Uncle Sam's Report: March Reflections, April Previews
Image Courtesy Newsweek
Happy April! I'm Uncle Sam (Basel), and welcome to my Report, where each month, I'll be covering the top headlines from the world of US Soccer, on both the National Team and club side. With 2021 featuring the re-scheduled Olympics, the CONCACAF Gold Cup, and the first qualifying stages for the next Men's World Cup, there has never been a better time to follow the Stars and Stripes!
National Team Report
Image Courtesy Sports Illustrated
Men's National Team
The Men's Senior Team is off to a very strong start this month, winning each of their first three matches against Trinidad and Tobago, Jamaica, and Northern Ireland. While not all three of those opponents were much of a challenge, these matches were great for getting the team ready for the two major competitions the Americans will participate in this summer.
Against Northern Ireland, team captain Christian Pulisic scored a crucial penalty that allowed the Stars and Stripes to secure a one-goal victory. According to Pulisic, this recent stretch of international games has really allowed him to ease into his role as leader, as well as inspire some of his younger teammates as they continue to develop ahead of the 2021 Gold Cup.
Off the pitch, the National Team was bolstered by the addition of 18-year old Yunus Musah. Despite the friendly against Northern Ireland being Musah's fourth cap for the US, March saw the young star become officially cap-tied to the US after being courted by both the Americans and the English. Currently a right winger for Valencia who spent his youth career with England, Musah adds excellent playmaking skills to the American squad, and another American playing on a European club can only help improve the skill level of this team before the US enters World Cup qualifying in January 2022.
The Men's Squad will not play in March, with their next match being a Friendly against Switzerland in May.
Women's National Team
As usual, the US Women's Squad is rolling. Despite a quiet March, the Americans are off to an amazing start this year, winning all six of their matches with a combined margin of 19-0. Three of those matches were part of the United States' run to their fourth She Believes Cup victory. While some might discount winning a tournament you host yourself, taking down Brazil, Canada, and Argentina to do so is no easy feat.
This month, the Women's team will play in two friendlies in Europe; Sweden on the 10th and France on the 13th. While several top names, including Tobin Heath, will be absent from both matches due to the start of the NWSL Challenge Cup, Carli Lloyd will make her 300th cap for the US against Sweden.
These two friendlies will be crucial in preparing the Americans for the two additional competitions they'll be playing in this year; the 2021 Tournament of Nations and the rescheduled Tokyo Olympics. While the Tournament of Nations has not been finalized, the Olympics will be a great way for the Americans to enter World Cup Qualification with another title to their name.
By the way, if you're clamoring for some more championships, the US Women's Team is currently the holders of the Women's Unofficial Football World Championship, a lineal title created by global soccer fans that dates all the way back to the first competitive women's soccer match in 1971. Using the same logic as a championship in combat sports, the WUFWC is held by a team until another National Team can beat them in any level of competition. On the Men's side, Italy are the current Unofficial World Champions.
Club Teams Report
MLS Gets a Late Start, Austin FC Set to Debut
I'll be doing a full MLS preview within the next few days, but for now, I'd just like to say how hyped I am for this upcoming season. After last year's MLS is Back Tournament which saw a solid increase in tv viewers, the MLS is poised for another great season as Columbus Crew SC looks to defend their MLS Cup Championship. The 2021 season will also feature the first competitive appearance of Austin FC, bringing the league total of teams to 27.
In the meantime, make sure to check out the five MLS teams competing in this year's CONCACAF Champions League. While Toronto FC will be representing Canada, Columbus Crew, Atlanta United, the Philadelphia Union, and the Portland Timbers will all be competing in the first round for the United States. Looking at the current draw, every team but Atlanta has a pretty strong chance at advancing to the next round. The first legs of this round will begin this upcoming Tuesday.
NWSL Challenge Cups Returns, Regular Season Begins May
Similar to the MLS is Back Tournament, the NWSL Challenge Cup will make a return in April 2021, preceding a 24-game regular season that begins in May. Considering there is no current equivalent to the US Open Cup, I think this is a great idea to keep fans engaged for a whole season, as two titles to look forward to means every game matters. While this league is pretty open, the Houston Dash are making a strong case to repeat as Challenge Cup Champions, as their roster has been bolstered by additions such as England's Rachel Daly and Canada's Sophie Smith.