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How will U.S. training camps affect WPS?

The United States Women’s National Team has revealed it spring schedule, and as expected, there are significant chunks of time that players will be in U.S. training camps and without their WPS teams.  While players will be released each weekend to play with their clubs, how they will actually factor into those clubs’ plans remains to be seen.

Last week, Sky Blue FC Head Coach Jim Gabarra revealed that with players missing training throughout the week, it will be tough to justify playing them on the weekend.

“I’m looking at it as they are available to the club so they are going to have to be here,” Gabarra said.  “Contractually that is what was agreed to.  Even if they are just here for the game I think it is important that they support the team and that is what the contract says.  At some point there needs to be give from both sides.  To me, it doesn’t make sense to have a training camp when you don’t have games but that was agreed to.  You are preparing one team for a tournament with a limited number of games.  There’s really not much consideration taken to WPS.  You don’t want to put the players in the middle but they are in the middle and it’s a tough situation.  It’s a case-by-case situation.”

And Gabarra is not the only one who feels that way.  Around the league, it seems clear that although U.S. players may be available for selections, there are days when they will not be starting.

So how often will that become an issue?  Judging by the U.S. schedule (posted below), there are potentially 23 games in which WPS teams could be effected by U.S. Women’s National Team training camps before the Women’s World Cup even begins.  If the U.S. hypothetically made the final, there are realistically another seven WPS games that would be effected.  I ran these numbers on the assumption that ‘at risk games’ (U.S. Women’s National Team players sitting out WPS games even if they are available) are any that are during camp, just before camp begins or right after it ends.  I have also factored in travel dates.

With a 54 game regular season schedule, WPS could see over half of its games played without U.S. players or with limited use of U.S. Women’s National Team players.  If players do participate in full, there is the risk of tiring them out and upsetting team chemistry.  So, how each coach handles the situation will come down to a week-by-week basis.

Certain WPS games will benefit from U.S. Head Coach Pia Sundhage’s decision to place training camp in West Palm Beach, Fla.  Just down the road is Florida Atlantic University, home of magicJack, which hosts the Boston Breakers on April 23, the Philadelphia Independence on May 1 and the Atlanta Beat on May 8.  All of those dates surround U.S. Women’s National Team training camp in Florida.

With a strong contingent of U.S. players on magicJack, Boston and Philadelphia in particular, that will help some WPS players with travel.

Obviously the Women’s World Cup takes precedent over WPS matches given its magnitude, but clearly even the two week group stage break WPS is taking will not completely erase the club v. country battle (read more on that in this week’s Sports Illustrated column).

2011 U.S. Women’s National Team Schedule
Dates subject to change.
Date, Event, Location
April 7, Training in Scotland concludes, Scotland

April 18-22, Training Camp *, West Palm Beach, Fla.
April 25-29, Training Camp *, West Palm Beach, Fla.
May 2-6, Training Camp *, West Palm Beach, Fla.

* U.S. players will travel to WPS matches on the weekends.

May 9, Training Camp for Friendlies begins.
May 14, USA vs. Japan, Crew Stadium; Columbus, Ohio
May 15, Travel to North Carolina
May 18, USA vs. Japan, WakeMed Soccer Park; Cary, N.C.

May 30, Travel to site of third Send-off match
June 5, Domestic Friendly Match, TBD

June 6-13                  Break

June 14-23, Pre-World Cup European Camp, Austria

June 23, Travel to Dresden for Start of Women’s World Cup
June 28, USA vs. Korea DPR, Rudolf-Harbig Stadium; Dresden, Germany
June 29, Travel to Sinsheim
July 2, USA vs. Colombia, Rhein-Neckar Arena; Sinsheim, Germany
July 3, Travel to Wolfsburg
July 6, USA vs. Sweden, FIFA WWC Stadium; Wolfsburg, Germany


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