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XI WoSo Moments of 2016: USWNT hosts inaugural SheBelieves Cup

It was announced during the Lifetime Game of the Week that Mallory Pugh has signed with the Spirit. (photo by Allison Lee)
The USWNT competed against France in the Nashville leg of the inaugural SheBelieves Cup. (photo by Allison Lee)

The USWNT competed against France in the Nashville leg of the inaugural SheBelieves Cup. (photo by Allison Lee)

In January U.S. Soccer announced that the U.S. women’s national team would be hosting the inaugural SheBelieves Cup, an international tournament named after the #SheBelieves campaign created by members of the 2015 World Cup-winning team.

The round-robin style tournament featured the national teams of the U.S., England, France and Germany, four of the top five teams in the world, and was part of the USWNT’s preparation for the 2016 Summer Olympics.

“When I took this job, one of my main objectives was to play the best teams in the world during our preparation periods and you can’t ask for better matches,” said Jill Ellis, head coach of the USWNT. “This is another sign of U.S. Soccer’s dedication to the women’s game to organize a tournament like this, which will bring some of the world’s best teams and players to the USA. To get the chance to play these great teams on home soil is a treat for our fans and extremely valuable in the further evolution of our team.”

The domestic tournament replaced the Algarve Cup in the USWNT’s schedule, marking the first time since 1997 that the team did not travel to Portugal to compete in the Algarve tournament. The USWNT has won the Algarve Cup ten times, most recently in 2015.

The SheBelieves Cup kicked off in Tampa on March 3 with Germany defeating France, 1-0, after a late goal by Leonie Maier. The USWNT then defeated England, 1-0, thanks to a Crystal Dunn strike in the 72nd minute.

Three days later the tournament resumed in Nashville with the USWNT opening the doubleheader with a match against France. Despite a near own goal by Carli Lloyd early in the first half, the game remained scoreless until second-half stoppage time when Mallory Pugh played Alex Morgan, who just beat a defender to score the game winner from just inside the penalty area. Germany then defeated England 2-1 to close out the night.

On March 9, France and England opened the final round of the tournament in Boca Raton. The two teams battled to a scoreless draw, sealing England’s third-place finish.

The Cup’s final match between Germany and the USWNT ended up serving as the tournament final since its outcome determined whether the U.S. or Germany walked away as champions. The U.S. would finish in first place with a win, while a draw or U.S. loss would see Germany hoist the trophy.

German forward Anja Mittag opened the scoring with a rocket from distance that blew past several U.S. defenders and Hope Solo to put Germany on the board first. However, the USWNT answered just minutes later with two goals scored in six minutes by Alex Morgan and Sam Mewis to lift the U.S. 2-1 over the German side. With no goals scored in the second half, the USWNT took the win and was named the first ever SheBelieves Cup champions.

For her two tournament goals, Alex Morgan was named the tournament MVP and Golden Boot winner, while Hope Solo was the Golden Glove recipient.

Shortly after the tournament’s conclusion, U.S. Soccer announced its commitment to hold the SheBelieves Cup for the next three years.

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