After the 2011 World Cup, matches between Brazil and the U.S. Women’s National Team will never be the same, something which may explain why today’s announcement of a Nov. 10 friendly between the two sides came with the unexpected surprise of a network television appearance. As Kyle Bonn mentioned earlier, the game is going to be on NBC, but the more interesting parts of today’s announcement: the game doesn’t take place on an FIFA international match day; and it represents one of the infrequent times Brazil’s national team actually plays soccer games.
U.S. Soccer made the news official this morning, announcing the rumored November friendly will take place at the Florida Citrus Bowl in Orlando. Capitalizing on the profile the teams’ rivalry has achieved in the wake of their dramatic, quarterfinal meeting at Germany 2011, the game will get a 3:30 p.m. Eastern, national television kick off.
While the game will almost assuredly lack another Abby Wambach, at-the-death equalizer, it will present a chance to get the top three finishers for FIFA World Player of the Year on the same field. Wambach, Alex Morgan, and Brazilian attacker Marta were all finalists for last year’s award.
“Over the last several years, there’s been an intense rivalry between the two countries and a series of games that have been very tightly contested, highly competitive and of course extremely dramatic,” U.S. head coach Tom Sermanni said, through U.S. Soccer. “It will be a fantastic game to finish the year off.”
It will also give the Orlando soccer community a chance to take center stage. As their local third division club (Orlando City SC) claimed this season’s USL PRO title, the city gained national attention for the multiple five-digit crowds they were able to attract to the Citrus Bowl (attendances that far eclipsed the league’s average draw). The fervency of the area’s growing soccer fanbase has led to widespread speculation the club will be among Major League Soccer’s expansion franchises as the league, currently at 19 teams, seeks to reach 24.
With the likes of Wambach, Morgan, and Hope Solo likely to join their teammates in Florida, the Brazil friendly gives Orlando another chance to shine on the soccer landscape.
“Orlando City SC is thrilled to help bring the U.S. Women’s National Team to Orlando,” said Orlando City President Phil Rawlins told U.S. Soccer. “Successfully hosting this match will be yet another step forward in Orlando City’s goal of being announced this year as the next Major League Soccer (MLS) Expansion Club.”
Among the players unlikely to join the U.S. in Orlando: Megan Rapinoe, Tobin Heath, Christen Press, and Ali Krieger. All four U.S. regulars play in Europe, and because this Brazil friendly is scheduled outside a FIFA reserved match date, Lyon (Rapinoe), Paris Saint-Germain (Heath), and Tyresö (Press, Krieger) will be under no obligation to release their players.
FIFA has a break scheduled for Nov. 23 through Nov. 28, and while clubs could still grant their players permission to join their national team for its game on the 10th (Tyresö, in particular), the U.S. may be left in the same position as it is for an upcoming friendly against Australia: Without it’s Europe-based talent for the visit from A Seleçao.
That the U.S. will play Brazil at all may be more notable than the match date tension. November’s will be Brazil’s sixth game of the year, a paltry number for a team ranked fourth in the world. The U.S. (ranked first by FIFA) is scheduled to play 16 times. Japan (third) is scheduled to play 15, while Germany (second) will play 20 times in 2013. Historically underfunded and borderline neglected beyond qualifying tournaments and major events, Brazil’s women’s team will get one of their infrequent opportunities to test themselves.
(Brazil did play 13 games in 2012, the same number of games as Germany. Japan played 19. The U.S. played 20 times. In the down years of 2009 and 2010, Brazil averaged 8.5 games per year.)
The last time the teams met, the U.S. won 3-0 in Japan, the teams playing in Chiba during a spring tournament. Given the lack of work Brazil gets at this point of the cycle, the result may be the same in Orlando. That will probably suit the home crowd just fine, with the Citrus Bowl potentially packing a large crowd to see the world’s top-ranked team take on one of its biggest rivals.