The United States will host France, Germany and England in a four-team tournament in the southeastern U.S. in early 2016, according to the French website Foot d’Elles.
The United States women’s national team is skipping the Algarve Cup — held annually in the first week of March in Portugal — for the first time since 1997. Germany and France are also skipping the Algarve Cup. The field for the Cyprus Cup, of which England is one of the organizers, is yet to be announced. Both of those tournaments will take place from March 2-9, 2016.
Foot d’Elles reports that the U.S.-based tournament will take place in a similar window. The FIFA international window spans from Feb. 29-March 9. The U.S. has its CONCACAF Olympic qualifying tournament in Houston and Frisco, Texas, from Feb. 10-21.
Per the report, Florida will host games as part of the tournament. This year is slightly unique, as Olympic qualifying will keep some European and Asian teams from the Algarve and Cyprus Cups, but Foot d’Elles reports the U.S.-based tournament is expected to be annual.
That the U.S. would get in on hosting big teams in a tournament at the peak of the women’s national team’s popularity should be no surprise. Players from all countries speak regularly about how nice the Algarve region of Portugal is and how much they enjoy the trip there. But both the Algarve Cup and Cyprus Cup fail at creating any sort of publicity or revenue for teams. They are, in fact, costly endeavors to train internationally for two weeks, and with no easily visible revenue stream, teams aren’t making money back from the tournament.
But a U.S.-based tournament with the Americans hosting three of the top five teams will be a draw for tickets, particularly coming off of the United States’ 2015 World Cup title. That would produce revenue for U.S. Soccer and there would conceivably be guarantees built into contracts that France, Germany and England would see some of that money as well.
The U.S. women played three of their 10 World Cup victory tour games in the southeast: drawing a sellout crowd of 20,535 in Chattanooga, Tenn., a crowd of 35,735 in Birmingham, Ala., and a crowd of 32,869 in Orlando, Fla.
And of course the media and sponsorship opportunities are as important as ticket sales. Algarve Cup games are typically played in front of a handful of people and only a select few matches at the tournament are broadcast. Last year, Fox Sports actually had to last-minute cancel the broadcast of the United States’ unflattering scoreless draw with Iceland due to insufficient lighting at the venue for the game. In a world of TV-everywhere, livestreams and digital technology, the Algarve and Cyprus Cups remain largely inaccessible anomalies.
A U.S.-based competition would also be significantly stronger than that which would be had with these teams in different groups at the Algarve Cup or even separated between the Algarve and Cyprus Cups. Germany and France, ranked No. 2 and 3 in the world, respectively, will play at the 2016 Rio Olympics. England won’t because the English, Scottish and Welsh FAs don’t believe in combining to play as Great Britain for the Olympics, with the recent exception being for the 2012 London Games. (The England women also qualified for the 2008 Olympics but were denied their place there by politics.) The U.S. women are expected to qualify for the Olympics in February as three-time defending gold medalists.
As great as the Algarve Cup is, it’s a wonder that a monetized tournament among the world’s top teams didn’t happen sooner.
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