2022 SheBelieves Cup guide: USWNT newcomers and opposition, match times, how to watch

NEWCASTLE, AUSTRALIA - NOVEMBER 30: Lynn Williams #6 and Becky Sauerbrunn #4 of the United States acknowledge's the fans after a game between Australia and USWNT at McDonald Jones Stadium on November 30, 2021 in Newcastle, Australia.
By Jeff Rueter Feb 16, 2022 5

On Thursday, the USWNT begins its quest for a fifth SheBelieves Cup title in the tournament’s seventh year. So we’ve put together a watch guide with the match schedule, TV times, channel and streaming options, plus a little lay of the land for the four teams involved. 

The USWNT is starting a major transitional year after a disappointing third-place finish in last year’s Olympics. 2022’s main focus will undoubtedly be World Cup qualifying in the form of the CONCACAF W Championship in July. Until that tournament, however, head coach Vlatko Andonovski will have to weigh how many members of the long-established core are likely to still play a leading role this summer. At the same time, many younger players plying their trade in both the NWSL and abroad will be hoping to make their cases for greater inclusion.

Two members of the United States roster bring over 100 caps: captain Becky Sauerbrunn enters the tournament with 199 caps, setting her up for an impending milestone (and, if the universe can let one good thing happen for us all, her first international goal, as well). Kelley O’Hara (148 caps) is one of seven members from the defending NWSL champion Washington Spirit. All eyes will be on another member of that group, though: 19-year-old striker Trinity Rodman. The reigning NWSL rookie of the year is looking to make her USWNT debut at SheBelieves after signing an NWSL record contract

Keeping track

On The Athletic

We’ve got some great stories in the works, and we’ve got Steph Yang providing Sambas on the ground coverage in-stadium. As usual, you can expect quick analysis after each USWNT match here at The Athletic, which is always unlocked and free to read.

If you need to prepare and missed any of our recent stories, here are three you should definitely read ahead of the tournament:

  • Cindy Parlow Cone caught up with Yang to go over her bid for re-election as United States Soccer Federation president, running against her predecessor, and many topics about youth and amateur circuits across the country. (Also, here’s an explainer on how the USSF election works from Meg Linehan.)
  • Sam Mewis may be getting the week off, but Lynn Williams could play a leading role up top in this tournament. The duo joined the Kansas City Current this offseason, and spoke with Yang about their new team, each other — and Snacks, their podcast together. 
  • Many of the fresher faces on this roster also featured during a pair of matches against Australia late in 2021. Brush up on Yang’s tiered assessment of the standouts from those games. 

You can subscribe to Full Time with Meg Linehan via The Athletic site and in the app (which carries the ad-free version of the show), or via Apple, Spotify, or wherever else you listen to podcasts.

And of course, make sure all of the USWNT coverage and live Q&As are on your personal feed at The Athletic. Follow the USWNT here, and if you’d like to go above and beyond, you can also follow Steph’s work at her author page and Meg’s work via her author page.

On TV and streams

This year, the tournament will be broadcast in its entirety on the ESPN family of networks, with Spanish language broadcast also available through TUDN (Feb. 17) and PrendeTV (Feb. 20 & 23).

On social media

For all our coverage, make sure you’re following @TheAthleticSCCR on Twitter. You can also follow @thrace and @itsmeglinehan to catch all of Steph and Meg’s insight, as well. 

Follow the four team/federation accounts: @USWNT, @ceskarepre_eng (although they mostly retweet @zenyfotbal for WoSo content), @footballiceland and @NZ_Football. There will be the usual gameday hashtags, but also expect content to be tagged to #SheBelievesCup, as well.

The tournament and the teams

While 2021 marked the USWNT’s fourth SheBelieves title, it was the first time they were able to successfully repeat as champions. That roster was built around the entirety of Andonovski’s chosen core, but this squad includes a new mix of fresh faces and players who have been on the outside looking in over the past couple of years. 

In the past, the other three combatants in a SheBelieves Cup have generally fit two criteria: either they’re among the top 10 teams in the world or they’re a growing international program from Europe or South America. This year, the emphasis is on the latter.

USA RankAverage rank of opponents
2016
1
3.3
2017
1
3.3
2018
1
3.7
2019
1
7.3
2020
1
9.7
2021
1
15.7
2022
1
20.7

Gone are the days of the United States calling up their pals in England, France and Germany to make up an annual clash of the titans. Over time, the organizers have used the opportunity to branch out to opponents who aren’t as well-known to casual fans while giving their foes a strong friendly tournament early in the year. 

The flip side, of course, is that the games can be less competitive for the USWNT. Last year pitted the hosts against eventual Olympic gold-medal winners Canada and eighth-ranked Brazil, yet the U.S. still won all three games with an aggregate goal difference of 9-0. This year’s opponents — the Czech Republic, Iceland and New Zealand — aren’t to be taken lightly, but none of them have ever advanced beyond the World Cup group stage.

There are some standout players to follow on each side. 

Striker Sveindís Jane Jónsdóttir won Iceland’s player of the year in 2021 despite only turning 20 in June, while veterans Dagný Brynjarsdóttir (West Ham) and Gunnhildur Yrsa Jónsdóttir (Orlando Pride) anchor the midfield. 

Lucie Martínková is the Czech Republic’s all-time cap leader (113) and is joined by goalkeeper Barbora Votíková (Paris Saint-Germain) and midfielder Kateřina Svitková (West Ham). 

New Zealand continues its preparations for their 2023 World Cup co-hosting duties led by former NWSL Best XI defender Abby Erceg, captain and Angel City signing Ali Riley and Tottenham midfielder Ria Percival.

As for the United States, fans will be eager to see how Rodman can parlay her breakout NWSL debut into action with the national team. She’s one of 10 players with 10 or fewer caps, including fellow forwards Margaret Purce, Sophia Smith and Ashley Hatch. Alyssa Naeher returns between the sticks after missing the second half of 2021 with a knee injury, where she’ll be joined by Casey Murphy after her impeccable first international impression in November. 

Morgan Gautrat will look to regain stable footing in the midfield on the back of a terrific 2021 with the Chicago Red Stars, as will forward Mallory Pugh. Catarina Macario enters her second season with the national team hoping to carry strong form with Olympique Lyon into the midfield. Both midfielders will aim to impress alongside 2021 SheBelieves player of the tournament Rose Lavelle. In total, the tournament should give Andonovski 270 minutes of action to evaluate a broader portion of the player pool before World Cup qualifying preparation begins in earnest.

(Photo: Brad Smith/ISI Photos)

Jeff Rueter is a staff writer for The Athletic who covers North American soccer. Prior to joining in 2019, his work appeared in the Guardian, ESPN FC, Sky Sports, and FourFourTwo USA. Rueter’s cover story for Howler Magazine (Winter 2017/18) was a Best American Sports Writing 2019 notable honoree. Follow Jeff on Twitter @jeffrueter.