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Planning for the unknown: Kate Markgraf on USWNT’s October camp and 2021 games

Brad Smith/ISI Photos

That the United States women’s national team made it to Colorado for training camp in October is an accomplishment in the morbid, unpredictable 2020 calendar year which gave new meaning to the proverb about best-laid plans.

Players’ arrival in Denver on Oct. 18 marked the first formal U.S. Soccer activity in over seven months. At various points throughout the spring and summer, it was unclear if any camps or games were going to happen at all in 2020 as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to wreak havoc in the United States.

Different scheduling and logistical challenges prevented the two-time defending World Cup champion U.S. women from assembling earlier in the fall or summer. With the Americans once again less than a year away from the Olympics — delayed from summer 2020 to summer 2021 — and teams in Europe returning to competitive matches already, U.S. women’s national team general manager Kate Markgraf knew she and her staff needed to be nimble.

“You have to make decisions knowing you could be wrong 10 days later,” Markgraf told The Equalizer about the current planning environment. “But if you don’t make decisions, you can never be opportunistic of the limited opportunities that could present [themselves] in the COVID world.”

A detailed series of decisions, plus the development of new medical protocols, led to the October training camp which concluded on Wednesday with zero confirmed positive COVID-19 cases after 685 tests. Markgraf elaborated on how the October camp came to fruition, and how it will serve as a foundation for planning the team’s short-term future, including 2021 goals and a possible game in November.

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