Portugal will once again play host to the Algarve Cup beginning March 6. Held every year since 1994, the event showcases some of the top women’s soccer teams in the world, including a U.S. squad that has earned a top finish in the competition eight times.
Twelve teams are invited to the prestigious tournament, but only the top eight squads are eligible to win the event. The remaining four teams compete in their own pool for the bottom four places.
The eight championship challengers are divided into two separate pools in a round-robin format. The United States will be participating in Group B, along with Sweden, Iceland and China.
We’ll provide a more in-depth breakdown of the groups, format, schedule and players to watch for the event.
|Team 1||Team 2||Team 3||Team 4|
|Group B||United States||Sweden||Iceland||China|
The first round consists of a round-robin format for each group. The winners of Group A and Group B then face off in the final stage for first place, while the runners-up from both groups challenge for second place. Third-place finishers from the top two groups play for fifth place.
The last-place finishers from the group stage (Group A and Group B) will be faced with a final-round matchup with the winner and runner-up from Group C for the seventh and ninth places in the event.
The final two finishers in Group C have no chance of finishing better than 11th place in the tournament. Those two teams will be presented with a rematch for the final two places.
*All times EST.
|Wednesday, March 6||
Japan vs. Norway
Denmark vs. Germany
U.S. vs. Iceland
Sweden vs. China
Hungary vs. Mexico
Portugal vs. Wales
|Friday, March 8||
Germany vs. Japan
Norway vs. Denmark
China vs. U.S.
Iceland vs. Sweden
Portugal vs. Hungary
Mexico vs. Wales
|Monday, March 11||
Denmark vs. Japan
Germany vs. Norway
China vs. Iceland
Sweden vs. U.S.
Wales vs. Hungary
Portugal vs. Mexico
|Wednesday, March 13||Final Round (TBD)||TBD|
*Full schedule can be found at WomensSoccerUnited.com.
Players to Watch
Alex Morgan: United States
Morgan is one of the most recognizable female footballers in the world, and she’ll have a chance to shine on a big stage this week.
The 2012 United States soccer Female Athlete of the Year, Morgan boosted her career to new heights last year by netting 20 goals and posting 20 assists. The 23-year-old striker will be a major force in the tournament this year.
WomensSoccerUnited.com has a panel of 12 prognosticators who each predict the top awards for the tournament, and three of the 12 expect Morgan to be the top goal scorer for the Algarve cup.
Fatmire Bajramaj: Germany
Bajramaj is one of the best young players on a German team that is poised to dominate the competition in this year’s Algarve Cup.
The 24-year-old midfielder is one of the best young talents in women’s soccer, and she’ll have an opportunity to take her play to a new level after being a major contributor for the German team in the 2011 FIFA World Cups.
After finishing third in the 2010 FIFA Ballon d’Or competition, Bajramaj will once again have the opportunity to shine under one of soccer’s brightest lights.
Germany and the United States have dominated the Algarve Cup in recent years, and there's little to suggest the two squads won't face off for the championship this year.
Both squads boast some of the top women's soccer talent in the world, including Morgan, Bajramaj, Abby Wambach, Megan Rapinoe, Celia Okoyino da Mbabi and Dzsenifer Marozsan.
With the U.S. and Germany competing in opposite groups, a first-place finish in the opening stage will ensure a premier matchup between the two clubs with a championship on the line.