went on to win gold in Athens, Greece. The U.S. qualified for the 1996 Atlanta Games as host and for the 2000 Sydney Games as a top-seven finisher at the 1999 FIFA Women’s World Cup.
Half of the Olympic field is already set with host Japan, Brazil from South America, Great Britain, Netherlands and Sweden from Europe and New Zealand from Oceania having booked tickets to Japan. Still to be determined are the two representatives from Concacaf, one from Africa, two from Asia and the winner of a playoff between the second-placed team from Africa and Chile, which finished second in the most recent South American qualifying tournament.
The Americans have played Costa Rica 14 times. Eight of those meetings came in Concacaf Qualifying competitions, four in Olympic qualifying and three in World Cup qualifying. The most recent meeting in Olympic Qualifying came in February of 2016 as the USA defeated Costa Rica, 5-0, to open the tournament. The USA has never lost to Costa Rica.
The Red, White and Blue has played Panama twice in World Cup qualifying competitions, with the first coming in 2003 and the most recent in 2018, a 5-0 win in Cary, N.C.
The USWNT has faced Haiti six times, four of those coming in Concacaf qualifying competitions. In October of 2014, the teams met in qualifying for the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup with the USA winning 6-0 in Washington, D.C. The two most recent meetings with Haiti were friendlies on the post-World Cup victory tour in 2015.
Andonvoski will hold a training camp in January from which he will pick his 20-player Olympic qualifying roster.