Fans of women's soccer had a lot to be thankful for in the last year. 2012 saw the national team take home Olympic gold and also brought the announcement that U.S. Soccer was going to green light a new professional league. With the next World Cup not until 2015 and the Olympics another year after that, some fans might be tempted to hit cruise control with women's soccer. Here are a few reasons to keep track of the game in 2013.
Abby Wambach, Alex Morgan, Megan Rapinoe - Image: © Hector Acevedo/ZUMAPRESS.com
1-Abby Wambach will pass Mia Hamm's scoring title:
Since Abby Wambach made her debut for the national team in 2001 she has been a goal-scoring machine. In the next few months she is going to make history for the U.S. when she surpasses Mia Hamm as the all time leading scorer in international soccer history. Wambach ended 2012 with 27 goals and currently has 152 goals in her career. She needs only 7 more to surpass Hamm, something that most likely will take place at the Algarve Cup in Portugal this spring. The U.S. is slated to play two games against Scotland in February with the Algarve Cup following at the beginning of March. Unless Wambach goes on a tear against Scotland expect the record to fall in Portugal.
2- Ali Krieger returns:
Ali Krieger last donned a national team kit a year ago in January when the squad was participating in CONCACAF Olympic qualifying. Though the U.S. easily moved through the tournament, their game against the Dominican Republic proved costly for Krieger when she tore her ACL. Krieger returned to Germany for rehab where she has spent the greater part of five plus years as a member of FFC Frankfurt. Now healthy the 28 year old defender has set her sights on reestablishing herself as one of the key members to the back line. Krieger was key to the success of the defense at the World Cup in 2011 when she filled the right back spot and the defense has been spotty in her absence. Krieger has also recently stated she looks forward to being a part of the new professional league that would keep her on home soil in the next few years building up to the World Cup in 2015.
3-Tom Sermanni takes over the national team:
When Pia Sundhage stepped down after leading the U.S. national team to their third consecutive gold medal she left big shoes to fill for the next coach. She finished with a record of 91-6-10, two gold medals and was a few penalty kicks away from a World Cup win. U.S. Soccer conducted an arduous search before finally appointing Tom Sermanni to the post. Sermanni has had two coaching stints with the Australian ladies national team as well as the WUSA and takes over a team that is currently ranked number #1 in the world. However some changes will need to be made in the next year to an aging roster as it looks to regroup before making its push for the World Cup in two years. Striking a balance between bringing in younger players and retaining some of the notable veteran players will start this February at their first training camp. Don't expect major changes right away as Sermanni has already stated that roster changes won't come against the two friendlies scheduled with Scotland in early February. But with the Algarve Cup and a scheduled friendly against second ranked Germany in April, some changes should be expected by late spring.
4-The new pro-league is set to debut this spring:
The National Women's Soccer League (NWSL) is the third installment of a professional league that has been largely spearheaded by U.S. Soccer. With financial instability playing a big part in the demise of the WUSA and WPS, U.S. Soccer will subsidize the salaries of 24 members of the national team in efforts to offset the rumored $200,000 salary cap each of the eight teams will be facing. Excitement has been brewing in soccer hotspots such as Seattle and Portland, OR, which has seen a huge interest in season ticket sales despite not even knowing who will be on the teams yet. Getting big names to commit to the new league will be the next step. While veterans such as Wambach have praised the idea of the new league, the veteran forward has also spoken about keeping her options open and may seek a contract abroad if the right opportunity arises. Megan Rapinoe has recently signed on to play the next few months with Lyon of France, two time defending UEFA Champions League winner. Rapinoe has openly expressed her interest in playing for the Portland Thorns FC (one of the new NWSL teams) once her contract in France is up and would be a perfect fit due to her days playing college ball at the University of Portland. Most likely many of the American players will choose to stay stateside and support the new league but the right price may lure a few away.
5-Development of Sydney Leroux:
Sermanni faces the huge task of trying to figure out a way to incorporate Sydney Leroux into the starting lineup of the national team. She has earned the distinction of "super-sub" after Alex Morgan passed on that torch as she has filled the starting forward spot opposite Wambach. Leroux has been exceptional off the bench with 14 goals in 2012 in only 517 minutes of playing time. Sermanni will either need to change the 4-4-2 formation that Sundhage implemented the past few years or Leroux will need to leave her position as a natural forward if she is going to get some more playing time. It would almost seem a waste of Leroux's speed to take her away from the forward line, but after Morgan and Wambach combined for 55 goals last year it is doubtful that Sermanni will want to mess with that scoring tandem.
While 2013 may not have the allure of the Olympics or a World Cup it is hardly the time to turn a blind eye to the game. 2013 has the potential to be in some respects even more exciting for fans with the new professional league and development of younger players. It may lack a little of the golden shine of 2012 but there is still a lot of great women’s soccer ahead.
By WTS Blogger Sarah Hallet
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